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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

High court to look at Ref. 71 case

The U.S. Supreme Court will take a peek at whether those names on the Referendum 71 petitions are public records or private info.

The Washington Secretary of State's office, which says they are public records, announced today the Supremes have put the Ref. 71 issue on a list of cases they'll review on Jan. 15. This could be the next step toward a full-blown appeal of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that they're subject to release, or the end of the line for the fight.

The high court would be expected to announce that day or soon after whether they will take up the case, Brian Zylstra, deputy communications director, said.

For background on the case, go inside the blog.

After the Legislature extended certain rights to same-sex couples this spring, Protect Marriage Washington filed to have the legislation overturned by voters. The group submitted enough signatures to get Referendum 71 on the ballot, but gay rights supporters at a group calling  itself filed for the names of everyone who signed the petitions and planned to post them on-line.

Secretary of State Sam Reed and state Attorney General Rob McKenna said the names are public records, but Protect Marriage Washington went to court to block the release, saying it feared those who signed would be harassed.

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle blocked the release, but a 9th Circuit panel reversed Settle. Superme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy temporarily stayed the appeals court decision, and now the full court will decide whether to grant the case a full review.

An attorney for the state had argued earlier this month the Superem Court should not take up the case because there was no important national question involved.

The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.