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Law doesn't infringe on free speech

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Indiana Lawyer Rehearing

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled June 24 on the case of Doe v. Reed, No. 09-559, in which Terre Haute attorney James Bopp Jr. was the lead attorney on the case that pitted free speech versus public disclosure of ballot petition supporters.

At issue in the case was a 2009 Washington state law that granted gay and lesbian couples registered as domestic partners the same rights as married people. Some religious and social conservatives tried to repeal the law through Referendum 71, but 53 percent of the state’s voters opted to keep it. Petitions for that referendum raised the issue and pitted the two sides against each other about whether names of those petition-signers should be publicly disclosed.

Bopp represented the petition-signers, arguing that the names and addresses should be kept secret because signing a ballot petition is a private political act that warrants First Amendment protection. U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle barred the state from releasing the 138,000 names because that disclosure could endanger their rights to anonymous political speech, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision.

In a 67-page opinion, the nation’s top justices ruled 8-1 that the names and addresses of ballot petition signers can be made public, and that a Washington state statute on public record accessibility is constitutional. Justice Clarence Thomas issued the sole dissent, writing that he would have upheld the District judge’s ruling because he believes this type of speech is protected by the First Amendment and disclosure could have a detrimental impact on people’s interaction in the political process.

A majority found that disclosing the identities of ballot measure petition-signers does not generally violate the First Amendment, though it doesn’t “foreclose success” on any lower court arguments if the sponsors want to pursue a state law exemption. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts wrote that the broad challenge to the state law must be rejected. But the opinion allows the political action committee Protect Marriage Washington to ask the Western District of Washington judge for an exemption from publicly reporting the personal information of those who’d signed petitions in support of traditional marriage.
 

Rehearing on "In the name of free speech" IL March 31-April 13, 2010

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  1. Major social engineering imposed by judicial order well in advance of democratic change, has been the story of the whole post ww2 period. Contraception, desegregation, abortion, gay marriage: all rammed down the throats of Americans who didn't vote to change existing laws on any such thing, by the unelected lifetime tenure Supreme court heirarchs. Maybe people came to accept those things once imposed upon them, but, that's accommodation not acceptance; and surely not democracy. So let's quit lying to the kids telling them this is a democracy. Some sort of oligarchy, but no democracy that's for sure, and it never was. A bourgeois republic from day one.

  2. JD Massur, yes, brings to mind a similar stand at a Texas Mission in 1836. Or Vladivostok in 1918. As you seemingly gloat, to the victors go the spoils ... let the looting begin, right?

  3. I always wondered why high fence deer hunting was frowned upon? I guess you need to keep the population steady. If you don't, no one can enjoy hunting! Thanks for the post! Fence

  4. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  5. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

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