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SCOTUS Rules Petiton Signatures Are Public Record 780

Posted by kdawson
from the stand-behind-your-john-hancock dept.
Reader SheeEttin reminds us that back in October, the Supreme Court accepted a case testing whether or not petition signers' names could be kept anonymous. (The premise was that the act of signing a petition is covered by free speech, and thus signers are entitled to anonymity, especially to protect them from harassment.) Now the Court has issued its ruling: signatures are part of the public record. "By a strong majority Thursday, the Supreme Court issued a setback for opponents of gay marriage who wanted to keep their identities secret. The justices favored transparency over privacy in a case testing whether signing a petition is a public act. The case began with a bill that the Washington state legislature passed in 2009, expanding the state's domestic partnership law. The new referendum was known as 'everything but marriage' for the enhanced rights it gave same-sex couples. People who opposed the bill gathered 120,000 signatures for a ballot measure asking voters to repeal it. That measure eventually reached Washington voters, who upheld 'everything but marriage.' Those who signed the repeal petition feared that they would be harassed if their names became public, so they went to court challenging Washington's Public Records Act. They argued that signing a petition is speech that is protected from disclosure. But in Thursday's 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court disagreed. 'Such disclosure does not, as a general matter, violate the first amendment,' Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court."
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SCOTUS Rules Petiton Signatures Are Public Record

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  • by Pojut (1027544) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:27PM (#32692028) Homepage

    ...if you feel about something so strongly that you are willing to sign a petition about it, you shouldn't be hiding your name. Stop being a coward, and own up to your opinions/decisions.

  • I'm torn on this (Score:4, Insightful)

    by davidsinn (1438403) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:28PM (#32692038)

    Signing a petition is very much like grabbing a sign and picketing. On the flip side it is similar to casting a ballot. I don't know which side to agree with on this one.

  • by davidsinn (1438403) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:30PM (#32692084)

    I agree with you about the man up and stand for your beliefs, however history has shown that standing for something unpopular had a nasty tendency to get you dead or injured.

  • Expected (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pharmboy (216950) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:31PM (#32692100) Journal

    I think it should be expected that if you sign a petition, the information is public. Otherwise, there would be no way to validate the petition. The constitution protects free speech, although not necessarily ANONYMOUS free speech. There are other avenues for anonymous free speech anyway.

  • Well then, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) * <myfirstnameispaul@gmail.com> on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:32PM (#32692116) Homepage Journal
    Shouldn't the same be true about voting?
  • by hsthompson69 (1674722) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:33PM (#32692138)

    I think the best way to imagine this is to contemplate the consequences of anonymous petitions. Without the signatures and names being public record, I could pretty much create a petition for anything with any number of signatures you can imagine. With ballot box voting, we've at least done some due diligence on the qualifications of those who get to drop ballots into the box, even if their choices are anonymous, their identities are not.

  • My personal opinion is that a petition should be independently verifiable as to its validity (to make sure there is no petition stuffing going on), and the only way to do that is to make signatory information available to those independent verifiers - and anyone should be able to be an independent verifier.

    Otherwise the petition isn't worth anything.
  • by oldhack (1037484) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:34PM (#32692148)
    True. I mean, the whole point of adding your name to a petition is, well, adding your name. Petition without names aren't worth the "paper" it's written on, like those stupid email petition spam.
  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:34PM (#32692156) Homepage Journal

    Cowards. If you are willing to put your name on a petition to get a measure on the ballot, then you should be willing to stand by your decision. Claiming you don't want your name to be revealed because your friends and neighbors might think differently about you is no excuse to try and hide from your decision.

    It's always funny when those who try to wrap themselves in the veils of freedom and democracy are generally the first ones who don't want others to know what they're up to.

  • by RingDev (879105) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:35PM (#32692188) Homepage Journal

    The SCOTUS pointed out that there are exceptions, and the lawyer for the petitioners stated that he believes their case falls in the realm of those exceptions. So it'll go back to a lower court to determine if it within them.

    It strikes me as odd though. I thought the whole point of signing a petition was to publicly announce your support for the petition. I mean, if you don't feel strongly enough to write your name publicly, why not just write Mickey Mouse? And hell, if there is going to be no public scrutiny of who is brave enough to actually back the petition, what's to keep the petitioner from just writing Mickey Mouse 120,000 times.

    There SHOULD be an element of risk to signing a petition. You have to be willing to put your name on the line, literally. That includes showing support for the issue, and dealing with people who may disagree with you.

