Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gay issue goes to the US Supreme Court

A gay marriage issue (of sorts) will soon be heard by the United States Supreme Court.  At issue is whether or not Washington state officials can release the names of people who have signed on to a ballot measure to repeal a gay rights law.

Writes Carlos Santoscoy of On Top magazine:
Opponents say releasing the names would put signers at risk of harassment, reprisals and boycotts of their businesses, amounting to an unconstitutional infringement of free speech rights.

Gay rights groups announced early in the campaign their intention to make the names public via the Internet.

Under Washington state law, names of people who sign petitions become public record after the Secretary of State verifies a petition, but Referendum 71 names have remained sealed pending the court's decision. State officials argue that the names should be released because signers are acting in place of lawmakers, who do not approve laws in secret.
The debate over whether or not people who provide the signatures to get ant-equality measures on the ballot is not new.  In Massachusetts, for example, a group called "Know Thy Neighbor" has published  the names of signers.  Their purpose, they say, is to encourage dialog between supporters and opponents.  If you are gay and you know your neighbors have helped put same sex marriage issues on the ballot, why not talk to them?

Yes, there has been fear that some anti-equality folks would be the victims of harassment, but so far that hasn't been an issue.  What is at issue is that these documents are open to the public.  All the "Know Thy Neighbor" groups have done is to put the names together and publish them on the Internet.  Given that the Supreme Court recently ruled that videos of animal cruelty is a protected form of free speech, it will be interesting to see if they allow "Know Thy Neighbor" groups their freedom of speech but publishing information that is already public.

I looked at the list from Massachusetts a few years ago, hoping that I would not find the names of people I thought might devote their time and energy to keep me from being married.  Sadly, I found their names.  I'm sure many LGBT people have had a similar experience.

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