U.S. Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Washington Case on Release of Petition Signers

Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom
1 South 6th Street
Terre Haute, IN 47807-3510

Thursday, January 21, 2010
Contact: James Bopp, Jr.
Phone: 812/232-2434; Fax: 812/235-3685

U.S. Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Washington Case on Release of Petition Signers

Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear a case that asks it to decide whether the Washington Secretary of State may release the names, addresses, and other personal information of over 138,000 individuals who signed a referendum petition seeking to protect traditional marriage in Washington.

As seen in Washington, California, and across the country, when an election involves traditional marriage, the availability of personal information on the internet has led to the harassment and intimidation of those who support traditional marriage. Those supporting traditional marriage have been subject to death threats, physical violence, and property damage because of laws requiring the personal information of supporters of traditional marriage to be made available on the internet. Protect Marriage Washington, the group that asked the Court to hear this case, is seeking to prevent the release of the personal information of the individuals who signed the referendum petition to protect traditional marriage in Washington, and uphold the right of Washington citizens to speak freely without fear of harassment or intimidation.

James Bopp, Jr., lead counsel for Protect Marriage Washington, stated, “We are pleased that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear this case that seeks to protect the rights of citizens who support a traditional definition of marriage to speak freely and without fear. No citizen should ever worry that they will be threatened or injured because they have exercised their right to engage in the political process. The First Amendment protects citizens from being required to disclose their identity when they are engaged in political speech. The Supreme Court seemed to see the importance of hearing this case prior to the November 2009 elections when it stayed the release of the names at that time, and we look forward to their review of the case.”

On September 10, 2009, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington issued an order preventing the release of the names of the petition signers. On October 15, 2009, the Ninth Circuit issued a single page order allowing the release of the names. On October 20, 2009, the Supreme Court prevented the release of the names until it could consider this case. These documents, as well as the petition asking the Court to hear this case, are available on the Madison Center website, http://www.jamesmadisoncenter.org, under the “Washington Referendum 71 Petition Suit” heading.

James Bopp, Jr. has a national federal and state election law practice. He is General Counsel for the James Madison Center for Free Speech and former Co-Chairman of the Election Law Subcommittee of the Federalist Society.