Taking Names…Civic Courage

Supreme_court_building People who sign petitions calling for public votes on controversial
subjects don't have an automatic right to hide their names, the Supreme
Court ruled Thursday as it sided against Washington state voters worried
about harassment because of their desire to repeal that state's gay
rights law.

The high court
ruled against Protect Marriage Washington, which organized a petition
drive for a public vote to repeal the state's "everything-but-marriage"
gay rights law.

Petition signers wanted to hide their names because
of worries of intimidation. But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in
San Francisco refused to keep their names secret. The Supreme Court
stepped in and temporarily blocked release of the names until the high court could
make a decision.

The court now says disclosing names on a petition for
a public referendum does not chill the signer's freedom of speech
enough to warrant overturning the state's disclosure law.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing the 8-1 judgment
for the court, said it is vitally important that states be able to
ensure that signatures on referendum petitions are authentic. Only one member of the Court, Justice Alito, affirmatively
indicated his belief that petitioners’ have a strong argument for an
exemption from Washington’s disclosure law because of the potential for
“threats, harassment and reprisals.”  ven Justice Scalia, one of the
Court’s core conservative members, concluded in his concurrence that,
“[r]equiring people to stand up in public for their political acts
fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed.”

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