The state has won a case to release the names and addresses of people who signed the petitions for Referendum 71, says Washington Attorney General's office spokeswoman Janelle Guthrie, but the signatures will not be immediately released [see updates]. In a short email, she writes, "The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today granted an immediate stay and reversed a lower court’s preliminary injunction blocking the release of Referendum 71 petitions containing the names and addresses of those who signed the measure. The underlying case challenges the state’s public records law as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment."
Brian Murphy, who blogs as the Gay Curmudgeon, filed a records request for the 9,359 petitions sheets used to get Referendum 71 on the ballot earlier this year. He planned to post the names and addresses online so gays and supporters could politely confront the petition-signing bigots who want to put gay rights up for a public vote. But Protect Marriage Washington, which gathered the signatures, argued that the petitions should remain sealed, because releasing the information would cause petition signers "immediate and irreparable deprivations of their First Amendment liberties." More on the case is here.
UPDATE: Secretary of State's office spokesman David Ammons says:
The three-judge panel said [District Court] Judge Benjamin Settle relied on a faulty legal standard in issuing a ban last month on the state releasing R-71 petition sheets — apparently a reference to foes’ theory that petitions are constitutionally-protect “anonymous free speech.” Secretary of State Sam Reed, relying on advice from the Attorney General, treats the petitions as a releasable public record, not as a private act by a citizen. He and Attorney General McKenna say taking part in the initiative and referendum process amounts to taking part in the public act of citizen legislating, and that disclosure of the names is appropriate in the same way that people demand to know the sponsorship of legislation in Olympia.
There is one more legal step the state must take before releasing the petitions to the six groups or individuals who requested the records: Thurston County Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks, in a case brought by initiative activist Tim Eyman, on Wednesday issued a temporary restraining order against the Secretary releasing any petitions, until he hears from the 9th Circuit. Hicks told attorneys at that hearing that he would want to hear back from them, and indicated he would schedule a full airing of both sides. Eyman's case is a broad attack on the state's policy of releasing petitions, and arises out of a lobbyist's request for petitions of 11 initiatives from the past decade, most of them Eyman-sponsored measures.
UPDATE 2: Says Guthrie:
The Attorney General’s Office will now file an emergency motion in Thurston County Superior Court asking Judge Richard Hicks to clarify that the temporary restraining order he issued yesterday in Eyman v. Reed does not apply to the Referendum 71 petitions. The state will request the court lift the temporary restraining order because it was largely dependent on the Ninth Circuit’s ruling.