    -Rick

  • by PPH (736903) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:37PM (#32692220)
    In this case, the big fear is about being outed. The harassment isn't going to come from the gay community. It's what some signers wil have to deal with in their own community when their boy toy spots their name on the petition.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:40PM (#32692286) Journal
    That's Un-American! I deserve the right to petition for laws restricting other people's behavior without any risk of being called to account for having done so!

    This country was founded by people who knew that the right to oppress people they didn't like was a right worth crossing the ocean and living in ass-end of the earth for! Who are some activist judges to deny our puritan heritage?
  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:40PM (#32692292)

    I agree with you about the man up and stand for your beliefs, however history has shown that standing for something unpopular had a nasty tendency to get you dead or injured.

    It doesn't even have to be unpopular if the issue is one where those who oppose your position are willing to use intimidation tactics (which is the case with this petition). It will be interesting to see how those who went to court to get the names on this position react when it is a petition favoring one of their causes that receives this treatment. The interesting thing about this case is that before this particular petition, the state had found that these petitions did not fall under the Public records Act. So, the people who signed this petition had reason to believe that their identities would not become general knowledge.
    Those who sued to get the names of the people who signed the petition did so so that they could harrass the more prominent people who signed it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:41PM (#32692314)

    I think you are oversimplifying the issue. Let's swap the positions of these groups and set the stage back a good 30... hell, 5 years...

    A couple thousand gay men and women stand up for themselves and try to get the government to change it's viewpoint. They are vehemently struck down by a crushing majority.

    Do you think that their names should be public record? Do you think that they should "man up" and take the beatings, perhaps murder, that might take place over their stand?

    It's all fine and good everyone respected the opposing view, but this is a world where we have watched people die over skin color and sexuality probably this very year. Maybe defending the right to be "anti-gay" isn't very popular, but it's still a persons right.

    I do not think people are cowards for fearing retribution regarding their beliefs-- however silly or hateful I think those beliefs might be.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:42PM (#32692332)

    ...if you feel about something so strongly that you are willing to sign a petition about it, you shouldn't be hiding your name. Stop being a coward, and own up to your opinions/decisions.

    Perhaps you aren't paying attention. The gays are violently attacking anyone that disagrees with their position, so to speak. That's not free speach.

    I am NOT a coward, I don't think, but I don't want my home and family attacked as has happened in the San Francisco gay area and locations of a similar bent.

  • by Peach Rings (1782482) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:43PM (#32692354) Homepage

    Otherwise the petition isn't worth anything.

    ;)

  • by causality (777677) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:43PM (#32692366)

    I agree with you about the man up and stand for your beliefs, however history has shown that standing for something unpopular had a nasty tendency to get you dead or injured.

    In a case like this, anonymity is not a protection for cowards. It's a protection from cowards. There are few things more cowardly and insecure than hating someone and wishing to harm them because they do not believe as you do.

  • by tomhath (637240) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:44PM (#32692384)
    I agree that the names on a petition should be made public. But when it results in death threats and other forms of harassment [nytimes.com] there needs to be vigorous law enforcement to avoid political action by intimidation (or worse).
  • by Pojut (1027544) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:45PM (#32692408) Homepage

    Ever heard of the secret ballot? There are some very good reasons why we have one. It was created as a response to the coercion and intimidation that went on before one's suffrage could be exercised anonymously. It makes a good analogy for this petition. I'll add that "coward" is a judgment against the character of a person you have never met. Having described that, I feel no need to respond to it or the emotional nature behind it. Instead, I'd like to ask you a factual question.

    I view signing a petition as serving the same purpose as holding up a picket sign.

    If the signatures remain anonymous, the signers have a measure of protection against harassment. Someone gains from that scenario and I can't think of anything it does to harm anyone else. The list of signatures can still be checked to make sure there are no duplicates etc.; the list and whether there are duplicates is just not a matter of public record.

    And if I had four wheels, I'd be a wagon.

    If the signatures are published publically, who gains or who benefits from this? For the opponents of the petition who did not wish to sign it, does it enhance their lives or further their cause in any way to know that John Smith from another city signed this petition? What good or useful purpose does it serve? Does that purpose outweigh the very real possibility of harassment?

    Bottom line: if you feel strongly enough about something to declare your support for it with a fucking signature, you should be man (or woman) enough to own up to it and deal with whatever consequences that may include. If you don't want people to know you feel a certain way about something, or if you fear retribution for your opinion, then you should just shut up and not express it.

    Just my opinion, YMMV, etc.

  • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:46PM (#32692412)
    I know you're being sarcastic, but it's disgusting how these people are afraid of how others might perceive them, when in fact going 'on record' with dangerous opinions is the very foundation of civic society in the United States. The founders signed their own death warrants with the words "[...] we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." How these cowards could learn from their example.
  • by radtea (464814) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:50PM (#32692504)

    It makes a good analogy for this petition.

    Except for the part where there is an independent verification body that certifies election results, and where voting elects people the positions of power while petition signing is part of the nominally open and public process of political debate.

    So yeah, other that that, the secret ballot is a great analogy for this petition. But including that, the secret ballot is such a terrible analogy for this petition that it's incredible anyone would bring it up if they have any clue whatsoever as to how secret ballots actually work, and how much effort is made to verify that people in secret ballot situations don't vote twice, and their identity matches who they say they are, and they are actually legally allowed to vote.

    For all we know the names on this petition are "Donald Duck" repeated 100,000 times, or the names of closet gays (also known as Bible Believing Christians) and their minor children.

    Publishing the names serves the good and useful purpose of validating that the signers are who they say they are, and that they are adults living in the State of Washington, as opposed to shills from out of state, minors, or fictional characters. Anyone who wants their voice to be taken seriously in public debate--which is what this petition is part of--would be strongly in favour of having their name known.

  • Harassment? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Applekid (993327) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:50PM (#32692522)

    Or maybe the resistance to releasing the names is that most of them are fake anyway, so this "overwhelming" number of concerned citizens is really just a red herring anyway.

  • by sv_libertarian (1317837) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:52PM (#32692552) Journal
    Indeed. Although I don't know why this got modded funny. I'd say insightful. The 1st and the 2nd prop up the people and ensure that we can not only freely speak, but that we can protect ourselves against those who would abuse our rights in the first place.
  • by sjames (1099) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:54PM (#32692590) Homepage

    Ballots themselves are a matter of public record, it's just the identity of the person who filled it out that is secret.

    A petition is quite a different thing and serves a different purpose. If the names on it cannot be verified, there's nothing to say that the people represented actually signed it.

    The people who signed the petition wish to strongly curtail the legal rights of other people but want to do so anonymously? No good can come of that!

  • by caturday (1197847) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:57PM (#32692646)
    Not in this specific example. The gay community isn't exactly going out of its way to violently oppress those who oppose it, while the other side can't say the same. In fact, I'd be surprised if this were anything more than the traditional belief that "since they should fear retribution from me, I should fear equivalent retribution from them." It's a pretty common belief among modern social conservatives.
  • Well duh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:57PM (#32692652)

    If I go into a voting booth, I close a curtain and nobody's looking over my shoulder.

    If I sign a petition, I can see the names and addresses of everyone who signed the petition before me (at least the ones on the same page I'm currently signing). And after I sign it, I know the next guy, or the signature gatherer, can read what I just wrote.

    That's a pretty clear difference in expectation of privacy if you ask me.

  • by Wireless Joe (604314) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:02PM (#32692756) Homepage
    The lawyer's assertion that the petition signers are at risk of harm or retribution is ridiculous. The list of financial contributors to the initiative has been public for quite some time, and as far as I know, none of them have been the victim of anything beyond boycott threats, which are not illegal.
  • by jimbolauski (882977) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:03PM (#32692770) Journal
    They need to apply the law to all parts of the government, all information regarding our government should be public unless it is classified. No more meetings behind closed doors hiding the deceit from the public. If our representatives knew that their actions were being recorded the ethics of our representatives would go through the roof.
  • Re:Well then, (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nj_peeps (1780942) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:06PM (#32692806) Journal
    No, because if who you vote for is known, the voting public can be corrorsed into voting for or against someone or something, and if you don't there could be any number of possible threats held against you (even if you don't vote at all). The outcome of a vote has more of a direct effect on who gets voted into gov. or if public option laws/ordinances are passed.

    Petitions are more we the undersigned would like to see this happen/not happen to put pressure on current elected gov. to sway them your way, and thus doesn't have as much of an impact.

    BTW, your signature is checked on an absentee ballot and the registration form, just as it is checked when you go to the polls, by comparing it to known copy of your signature.

  • by Kymermosst (33885) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:07PM (#32692826) Journal

    You might just avoid it. But others might replace the word "avoid" with the word "vandalize."

    FYI I'd never vote for gay marriage. Does that make you dislike me?

    Would it suddenly make a difference if I told you that I would like to see the government eliminate all references to marriage of any kind, including traditional (read: heterosexual) marriages? That is, I would like to see the complete and entire elimination of government recognition of "marriage".

  • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:19PM (#32693014)
    What an unsurprising response, an anonymous coward who doesn't have the depth of conviction to stand for his principles. The founders faced the specter of the hangman's noose for treason against the crown of England, but somebody might scratch up your car in your driveway, so you sure as hell can't take a stand... too risky.

    I'm glad this country wasn't full of cowards like you in the 18th century.
  • by BZ (40346) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:27PM (#32693186)

    > The gay community isn't exactly going out of its way to violently oppress those who oppose
    > it, while the other side can't say the same.

    That depends on where you live and how you define "gay community". In California during the Proposition 8 debates and right after its passage there was quite a number of rather ugly incidents.

    http://www.christianexaminer.com/Articles/Articles%20Dec08/Art_Dec08_09.html [christianexaminer.com] lists a few; I'm not sure how you can view spray-painting buildings belonging to particular religious groups, punching your neighbors in the face, putting up "bigots live here" signage, etc as something other than "violent oppression". Of course you may be affected by your dislike for the targets of said oppression, but consider how we would view people spray-painting signs saying "Jews live here", say?

    Now clearly only a small fraction of the "gay community" is involved in such acts. On the other hand, only a small fraction of opponents of gay marriage, say, is involved in violent acts. Neither is acceptable, and both are violent oppression in any meaningful sense of the word.

    All of which comes down to the fact that any group that feels like it's in their power (either due to being a majority group or due to special protections from the government like the aristocracy in medieval Europe) will tend to violently oppress people it doesn't like. I wish it weren't so, but history and current events suggest that it is. What we should strive for is minimizing such incidents as much as we can, and NOT through making people shut up and conform.

  • by MBGMorden (803437) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:29PM (#32693214)

    however history has shown that standing for something unpopular had a nasty tendency to get you dead or injured.

    History has also shown that sometimes in order to enact a major change some people have to get dead or injured. During the American Revolution, people didn't try to remain anonymous. John Hancock famously signed his huge ass signature on the Declaration of Independence because he WANTED it to be known that he supported it. These men knew that this document meant that they very well might be swinging at the end of the gallows, but the cause was still worth it.

  • by MightyYar (622222) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:30PM (#32693218)

    Whats disgusting is the way some people who signed the Prop 8 petition in CA were treated afterward - loosing jobs, having their homes and cars vandalized, death threats even.

    Obviously I don't support vandalism, physical threats, or violence, but what's wrong with losing their jobs? Who wants bigotry in the workplace? Seems to me that should be the employer's prerogative.

  • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:31PM (#32693250)
    Yes, but you see he's not just griping, he says he's paralyzed with the fear of it. Therein lies the problem and the cowardice.
  • by Pandrake (1513617) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:34PM (#32693306) Homepage

    "I view signing a petition as serving the same purpose as holding up a picket sign."

    Ding! That makes it clear to me. Thank you. When I saw the article headline my brain tried to wrap around the anonymous voting thing and why it's important to protect the identity of the voters and then I slowly started to grok that a petition is not a vote. Like you said, it's a protest and/or promotion; those are not better served by anonymity - quite the opposite.

  • by offsides (1297547) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:35PM (#32693326)

    If you're not strong enough in your convictions to be willing to stand up and face the consequences of supporting them, maybe there's a reason you shouldn't be supporting them. While I don't agree with death threats and the like, if you're going to campaign to take away other peoples' rights, you damn well better do it publicly and in full view of everyone else (which includes knowing who you are).

    If the government tried to take away your rights in secret, you'd be up in arms about that. Just look at /.'s reaction to ACTA. Well, in case you hadn't noticed, petitions are the peoples' way of acting as the government - thus they too should be transparent and not allow for "shadowy masses" to make the rules.

    Also, if someone's truly a wacko who's going to cause problems for you for signing a petition, I've got news for you - they're going to cause trouble whether or not you sign the petition; maybe to someone else instead, but again, that's where the strength of your convictions comes in. It all comes back to that - stand up and announce your position to the world, or SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!

  • by flitty (981864) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:38PM (#32693374)
    At least in my state, to be a valid signature, An address is required along with your name. "Padding" can be fairly easy found out by invalid addresses, or doing a random sample and contacting some of the people who signed the petition to verify they did sign the petition. Making signatures public information is good because more of the public can be utilized for verification of signatures.
  • by WizMorgan (997801) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:38PM (#32693388) Homepage
    "The signers of the Declaration of Independence have asked that their names be redacted for fear of harassment by citizens of the British Empire" Yeah, that would work...
  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:43PM (#32693472) Journal

    Wait, I don't follow. Why would a closeted gay sign a petition against gay marriage if no one could verify that he'd done it? I mean, I can see why a closeted gay would sign such a petition if the names were going to go public. If anything, the closeted gay would want the names to go public as evidence that he's not a gay sympathizer.

