In this case, anti-gay groups asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a decision ordering the release of the names of 138,000 people who signed petitions supporting a ballot initiative to repeal basic protections for same-sex couples in Washington State. In November 2009, Washington voters rejected this attempt Referendum 71—and preserved the state’s domestic partnership law. The anti-gay groups were seeking to strike down a Washington law requiring disclosure of the petitions as public records, claiming that supporters of anti-gay ballot campaigns would be exposed to harassment and intimidation by the LGBTQ community if their names were made public.
In a friend-of-the-court brief, NCLR, Lambda Legal, and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), together with the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, joined the State of Washington and others in defending open government laws requiring public disclosure of the names of individuals who sign petitions supporting state ballot initiatives. The brief refutes the false claim that supporters of anti- gay initiatives have been subjected to “systematic intimidation” by the LGBTQ community. In fact, it is LGBTQ people who continue to suffer serious violence, harassment, and discrimination, along with a 30-year barrage of ballot petitions aimed at stripping LGBTQ people and other minority groups of basic protections. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on April 28, 2010.
On June 24, 2010, the United States Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, decisively rejected the challenge to the Washington statute requiring public disclosure of the names of individuals who sign petitions to place referendums or initiatives on state ballots. 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.”