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 a 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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SheeEttin writes: "Back in October, the case of whether or not petition signers' names could be kept anonymous was accepted by the Supreme Court. (The premise was that signing a petition was covered by free speech, and thus signers were entitles to anonymity, especially to protect them from harassment.) Now, the Court has issued its ruling: signatures are part of the public record.