I just got off the phone with Dave Coffman, the attorney representing several city employees involved in an LGBT group who are trying to block the city from releasing their names. Philip Irvin, a Seattle City Light employee who supports conservative anti-gay organizations, requested their information from the city in May.
However, King County Superior Court issued a restraining order that temporarily blocks the city from releasing personal information about members of the "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Friends (LGBTQ&F)" affinity group.
“There seems to be rank hypocrisy among the gay community,” Irvin argued on Faith and Freedom blog. His public information request, he said, reflected a campaign to release the names of people who sign Referendum 71, which is an attempt to block the domestic-partnership bill.
But Coffman says the comparison is apples to oranges. The key in determining whether personal information should be made public rests on state law, which says the public must hold an interest in accessing private information. In the case of a referendum, Coffman says, the public needs to verify that authorized voters signed a petition—thus that information needs to be publicly available.
However, Coffman argues, “I don’t think there is a public interest in identifying who these people are." He says that it's unclear what city resources were invested in the group, what the threshold for membership was, or what personal information (such as email addresses) the city might have. For instance, he is concerned that someone who attended one meeting but had no real stake in the group could be outed.
“The interest is Mr. Irvin’s alone, and I would suggest it is for nefarious purposes,” says Coffman. It's an intimidation tactic that "smacks of something that would happen in the South, circa 1962."
On June 17, a King County Superior Court judge will hear the case; depending on the judge's action, the case could be resolved or could wind up at trial.
Irvin did not immediately return calls to comment.