Supreme Court Torpedoes Anti Gay Rights Groups Secrecy Bid

06.25.10 | FL News Team

People who sign petitions shouldn't expect to have their names kept secret. In a rare, eight-to-one ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit brought by a Washington state group that sought to end gay civil unions. The group, called Protect Marriage Washington, had gathered 130-thousand signatures for a referendum on the November ballot. The measure would overturn state law allowing same-sex partnerships. Opponents vowed to post the names of petition signers on the Internet, so Protect Marriage sued to stop them.

 Conservatives had high hopes the Supreme Court would take their side, since the justices had intervened to keep the signatories anonymous while the case was on appeal. But once before the high court, eight of the nine justices found secrecy as a general rule to be unpalatable. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, saying that public disclosure's the main way to figure out if signatures are valid and to ensure the integrity of elections. He left open the possibility that the Protect Marriage group could sue for a narrow exemption. Staunch conservative Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, quote, "Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed." Only Justice Clarence Thomas defended the petitioners' desire to remain unknown as protected under the First Amendment.