    This is not about gays not wanting to be outed as gays. This is about bigots not wanting to be outed as bigots.

  • by flitty (981864) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:43PM (#32693476)
    Intimidation/threats are against the law. Prosecute that. Whenever someone argues that we should ban/stop something because possibly one day it might be used to commit a crime, you've lost. Same goes for Torrents, Guns, books, video games, etc.
  • Re:Well then, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mea37 (1201159) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:44PM (#32693504)

    No.

    Voting is a duty and is critical to the functioning of a representative government. It is a special case where freedom from outside influence needs special protection.

    Signing a petition is a choice; if you want to have your voice heard in that way, you choose to do so.

    The purpose of a petition is to show a threshold level of support for an issue before bothering to hold a vote. If you can't come up with X signatures from people who are willing to stand by their belief, then you don't have that threshold level of support.

    On the flip side of the coin, if we allow anonymous petition-signing, then what becomes of the right of the dissent to audit the signatures?

  • by ifdef (450739) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:46PM (#32693540)

    I agree.

    I think I'm missing something here in this discussion. Signing a petition is a way of saying that *I* support this, it's a way of taking a public stand on the issue. That's why you sign your *name*, instead of ticking a box anonymously. That's also why petitions are, at least in theory, taken seriously -- it's not an anonymous mob who support the petition, it's a bunch of specific people who are willing to put their names on record.

  • by BZ (40346) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:48PM (#32693562)

    > Actually, I think I would view that as "violent rebellion" and not oppression.

    Uh... no. "Violent rebellion" is when someone targets the government via violent action. Targeting your neighbors for what they happen to believe is NOT violent rebellion.

    Specifically, violent attacks on neighbors who you think will be unable to defend themselves because they will lose in the court of public opinion (which is what was going on in large part during the Prop 8 shenanigans) aren't justified.

    > The gays are the ones being oppressed by Proposition 8

    That's really a matter of opinion. I happen to think "marriage" isn't a right at all. An economic union that's treated in preferred ways by the government (visitation rights, join tax returns, etc, etc), on the other hand, should be if such a thing exists.

    > You know, the law that's supposed to keep church and state separate and all that good'
    > stuff.

    Yep, so why's government involved in marriage at all? It shouldn't be.

  • by BZ (40346) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:52PM (#32693626)

    > There's a big difference between hating someone for their race and hating someone for
    > their opinions and behavior

    Most of the hatred of Jews historically has been for their opinions and behavior; the Third Reich is a rare exception that attempted to reclassify the whole thing as a racial issue. In the US, in particular, Judaism is typically viewed as a religion, not a race.

    Replace "Jews live here" with "Mormons live here" or "Catholics live here" if you prefer. My point stands.

    In general, religious intolerance is precisely "hating someone for their opinions and behavior" and is no different from what was going on here.

  • by ATMAvatar (648864) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:53PM (#32693638) Journal

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

    The first amendment is about protecting people from government action which aims to prevent them from speaking freely. It says nothing about the socioeconomic consequences of doing so. It can and should be expected that going on record with a controversial viewpoint is going to net you the disapproval of some segment of the population, including (but not limited to) friends, family, co-workers, and employers.

    If you want to affect change in society through public demonstrations (of which petitions are a subset), grow a backbone.

  • by Dorkmaster Flek (1013045) on Friday June 25, 2010 @01:58PM (#32693724)
    Oh I'm not saying it's not wrong, or that I agree with it, or that it isn't another form of hate crime. I'm just saying I don't consider it "violent oppression". I think it's more of a rebellion against the groups that have kept equal marriage rights down for so long.
  • by postbigbang (761081) on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:05PM (#32693850)

    What stops people from using a fake name is courage, and the desire not to tell a lie.

    Whatever side of the Prop 8 question you're on, you should be free to express your opinion, but shouldn't like about who you are when you do so. The courage of one's convictions says: sign. Other means of expression demand anonymity.

