The high court ruled against Protect Marriage Washington, which organized a petition drive for a public vote to repeal the state's "everything-but-marriage" gay rights law.
Petition signers wanted to hide their names because of worries of intimidation. But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco refused to keep their names secret. The Supreme Court stepped in and temporarily blocked release of the names until the high court could make a decision.
The court now says disclosing names on a petition for a public referendum does not chill the signer's freedom of speech enough to warrant overturning the state's disclosure law.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing the 8-1 judgment for the court, said it is vitally important that states be able to ensure that signatures on referendum petitions are authentic. 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.” ven 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.”