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Supreme Court Outs Gay Marriage Opponents

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Posted on Jun 24, 2010
Photo illustration from Flickr / Burstein! (CC-BY)

It seems obvious, but if you publicly sign a petition seeking to ban gay marriage, your name can be made public. The 138,000 Washington state cowards who thought they could meddle in the relationships of their gay neighbors from the comfort of anonymity got a reality check from the Supreme Court on Thursday.


Lawyers for the group argued that the signers’ constitutional right to political free-speech under the First Amendment trumped the state’s public records law.

[...] In the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court ruled that disclosure of referendum petitions generally does not violate any free-speech rights.

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It was an 8-1 decision, with Clarence “The Constitution Is Whatever I Feel Like” Thomas dissenting.  —PZS

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By Hi Everyone, June 25, 2010 at 11:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am happy that the distinction was made on here between voting and petitioning.  There are differences between them.  One major difference is that one signs his name on a petition, but not on a ballot.

I think it is more of figuring out how to square the Freedom of Information Act with individual Right to Privacy.  Then again, the Right to Privacy does not necessarily apply in public settings - as we all, hopefully, understand. 

Still though, what reasons would there be to keep private one’s beliefs?  Fear maybe?  Seriously.  I mean, there is no reason to be afraid.  Is there? 

After all, would one be willing to die for his beliefs if it came down to it?  I think this is THE question for those who are against written petitions being made public record should answer for himself.  If the answer is “no”, then don’t sign petitions.  If the answer is “yes”, more power to him as signing petitions shows bravery, conviction, and courage for what he believes in.

This decision made by the SCOTUS is no big deal, really, if one just steps back and thinks about it for a while.

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By Peetawonkus, June 25, 2010 at 8:20 am Link to this comment

Sorry, but if you believe something strongly enough you should show the political cajones to publicly stand behind your beliefs. I believe in gay rights, ending America’s involvement in Middle East wars, raising the tax rate on the rich to Eisenhower levels and a national health care system. I’m not afraid to put my name on a list for what I stand for. I suspect these people want their names hidden because otherwise they would look like, well, a**holes.

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By photoshock, June 25, 2010 at 6:47 am Link to this comment

Sorry, BigJess, now that law will have to be struck down and replaced by the truth. The truth that people for whatever reason signed this or that petition.
These petitions are a matter of public record and should be made public by the purveyors of these initiatives. The initiatives should not be kept secret and the people who signed them should not expect privacy.
Voting is a trust and private and should remain so, signing a petition should be a matter of public record and should remain so. With this in mind, people will think twice about signing their names to start the legislative process for silly things or things as important as taking away the rights of a minority of people.
I am neither gay, bisexual nor am I transgendered, but I would certainly sign my name to a petition to protect these people’s rights and the rights of all minorities in the future. I am not afraid of bucking the trend of limiting the rights of others while protecting my own. It is for this, the protection of the rights of the minority that this country was founded and not so that the majority could take away the rights of the minority. In this age of ‘moral certainty,’ we need to reexamine our priorities and remember that this country was founded for the protection of the small minority of people who had no voice and could not change the majorities opinions of them.

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By Chapeau, June 25, 2010 at 4:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


I respectfully disagree.  I actually had to check to see if Hell Froze over—but Scalia is right (did I just say that?)

That is now way to run a democracy.

Something is terribly wrong in our society if we’ve gotten to the point that folks should be able to loose jobs, etc ... over their political opinions are afraid to voice their political opinions freely in the light of day.

Sorry, but I disagree if you want to sign-away your fellow citizen’s Human Rights then do so proudly on your own two feet.

My 2 cents imho.

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By mrfreeze, June 24, 2010 at 9:10 pm Link to this comment

Big Jess - I’m afraid my state, WA has fallen into the same trap that you Californians invented: the Initiative Process. The IP is an abomination and, often, trumps the very will of the people through “representative government.” The fact is, initiatives by their very nature are at the root of many of your fiscal and social problems in CA (as is the case in WA State). It was our AG who filed this case with the SCOTUS because of the ridiculous anti-gay-marriage initiative here. Sure, those against gay marriage were “afraid” to be publicly outed because they know the initiative itself was unethical and just plain stupid.

The bottom line is the problems you describe wouldn’t exist if your initiative process weren’t so over-used.

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By ronjeremy, June 24, 2010 at 8:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

big jess has a big point.  your boss finds out you signed a petition?  one could never prove that is why the workplace just got rough and you eventually lose your job.  also, ‘cowards,’ come on, truthdig.  name calling?  quite disappointing

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By Inherit The Wind, June 24, 2010 at 7:55 pm Link to this comment

Yeah, anonymity in political action—in it’s basest form it’s a pointed hood with eye holes.

If you are afraid of democracy, afraid that signing a petition will jeopardize your friends and job, then DON’T SIGN IT! Petition fraud becomes idiotically easy with “confidential” signatures.

You get to vote anonymously.  You don’t get to petition anonymously.

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By shadow_man, June 24, 2010 at 1:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Homosexuality is not a choice.  Just like you don’t choose the color of your skin, you cannot choose whom you are sexually attracted to. If you can, sorry, but you are not heterosexual, you are bi-sexual. Virtually all major psychological and medical experts agree that sexual orientation is NOT a choice. Most gay people will tell you its not a choice. Common sense will tell you its not a choice. While science is relatively new to studying homosexuality, studies tend to indicate that its biological.
Gay, Straight Men’s Brain Responses Differ,2933,155990,00.html

There is overwhelming scientific evidence that homosexuality is not a choice. Sexual orientation is generally a biological trait that is determined pre-natally, although there is no one certain thing that explains all of the cases. “Nurture” may have some effect, but for the most part it is biological.

And it should also be noted that:
“It is worth noting that many medical and scientific organizations do believe it is impossible to change a person’s sexual orientation and this is displayed in a statement by American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American School Health Association, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Social Workers, and National Education Association.”

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By Chris Vogel, June 24, 2010 at 1:00 pm Link to this comment

I can well imagine that signers to this petition would want to keep their bigotry secret, not least because they perpetuate a centuries-old tradition of harassing homosexuals (and other non-conformists).  Their great tragedy is that, nowadays, they are not allowed to do much more than sign petitions denying equality.

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By Big Jess, June 24, 2010 at 12:33 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You guys are seriously screwed up if you think this is a victory. It’s exactly the opposite. I live in CA and have been active in five local (city) initiatives and referendums, all “green” measures dealing with imposing limits on growth and over-development. One of the great things about CA law is that the names of signers of referendum, initiative, and recall petitions are confidential. The organizers of a petition drive can’t even keep a copy of the signers for their own use in trying to win the election if the measure qualifies.

The reason for this is simple: many people rightfully fear retaliation for signing petitions. Public employees and corporate employees alike can lose jobs, promotions, etc. Members of certain churches or people who send their kids to certain private schools can find themselves (or their kids) criticized, shunned, even expelled.

Look at the reason for this suit: Why would someone want to find out who signed this petition if not to attack, harass, or otherwise discriminate against those people? (Note: the proponents of a petition are public knowledge, printed right on the petition form for all to see. And anyone who contributes $100 or more in cash or in-kind services such as donated printing must be disclosed on financial reporting forms.)

Now put the shoe on the other foot: how would backers of a PRO-gay marriage or PRO-gay equality petition feel if they had to tell every potential signer that the signer’s name would be public knowledge? (I’m personally aware of situations where someone signed only because they knew their spouse would never find out.)

This case and this decision just gave the corporate power structure another huge weapon against the common citizen and the concept of participatory democracy.

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