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Judge Keeps R-71 Signatures Private


A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction on Thursday to block the state of Washington from making public the names and addresses of people who signed petitions in support of Referendum 71. The measure, which will appear on the November ballot, asks voters to decide whether to preserve previously enacted legislation that expands domestic-partnership rights, benefits, and obligations for same-sex couples.

U.S. district judge Benjamin Settle in Tacoma said that the names and addresses are likely protected under the First Amendment, and that the secretary of state, the defendant in the case brought by Protect Marriage Washington, failed to demonstrate a compelling public interest in releasing the information, according to The Seattle Times.

"Settle said Protect Marriage has established that it's likely that signing a referendum petition is protected free speech, which includes the right to speak anonymously," The Seattle Times reported.

"Furthermore, in light of the state's own verification process, Settle said he wasn't convinced that release of the names is necessary as 'an important check on the integrity of the referendum election process.'"

A final ruling from the judge is still pending. The state is weighing whether to appeal the preliminary injunction.

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