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Originally published Monday, October 17, 2011 at 1:35 PM

State releases Referendum 71 petition names

State officials are releasing copies of petitions that forced a vote on a 2009 domestic partnership law.

Associated Press

quotes That proverbial can of worms was opened when the public disclosure law was enacted. ... Read more
quotes It's not surprising that this crowd is anxious to conceal what they've been up to. ... Read more
quotes The proverbial "can of worms" has been opened. Now every initiative must... Read more

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OLYMPIA, Wash. —

State officials are releasing copies of petitions that forced a vote on a 2009 domestic partnership law.

The Washington State Archives provided a DVD to The Associated Press on Monday showing the 138,000 signatures for Referendum 71. The disclosure came just a few hours after a federal judge ruled that the signers are unlikely to face harassment.

Opponents of the law that expanded gay partnership rights managed to get enough signatures in 2009 to force a vote on the issue. They had pushed in court to keep the names of petition supporters private, arguing that it was a contentious issue and that people could be threatened.

An attorney for the group plans to appeal the decision.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

The 138,000 people who signed petitions to force a vote on a 2009 domestic partnership law are unlikely to face harassment if their names are disclosed a judge said Friday while ordering the release of signatures.

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle said the petitioners who advocated for privacy provided only a few experiences of indecent statements and other uncomfortable conversations. Also, there was only speculation that those incidents were connected to the issue, he said.

Disclosure would become the exception, rather than the rule, if just a few instances of harassment were used as the standard for preventing the release of names, Settle said.

Attorneys on the other side had argued that disclosure was necessary to ensure there wasn't fraud.

"Had the Court agreed that these ballot measure petitions could be kept secret because the referendum's sponsors were bothered by some who voiced opposition to their point of view, it would have set a terrible precedent for future elections." said Anne Levinson, chairwoman of the Washington Families Standing Together, which led the campaign to protect the domestic partnership law.

James Bopp, Jr., an attorney pushing to keep the names private, said he planned to appeal and hoped to get a temporary ruling to prevent the immediate release of names.

"I think the court adopted an impossible standard for anyone to ever meet to protect themselves from an organized campaign of harassment," Bopp said.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that release of the signatures does not violate constitutional rights, but the justices allowed advocates to prove that the release would put signers in danger. One of the signature gatherers testified that he received an angry text message from his brother and received obscene or profane gestures from passing cars.

Referendum 71 asked voters to approve or reject the state's domestic partnership law, which granted registered domestic partners additional state rights previously given only to married couples. It was approved with 53 percent of the vote.

Full-fledged gay marriage is still not allowed under Washington law.

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