This Washington

McKenna and Gay Rights Group File Brief in Response to R-71 Appeal

By Josh Feit October 21, 2011

Earlier today, we reported that the anti-gay rights group Protect Washington Families filed an emergency motion with the 9th Circuit federal court to make the state stop fulfilling public requests to see the names on the R-71 petition. (R-71 was a failed 2009 measure to overturn domestic partnership rights in Washington State, and the proponents have been fighting and losing a battle to keep the names of those who signed to get the measure on the ballot secret.)

In fact, they lost the fight to Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna in the US Supreme Court over the general principle of Washington State's open records, and they lost a subsequent fight for an exemption earlier this week in District Court in Tacoma. (They're emergency motion is in response to this week's District Court ruling.)

McKenna and the pro-gay rights group, Washington Families Standing Together, argue in their brief today today that A) the US Supreme Court made it clear that the state has a legit interest in open government and B) the District Court ruled out the possibility of an exemption because PMW could not prove signers would be endangered if their names were made public.
As the Washington State Supreme Court has explained, the “purpose of the [Public Records Act] is nothing less than the preservation of the most central tenets of representative government, namely, the sovereignty of the people and the accountability to the people of public officials and institutions.”).

The balance of equities clearly tips in favor of the State and public interest in open government. There is no longer any question regarding the lack
of a plausible risk of irreparable harm. The Public Disclosure Commission has posted information on the internet regarding 857 donations to Protect Marriage Washington. The names, addresses, contribution amounts, as well as some of the donors’ occupations and employers, are easily searched on the The balance of equities tips firmly against impeding open government.

Although this information has been in the public domain for a year, PMW produced no evidence of irreparable harm.

In contrast to the Plaintiffs’ dwindling interest in secrecy, the Supreme Court has recognized that the State has a “particularly strong” interest in preserving the integrity of the electoral system by promoting systemic transparency and accountability.
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