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Originally published August 11, 2009 at 4:11 PM | Page modified August 11, 2009 at 4:11 PM

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Ref. 71 backers ask state to seal names of campaign donors due to threats

Violent threats by a Bellingham blogger have prompted backers of Referendum 71 to ask the state to seal the names of campaign donors.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Backers of Referendum 71 have asked the state's Public Disclosure Commission to seal or redact the names of those who donated to their campaign because of threats of violence against supporters, churches and even the government, posted to a blog by a Bellingham man.

In an Aug. 6 letter, Protect Marriage Washington requested an emergency hearing before the four-member commission.

The commission's Web site lists the names and hometowns of donors to all public campaigns and candidates, the amount of their contributions and their places of employment.

A consortium of religious conservatives, Protect Marriage Washington is attempting through Ref. 71 to repeal a recently passed state law that would give registered domestic partners the same state-offered benefits married people now receive. The group wants the disclosure commission to suspend or modify financial reporting requirements as a means of protecting its donors.

A spokeswoman for the commission earlier today said the request has been placed on the commission's agenda for the next meeting, scheduled for Aug. 27. The group's donor information, she points out, has been publicly available for some time now. On his blog, Queer Equality Revolution, a man calling himself John Bisceglia rails against taxation, for gun possession and against those who would rob him of his civil rights.

"I advocate using violence against the property of ALL of those who are working tirelessly to HURT my family; starting with churches and government property," the 43-year-old wrote.

"Government is enabling a vote on whether or not I should be allowed to see my husband while he is dying in a hospital — any NORMAL man would be driven to get a gun and kill those who tried such evil cruelty against his loved ones."

He did not respond immediately to an e-mail request for comments.

Protect Marriage Washington's request to protect the now-public names of its donors is the latest in what has become a heated campaign filled with threats, accusations and name-calling.

The Secretary of State is expected within a week to complete a hand check of the 137,689 signatures Protect Marriage submitted in its attempt to get Ref. 71 on the November ballot.

At least 120, 577 of the signatures must be valid for the referendum to qualify.

And last month, a federal judge in Tacoma granted Protect Marriage's request to temporarily block the Secretary of State from publicly releasing the names and addresses of those who signed the referendum, including to gay activists who have said they would post those names online.

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Since May, Protect Marriage has raised just over $32,000 — less than half the amount raised so far by Washington Families Standing Together, a coalition of religious, labor, community and gay-rights organizations seeking to retain the domestic partnership law.

Protect Marriage's donors live all across the state — and include retirees, homemakers, a corrections officer, a surgeon and a company president, among others. Stephen Pidgeon, attorney for the group, said in the statement it has notified the FBI because of the implied threats in Bisceglia's blog against the federal and state governments.

"This is a true threat to the lives and property of those people who support the referendum process..." the statement said. "A reasonable person would take the statement about getting a gun and killing people who support R-71 as a true threat."

Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or lturnbull@seattletimes.com

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