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High Court To Hear Washington Case

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether the First Amendment requires that the names of people who sign ballot-initiative petitions be kept secret, The New York Times reports.

The appeal comes from gay rights opponents who unsuccessfully attempted to overturn Washington State's "everything but marriage" act, which extended benefits to same-sex partners. The challenge lost at the ballot box in November.

Several groups asked the state to turn over the names of people who signed the petition challenging the law, under Washington's public records laws, and two of those groups intended to post the names on the Internet.

A federal judge initially granted a request from Protect Marriage Washington to block release of the names, but then that judge's order was overturned by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the signatures were gathered in public with no promise of confidentiality and collected on sheets with space for 20 signatures each.

This is the second time in a week that the Supreme Court has stepped in on a gay rights-related case. Earlier this week, in a 5-4 decision, justices blocked the broadcast of the trial challenging the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, which bans marriage in the state.

The justice's decision in the Washington case, Doe v. Reed, is expected by late June.

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