November 18, 2011
By Jacob Combs
Yesterday brought us a disappointing decision from California that nonetheless puts us back on the track to success; today brings us another victory at the 9th Circuit, with the court denying Protect Marriage Washington’s request to block the release of Referendum 71 petitions while that group appeals an earlier court case that they lost.
Referendum 71 was Protect Marriage Washington’s failed attempt in 2009 to repeal Washington’s ‘everything but marriage’ law, under which same-sex couples are granted all the rights and benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy. PMW went to court to block the release of the signatures of individuals who had signed petitions to put the referendum on the ballot. The case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 8-1 that the signatures should be released, and handed the case back to the district court to determine whether transitional marriage supporters were subject to harassment.
As I wrote earlier this week, district court Judge Benjamin Settle ruled that Protect Marriage Washington could not prove that releasing the petitions would harm the signatories in any way. PMW appealed to the 9th Circuit, and asked for a temporary injunction against releasing the petitions while the appeal is pending.
Today’s ruling that the release of the signatures must continue even while the case is on hold is a great sign. The Washington Secretary of State has already begun to make CDs of signatures available to those who request them, and this ruling supports our efforts to ensure transparency in the initiative process. NOM (which was affiliated with Protect Marriage Washington) is already playing a similar disclosure game in Minnesota. Nevertheless, case after case has shown that this is a fight NOM is not going to win.