In June, 2010 the U. S. Supreme Court handed a defeat to anti-gay groups in the State of Washington with an 8-1 decision in Doe v. ReedDoe addressed the efforts of anti-marriage equality groups to prevent the release of the names of ballot petition signers (R-71), contrary to the terms of the state’s open government laws. GLAD and other gay legal organizations had filed an amicus brief, refuting the claims that those who supported the repeal of Washington’s new “everything-but-marriage” law should have their names protected from disclosure because of fear of systematic intimidation by the LGBT community.

The decision sent the case back to the trial court where marriage equality opponents resumed their legal challenge on the narrower ground that a real probability of harm should prevent disclosure of petitioners’ names. On October 17, 2011, the U.S. Ninth District Court of Appeals denied the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, ruled in favor of equality supporters, and lifted the injunction preventing disclosure of R-71 petition signers, concluding that “The facts before the Court in this case…do not rise to the level of demonstrating that a reasonable probability of threats, harassment, or reprisals exists as to the signers of R-71, now nearly two years after R-71 was submitted to the voters in Washington State.”

Background and GLAD’s involvement:

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court GLAD, Lambda Legal, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) – together with the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force – joined the State of Washington and others in defending open government laws requiring public disclosure of the names of voters who sign petitions supporting state ballot initiatives. In particular, this brief refutes the false claims presented to the Supreme Court in this and other cases that individuals who support anti-gay initiatives have been subjected to “systematic intimidation” by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

In Doe v. Reed, anti-gay groups asked the Supreme Court to overturn a decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordering the release of the names of 138,000 people who signed petitions supporting a ballot initiative to repeal basic protections for same-sex couples in Washington State. In November 2009, Washington voters rejected this attempt – Referendum 71—and preserved the state’s domestic partnership law. Under Washington’s Public Records Act, the signatures on referendum petitions are public in order to prevent fraud and protect the integrity of the lawmaking process. The anti-gay groups sought to strike down Washington’s law, claiming that supporters of anti-gay ballot campaigns would be exposed to harassment and intimidation by the LGBT community if their names were made public.