  • by Myopic (18616) on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:06PM (#32693852)
    1. Lose, not loose. They are easy to mix up, but also easy to get right.
    2. That is not flamebait. You were modded unfairly.
    3. In my opinion, if you are willing to legally prohibit a person from having the same rights you enjoy, you should also not want to work for that kind of person, or have them patronize your business. Thus, if you sign a petition to prohibit gay marriage, you should be very glad when your gay boss fires you, and your gay customers go to another shop. If you think having to find another job is a hassle, imagine having to get married to a person you can't be attracted to, or not get married at all.
    4. Death threats aren't part of a civil discourse. All thinking people condemn violence and the threat of violence.
  • by Low Ranked Craig (1327799) on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:06PM (#32693854)

    Fine. Is it the employer's prerogative to not hire blacks or Mexicans either? How do you know there was any bigotry in the workplace? Seriously, if a company fired someone because they found out somehow that the employee signed a petition that the employer opposes, that employer should be sued out of existence. I'm all for the rights of individuals, personal responsibility and I hate most of this PC crap, but are you seriously advocating that employers should be able to fire people if they disagree with their political position? That's all well and good until the opposite occurs, right? A company supports gay marriage and fires people that don't? What about a company that doesn't support gay marriage firing employees that do? That's OK too, right? Keep in mind we're not talking about hiring or firing gays, we're talking about hiring and firing based on political and social positions.

    I'll go on record. I have issues with gay marriage, ranging from tax benefits to the adoption of children. Actually, I have issues with the state being involved in marriage at all to tell the truth. Any two people of legal age ought to be able to sign a simple contract that covers things like patients rights, community property, etc. The state should have no say one way or another IMO.

  • by Myopic (18616) on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:08PM (#32693896)

    Point of fact: the country WAS full of cowards like him in the 18th century. The "founding fathers" were a vanishingly tiny group of people, and all their supporters amounted to a small minority of the population. Almost everyone was happy to just let things be.

    So a minor tweak to your point would be that you and I are both glad that there were at least a small number of people willing to stand up for their principles.

  • by agnosticnixie (1481609) on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:09PM (#32693900)

    As we know the people who signed this petition are very concerned with the rights of other to go about their lives free of harassment... oh right.
    You lose.

  • by no1home (1271260) on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:11PM (#32693938)

    And that's very much part of the issue. My first, and incorrect, thought was, "there are government bodies that verify the signatures." BUT, they're over-worked, under-staffed, and frequently might not care. If the signatures are open and public record, then any of us can verify them. And that is good for us!

    As has been mentioned, our Founding Fathers knew they were signing their death warrant with the documents that begat our country. While we have many rights, many forget we have just as many responsibilities. It is our duty to be an active citizenry- police our government, police our police, and fight for our rights and freedoms. Is it really worse to be 'outed' for believing something enough to sign a petition than the death-warrant-like documents our forefathers signed? At worst, it is on the same level, but only rarely.

    As a very minor case-in-point that could, in theory (but not likely, I imagine) keep me out of some government jobs, I signed the petition here in California to put the legalization of marijuana on the ballot. Personally, I don't want to be associated with drugs in any way, not even mj. But I believe there is some merit to the proposal to legalize it and it should be put to the voters. So, despite my feelings of some risk (right or wrong), I signed.

    Stand for what you believe in. If someone brings debate to you, debate. If someone brings trouble to you, trouble it back!

  • by sycorob (180615) on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:13PM (#32693974)

    Is there really much chance that the government is going to pull out of the business of marriage? In any reasonable timeframe? I think not, and I bet you would agree with me.

    Given that that's the situation we're in, the only reasonable way to give homosexuals the same rights (or entitlements if you prefer) is to allow them to marry. This is a straight civil rights issue - heterosexual couples can marry, share property, visit their spouse and family in the hospital, share medical benefits, and so on. Homosexual couples generally cannot, unless their employer allows it, or their state specifically allows it, etc.

    If you vote against same-sex marriage, you're screwing a bunch of people out of privileges that a bunch of other people in the community get for free. If it's more important to you to take a stand against government involvement in marriage, then good for you. I just hope there aren't a lot of people out there with your priorities.

  • by RomulusNR (29439) on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:33PM (#32694266) Homepage

    before this particular petition, the state had found that these petitions did not fall under the Public records Act.

    When was this? What was the petition number?

    So, the people who signed this petition had reason to believe that their identities would not become general knowledge.

    Sure, if you ignore the fact that they are signing them in public places, in broad daylight, in plain view of the general public, on a piece of paper left on a table for the next few hours, which will also be seen by as many as 30 or more subsequent signers (as well as people who read the petition but don't sign it), and which at the end of the day will be collected by a non-regulated or bonded private employee or volunteer who will hold onto them until eventually handing them into the private citizens running the group, and which will be in either private, non-government, non-regulated, non-bound peoples' hands until they are finally turned into the state -- IF the group ends up with enough signatures to bother doing so -- and even becoming remotely elegible for government-enforced secrecy, barring any laws that promote transparent government.

