Federal Legislation & Policy
U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Open Government Laws
Court rejects claim by anti-gay groups that disclosure laws violate the First Amendment
(Washington, D.C, June 24, 2010)—Today, in an 8-1 decision authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, the United States Supreme Court decisively rejected a First Amendment challenge to a Washington statute requiring public disclosure of the names of individuals who sign petitions to place referendums or initiatives on state ballots. The case arose when anti-gay groups sued to block disclosure of the names of individuals who signed a petition supporting an ultimately unsuccessful referendum to block Washington’s domestic partnership law. In Doe v. Reed, the Court held:
“Public disclosure thus helps ensure that the only signatures counted are those that should be, and that the only referenda placed on the ballot are those that garner enough valid signatures. Public disclosure also promotes transparency and accountability in the electoral process to an extent other measures cannot. In light of the foregoing, we reject plaintiffs’ argument and conclude that public disclosure of referendum petitions in general is substantially related to the important interest of preserving the integrity of the electoral process.”
On April 1, 2010, three of the nation’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) legal organizations, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), and Lambda Legal—together with the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force—joined Washington Families Standing Together and the State of Washington in filing an amicus brief defending open government laws requiring public disclosure of the names of voters who sign petitions supporting state ballot initiatives. The brief refuted 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.
A statement by NCLR Legal Director Shannon Price Minter:
“Today’s decision is a serious defeat for groups who seek to abuse the democratic process to strip rights from vulnerable minorities, and who now wish to do so in secrecy, without even the minimal accountability imposed by laws designed to prevent fraud and abuse. This is one of a series of cases in which anti-gay groups are resisting compliance with open government laws. Thankfully, the Court recognized that the arguments presented by the anti-gay groups in this case had no merit, and that states must be permitted to protect the integrity of the political process.”
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.