OLYMPIA – A federal judge Thursday ordered the state of Washington to keep shielding the identities of people who signed petitions to force a vote on expanded benefits for gay couples.
U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle in Tacoma granted the preliminary injunction involving petitions for Referendum 71 while a related case moves forward on the constitutionality of the state public records act.
The referendum, sponsored by a group called Protect Marriage Washington, asks voters to approve or reject the “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law that state lawmakers passed earlier this year.
In his ruling, Settle said he was “not persuaded that waiver of one’s fundamental right to anonymous political speech is a prerequisite for participation in Washington’s referendum process.”
Brian Zylstra, spokesman for Secretary of State Sam Reed, said that the judge’s decision “is a step away from open government.”
“When people sign a referendum or initiative petition, they are trying to change state law,” he said. “We believe that changing state law should be open to public view.”
A spokesman for the state attorney general’s office, which is representing Reed in the case, said they are weighing whether to appeal the preliminary injunction.