Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld Washington’s Public Records Act today, rejecting Referendum 71 backers’ claims that revealing the names of those who signed the petition would violate their First Amendment right to free speech. The court ruled 8-1, with only Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting.
R-71 would have repealed WA’s recently passed domestic partnership law. During the signature gathering phase, some gay rights activists had threatened to publish the names of people who signed the petition.
I say the decision is not surprising because state and federal courts have already recognized that there are limited circumstances in which petitions and campaign finance records can be withheld from public disclosure to protect the rights of the participants, so there was no need for such a sweeping ruling. Indeed, the SCOTUS referred the case back down to the lower courts to determine whether R-71’s signers can be revealed under its particular circumstances.
You can read the whole opinion here.
As mentioned in the comment thread, SCOTUSblog has a good synopsis of the ruling, so I don’t really feel the need to go into any additional detail, except to thumb my nose at Tim Eyman.