Taking Public Responsibility for Public Stands.

The Supreme Court decided to hear a case Friday to determine whether the names of those who signed a petition supporting a referendum to overturn a Washington state law extending marriage benefits to same-sex couples should be released to the public. The petitioners say they have had threats made against them.

In taking the Washington case to the Court, the petition-signers’ lawyer said the confidentiality issue “is arising with great frequency across the country as changes in technology have made it possible for individuals and groups seeking to prevent public debate from occurring to obtain the names and contact information of petition signers and post that information online to encourage harassment and intimidation.” One group, the filing said, has posted on its web site information about gay marriage petition-signers in Arkansas, Florida, Massachusetts and Oregon.

The Supreme Court considered a similar issue when it blocked plans to broadcast the Prop. 8 trial in San Francisco, because the Prop. 8 supporters had said they received threats.

I don't want anyone to be in danger, but witnesses truly in danger can appeal to the judge in the normal course of court business or contact the police. These petition-signers and testifiers are taking public stands about a political issue, not testifying about a crime that happened to them. At some point, don't political groups acting in the public sphere have to take political responsibility for their stands?

-- Monica Potts

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