Faithandthelaw's Blog

The law as it relates to Christians and their free exercise of religion

Liberty Counsel Files Brief Supporting Privacy for Signers of Marriage Petition

Posted by faithandthelaw on March 8, 2010

An Amicus Brief was filed in the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday seeking the court to protect the privacy rights of individuals who want to repeal a law that gives all the privileges of marriage to same-sex partners in Washington State.

Liberty Counsel, a “nonprofit litigation, education and policy organization,” filed the brief seeking the court to protect the proponents who signed a petition in favor of Referendum 71, a measure that would revoke the latest addition of rights to the state domestic partners registry.

In January, the court agreed to decide whether opponents of the measure have a constitutional right to keep their names and addresses private because they fear they would be subject to harassment if their identities are made public.

Senate Bill 5688 substantially expands the registry to include all state rights afforded to married couples, and it passed in this year’s Legislature. The registry has more than 5,000 couples, most of them of the homosexuals.

State elections spokesman, David Ammons, with the Office of the Secretary of State said opponents of the measure “have until July 25 to gather 120,577 valid voter signatures to secure a place on the November 3 ballot. A yes vote on the referendum would be to sustain the Legislature; a no vote would overturn the law. The filing will temporarily suspend the new legislation, House Bill 5688, which was to take effect July 25, 90 days after adjournment of the Legislature.”

But pro-homosexual groups used Washington’s Freedom of Information Act to request that the names and addresses of petition signers be made public and issued a press release calling for followers to hold “personal and uncomfortable conversations” with any person who signed the petition.

Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed agrees with the allowing the petitions to be made public,  as he argues that political speech is not private anonymous speech, and therefore their personal information should be released to the gay rights groups.

“The governmental interests in transparency and accountability, and providing information to the public, are unrelated to the suppression of free expression,” says Reed. “In fact, these interests enhance free expression by allowing people to obtain information about their government so that they can make informed decisions.”

If the Court allows release of information about the petition signers, those individuals would face the same persecution experienced by supporters of Proposition 8 in California. There, when records were made public by a local judge, marriage supporters received death threats, envelopes with white powder, property damage, harassing calls and emails from same-sex marriage activists and were forced to resign their jobs.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, says that releasing the identities of petition signers would violate the First Amendment, because it would result in the suppression of protected speech.  Further, releasing the names of the voters would make them vulnerable to harassment.

“The right to petition government lies at the foundation of freedom. If people fear for their safety because they signed a petition in support of their right to vote, then they will refrain from exercising a fundamental freedom,” said Staver.  “We do not allow someone to intimidate voters at the ballot box. We must not allow bullies to frighten people from petitioning the government for the right to vote. We do not live in a rogue regime. We live in America, where the rule of law should be respected and where everyone should have the opportunity to petition government without fear of reprisal.”

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear this case on April 28, 2010, to determine whether supporters’ names and addresses are subject to the Freedom of Information Act in Washington.

James Bopp Jr. of Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom will be arguing the case on behalf of those who signed the petition.

Courtesy of Christian Law Journal at http://www.christianlawjournal.com/news/marriage-family/u-s-supreme-court-asked-to-support-privacy-for-signers-of-marriage-petition/

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