    So yeah, other than all of that, it was done in complete guaranteed secrecy!

    those who oppose your position are willing to use intimidation tactics (which is the case with this petition).

    Telling people you are a homophobe is an intimidation tactic? Or do you have nighmares of imaginary mobs of men in dresses and misapplied lipstick painting your house pink in the middle of the night?

    MPD.

  • by Sloppy (14984) on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:33PM (#32694268) Homepage Journal

    Isn't it kind of obvious that the whole point of signing a petition and printing your name (and probably address as well), that you are formally and non-anonymously declaring that you want something?

    With anonymity, what is left of the very idea of petition? Nothing; you might as well get rid of the signatures, names and addresses altogether, replace the lines with a grid of boxes, and say at the top, "Check off a box if you want ___" and then give a sheet full of Xs written with different pens in different styles to your government representative to totally impress them with how passionately their constituents feel about something.

  • > when in fact going 'on record' with dangerous opinions is the very foundation of civic society in the United States.

    Yes, but so is the secret ballot.

    In a case earlier this year, while not dealing with this issue directly, the justices noticed in passing that the reasons people wanted the names -- so that they could, indeed, harass, and stated as so, was a very troubling development.

    Haven't read the decision, yet, but I'm betting it'll mention that issue big time, but that it simply didn't outweigh the public nature of it.

    The public nature of it, of course, is to keep tabs on government by allowing people to make sure they didn't fake up petitions, not so that people could go track down and harass the signers.

    Prevention of harassment is why the vote is secret.

  • by Myopic (18616) on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:38PM (#32694324)

    So true. If your ideals are embarrassing, maybe it's time to rethink your ideals.

    In rare circumstances, that might not be true, but it usually is, and in this case it sure is.

  • by lorenlal (164133) on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:51PM (#32694472)

    But - You do have to admit that there's a strong desire to avoid retribution for what you believe in. For instance, none of us expect our actual votes in an election to be traced back to us. There is a very strong connection between giving support for a bill and voting for it, and it's quite logical for someone to believe that if a vote is kept private (to protect their rights to free speech and to vote freely) that similar measures would be extended to petitions.

    A petition is a signature indicating support, so if you look at the petition itself you have personally identifiable information right there (well... if you can read the signature). But that doesn't change the fact that it could be used against you, just like your voting record.

  • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Friday June 25, 2010 @03:09PM (#32694694) Homepage

    If our representatives knew that their actions were being recorded the ethics of our representatives would go through the roof.

    This was the gist of the ruling. The initiative process turns ordinary citizens into citizenlegislators. Although, in general, citizens' political activities are private (vis. voting), when acting as representatives of the public (i.e., as legislators), the presumption of privacy is waived. In addition, the presumption of privacy would have made validation of signatures much more difficult. This is actually a good, logical ruling from a court that often doesn't give them. People should be happy about this ruling.

  • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Friday June 25, 2010 @03:46PM (#32695212)
    I am not signing a public document and asking the government to restrict access to that signature. It is the prerogative of people to engage in anonymous discourse if they choose it, to the degree that they choose it. I maintain that public documents mediated by the government are not the place for that.
  • by tthomas48 (180798) on Friday June 25, 2010 @04:17PM (#32695684) Homepage

    " Racism has diminished through a shared social development"
    And how did we get shared social development? By the courts and congress mandating shared schools, shared public facilities, and shared businesses. The civil rights movement inspired the change that the government then enforced.

    The triumph of the civil rights movement is exactly the sets of laws and court cases that made it possible for minorities in this country to overcome centuries of persecution and be treated equally. And in less than a century these civil right triumphs were made. Are you really so naive to believe that the civil rights movement actually convinced people to stop being racist? What convinced them was living and working day-in, day-out with minorities and realizing that they were just normal people like themselves, going about their normal boring lives. It was this forced integration that made the attitude change happen so quickly.

    Eliminating racism was never the central goal of the civil rights movement, any more than the goal of the gay rights movement is to make everyone completely loving and accepting of homosexuals. At the end of the day the groups just want to be treated fairly under the law. Period. If they convince people to like them in the process, fantastic, but ultimately it's about the law.

    Frankly you're a US citizen. If you want to be a homophobic, racist asshole that's completely within your civil rights. Civil rights is just about preventing homophobic, racist assholes from denying others their rights under the US constitution.

  • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Friday June 25, 2010 @04:35PM (#32695966)

    I am a voting Washingtonian and I thought I'd throw my two cents into the kitty.

    "Yes, but you see he's not just griping, he says he's paralyzed with the fear of it. Therein lies the problem and the cowardice."

    At first, I was kind of shocked that anyone would even EXPECT non-disclosure when it comes to petition signing. After all, the signatures must be validated, but in hindsight, I began to see some issues.

    MY biggest concern is that simple harassment of petition signers might evolve into concerted, specific harassment by special interest groups in an effort to sway voting/signing on specific issues--from medical marijuana supporters having their houses broken into to simply being outed in such a way as to use petition signers as a tool for the opposition (such as researching petitioners and correlating arrest records of such people to the names on the petition to give the impression the people that signed are overwhelmingly criminals, etc.)

    But there are two sides to every coin, no?

    Every single complaint that I have heard regarding the disclosure of petition signers can also be viewed as a "feature"--that same data can be used by ANY group to track abuses/manipulation of petitions/petition signers, as well as make perfectly clear their intentions. Disclosure can also be used by ME to make sure that nobody is signing petitions under my name.

    In the end, I thought transparency was more important then privacy as far as this matter is concerned. It is one of the very few instances where I thought privacy should take a back seat to the common good, and trust me, I value privacy very highly. Twas not an easy decision--the very reason it ended up in the lap of SCOTUS.

  • by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy.gmail@com> on Friday June 25, 2010 @06:41PM (#32697636)

    I am not familiar w/ the Washington petition, so help me out here... if a person is for "civil-union" but is against "gay marriage", this person ia a bigot?

    Is there another word for someone who feels the law should discriminate because of the gender of the other person in a relationship ?

  • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:23PM (#32698592)
    You may be willing to sacrifice basic human rights like freedom of association for social causes, but I am not. Desegregation should have happened, EOE should have happened, but in the public sector, not the private. Would this have slowed the process? Yes, but on the other side we'd all be more free, minorities included. As it is we now pick these petty fights based on the destruction of the freedom of association, since all the 'men only' clubs and organizations have been taken on, now men sue 'women only' clubs and organizations to get revenge. I remember just recently how a whole inquiry [annarbor.com] was launched because of 'black only' school field trip, and how segregation laws actually became a problem [equaleducation.org] for areas in California with large ethnic Chinese populations.

    Funny how the tables turn. At the core of all this is the fundamental problem: there is no such thing, rationally, as positive racism (or racial positivism). It's still just racism, except with the goal of preferential treatment of minorities instead of detrimental treatment, but it's still special treatment because of race, period. My wife, who is both African- and Native American, agrees, and actually stood against affirmative action in high school and still opposes it and similar efforts to this day. She doesn't want "positive" discrimination because of her skin color any more than she wants negative discrimination, not least of which because "positive" discrimination is implicitly insulting and paternalistic (because you're black, you couldn't have met our standards unless and until we lowered them for you).

    The fundamental problem with socialism is that you can't force somebody to truly be a better person. If you say 'donate to charity or go to prison' the person who is forced circumstancially to do this is not improved. You're violating somebody's rights in the name of what you think is a good cause, in the end poisoning the good with the evil of impinging on people's freedoms.
  • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:38PM (#32699114)
    Do you really think that underqualified candidates aren't hired because of the 'positive' nature of EOE? We know that underqualified admissions are approved at universities because of affirmative action.

    Force doesn't cease to be force just because the thing forced isn't 'additional'. And of course the law doesn't ask people not to be racist, you might as well pass a law that says blue must be everybody's favorite color. I'm not saying that negativity towards race as a basis for hiring is good, I'm saying that positivity towards race as a basis for hiring isn't ethically any better, and if you don't think that has been the result of EOE and affirmative action, I think you're in denial.

    You quote from the Declaration, ignoring the parts that undermine your very argument. The equality spoken of was not the private 'value perceived by others' as comes into play in hiring, rather it is equality under the law, that the medieval hierarchy of classes and privileges not result in different treatment by government itself, especially through the courts. You no doubt want to emphasize the 'pursuit of happiness' ignoring the 'liberty' bit. If I must be forced to do something, such as hire a person I otherwise wouldn't, out goes my liberty (and, ironically, my happiness) in favor of that other person's pursuit of happiness. Where does that stop? Why is that person's happiness more important than mine? Objectively, it may be morally superior, yes, but is that really for government to decide?

"It is easier to fight for principles than to live up to them." -- Alfred Adler

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