Supreme Court Rebukes Efforts of Anti-Equality Forces to Conceal Petition Signatures
June 24, 2010
Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against anti-equality groups who sought to overturn Washington’s law providing for disclosure of signatories to an initiative or referendum petition. The case, Doe v. Reed, arose from the Referendum 71 campaign in November 2009, which unsuccessfully sought to repeal part of Washington’s comprehensive domestic partnership law. The petitioners argued that the disclosure law violated their First Amendment rights and public scrutiny of their signatures would result in harassment and intimidation by those who support LGBT equality. In an 8-1 decision, authored by Chief Justice Roberts, the Court upheld the state’s disclosure laws as constitutional, but remanded to the trial court the question of whether the law could be applied to petitioners if it would subject them to threats, reprisals, and other harassment.
HRC President Joe Solmonese released this statement:
“As Justice Stevens noted in his concurring opinion, ‘[t]his is not a hard case.’ The Court upheld transparency and accountability in our political process over the desire of anti-equality forces to hide their nefarious efforts to strip LGBT people of their basic rights from the light of day. Rather than stand by their position, these groups have cast themselves as victims, weaving a tale of widespread harassment and intimidation out of isolated incidents, questionable reports and legitimate acts of public criticism. They failed to convince the Court today and we urge the district court, as it again takes up this case, not to be fooled.”
Only one member of the Court, Justice Alito, affirmatively indicated his belief that petitioners’ have a strong argument for an exemption from Washington’s disclosure law because of the potential for “threats, harassment and reprisals.” Even Justice Scalia, one of the Court’s core conservative members, concluded in his concurrence that, “[r]equiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed.”
The Supreme Court’s decision comes as anti-equality forces have undertaken desperate and deliberate efforts across the country to evade campaign finance public disclosure requirements. In California, the Mormon Church was fined earlier this month by the Fair Political Practices Commission for not reporting its contributions to the Proposition 8 campaign. The National Organization for Marriage remains under investigation by the Maine Ethics Commission for failing to register with the state as a ballot question committee and disclose its contributions to the No on 1 Campaign. NOM continues to argue in court that it should not have to abide by Maine law.
HRC was a strong supporter of the effort to pass Proposition 71 and preserve Washington’s comprehensive domestic partnership law. HRC also joined National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force on an amicus brief in this case, highlighting the importance of transparency in the ballot initiative process and debunking the allegations of harassment and intimidation of anti-LGBT people in the Proposition 8, Referendum 71 and other campaigns.