Supreme Court upholds Washington signature disclosure requirement for referendums, BUT
The Court’s opinion is here: Doe v. Reed, No. 09-559 (U.S. June 24, 2010). SCOTUS Blog: “In Doe v. Reed (09-559), the Court affirms, in an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts. The vote is 8-1, with a dissent by Justice Thomas. Holding: Disclosure of the information on petitions for ballot referenda does not, as a general matter, violate the First Amendment. However, compelled disclosure of this information is subject to review under the First Amendment. The broad challenge made by the petition-signers in this case must be rejected. Additionally, this does not foreclose success to the petition signers in their narrower challenge to a second count in their case, which is pending before the district court.”
Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom
U.S. Supreme Court Returns Petition Signing Case to District Court
Today, the Supreme Court of the United States, in an 8-1 vote, issued its opinion in Doe v. Reed. The opinion allows Protect Marriage Washington to ask the District Court in Washington for an exemption from publicly reporting the personal information of those who support traditional marriage. Although the Supreme Court denied Protect Marriage Washington’s request to keep petition signers’ personal information private in all situations, the Court agreed with Protect Marriage Washington that people who sign a petition are exercising their First Amendment right to free speech and can act to protect their privacy when supporting traditional marriage.
James Bopp, Jr., lead counsel for Protect Marriage Washington, the group that had asked the Court to protect the personal information of the nearly 140,000 individuals who had signed a petition supporting traditional marriage, stated, “We are pleased that the Supreme Court has recognized that individuals who support marriage should have the opportunity to protect their personal information from public disclosure. While we wish the Court had agreed with us and found that petition signers speaking on any issue should be protected from having personal information disclosed to the public, we are looking forward to returning to Washington and showing the Court that supporters of traditional marriage should have their personal information protected from disclosure.” Mr. Bopp continued, “Supporters of traditional marriage have been subject to death threats, vandalism, and even the loss of their jobs merely for exercising their right to free speech. We are confident that the District Court will agree that these tactics have no place in the discussion of marriage and will prevent the release of the personal information on those who support traditional marriage.”
This case will now return to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, where further proceedings will occur.
The Court’s opinion, as well as other documents previously filed in this case, are available on the Madison Center website, http://www.jamesmadisoncenter.org, under the “Doe v. Reed (S. Ct. 2010)” 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.