Court fight over release of petition signers should end

The matter has been settled by the US Supreme Court and the vote on Referendum 71 has been over nearly a year.

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Last fall voters approved Referendum 71 to uphold Washington state's Domestic Partner Expansion Bill, which gave same-sex couples the same rights and benefits as married couples.

It was a particularly bitter campaign as advocates for keeping domestic partnership rights threatened to make public the names of those who signed the petition aimed at repealing those rights.

And although we supported -- and continue to support -- domestic partnership rights, we found the threat to post on the Internet the names of those who signed the petition to be mean spirited and wrong.

The approval of Referendum 71 and the affirmation of domestic partnership rights should have been the end of it. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

The matter made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court where the high court, in a challenge to Washington's Public Records Act, said the names of those who sign petitions to place issues on the ballot are generally public.

The high court, in its 8-1 ruling, added those who believe they have legitimate reasons to keep their names secret can attempt to do so on a case-by-case basis if they can convince judges such action is necessary. That's reasonable.

Yet, the court battles continue.

A federal judge this week left in place a ban on releasing the identities of Referendum 71 petition signers as the case moves forward in federal court. The parties in the case now have 10 days to provide lists of their witnesses; 60 days for discovery; and 45 days for briefings. A trial could happen by November, according to the Secretary of State's Office. And it goes on and on.

Why?

Gay rights advocates should forget about posting a list of those who sought to overturn domestic partnership rights. The matter has been settled. The election is long over. Can't we move on?

The Supreme Court got it right. The state's Public Records Act is constitutionally sound public policy.

Having a public record of who is behind the creation of laws, the changing of laws or the repealing of laws is critical in a democracy.

And the ruling should serve as a reminder to those who lend their name -- endorse -- a referendum or initiative that they must take that action seriously.

But the election on Referendum 71 is long over. The continuing court battles are a waste of time and money.

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