January 22, 2010 at 2:58 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
High court to hear Wash. state Referendum 71 case


U.S. Supreme Court (DC Agenda photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear a case that will determine whether the names of Washington state residents who signed a petition to put the state’s domestic partner registry up for referendum will be made public.

The court announced last week it had granted a writ of certiorari to hear the case, known as Doe v. Reed, according to SCOTUSblog, an independent blog run by Tom Goldstein, a partner at Akin Gump.

The plaintiffs in the case represent petition signers in Washington who last year put the state’s newly expanded domestic partner registry on the ballot through voter-initiated referendum. Despite the effort of those seeking to void the rights expansion, the referendum succeeded by 53 percent, maintaining the domestic partnership law in the state.

People who opposed the domestic partnership registry in Washington have said making the names public would make the signers vulnerable to harassment, while some LGBT bloggers have said they wanted the names to be available to put them online.

According to SCOTUSblog, the Supreme Court will consider two issues in the case: “Whether the First Amendment right to privacy in political speech, association, and belief requires strict scrutiny when a state compels public release of identifying information about petition signers,” and “whether compelled public disclosure of identifying information about petition signers is narrowly tailored to a compelling interest.”

A spokesperson for the Supreme Court said a time wasn’t immediately set for oral arguments. Decisions in the Supreme Court are usually handed down in the term that oral arguments take place.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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