We can't let threats of violence close access to public records

The names of those who donated to Referendum 71 is public information.

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The state Public Disclosure Commission wisely rejected�� the request to seal or black out the names of those who donated to Referendum 71. The public has a right to know who provides the financial support for political campaigns.

And when the matter is heard again by the PDC later this month, the request should again be denied.

The backers of Referendum 71, the measure that seeks to overturn the 2009 Domestic Partner Expansion Bill that gives same-sex couples the same rights and benefits as married couples, argue that an exception should be made because of threats of violence against their supporters.

There are many ways to deal with those who threaten violence -- but kowtowing to them is not one of them. Any threat of violence should be treated seriously and law enforcement agencies must be alerted. If crimes are committed, those who break the law must be prosecuted.

We aren't fans of Referendum 71 as we support expanding the rights of same-sex couples.

However, we find some of the tactics used by those opposing the referendum to be repugnant. The threats to post on the Internet the names of those who signed the petition felt like bullying. And now a so-called supporter of gay rights is advocating violence.

This awful behavior should be denounced regardless of how one stands on Referendum 71. If those for and against expanding gay rights were to stand together against threats of violence and extortion it would go a long way toward putting an end to these tactics.

And that's exactly why the PDC must stand firm. The names of those who sign a petition that qualifies for the ballot and the names of campaign donors are, as they should be, public record. It is important to have a clear record of who signs petitions if there is a legal challenge or other questions.

Democracy must be conducted in the open.

Ironically, the information the backers of Referendum 71 want to seal or black out has already been made public. The PDCs Web site lists the names and hometowns of donors to all public campaigns (including this one) and candidates, the amount of their contributions and their places of employment. Sealing the records now would do no good.

But even if it would, it's a bad idea. Our government and political process must always remain open even when faced with threats of violence.�

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