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You may recall that back in August I explained the legal battle in Washington State over the efforts by the organizers of that state's anti-gay ballot proposition (it failed, by the way) to shield from public scrutiny the names of the folks who sought to bring the issue to a public vote, as Know Thy Neighbor does at present.

Well, that issue worked its way up the Supreme Court of the United States over the course of the year.  On October 19, Justice Kennedy issued a temporary stay blocking the release of the names; the next day, the Court voted 8-1 (Stevens dissenting) to withhold the signatures until the issue could receive a full hearing.  Friday afternoon, the Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to hear the case, on the following questions presented:

  1. Whether the First Amendment right to privacy in political speech, association, and belief requires strict scrutiny when a state compels public release of identifying information about petition signers.
  1. Whether compelled public disclosure of identifying information about petition signers is narrowly tailored to a compelling interest, and whether Petitioners met all the elements required for a preliminary injunction.

As a First Amendment/election law geek, I find this case disproportionately fascinating on the merits, but there's a deeply troubling aspect to all this.

Because today's order comes right on the heels of Wednesday's order preventing the Northern District of California from controlling broadcast of the Prop 8 trial, which itself was premised in part on this same notion that innocent pro-hetero-marriage folks are being oppressed and harassed by all the evil gays out there, and that these evil gays are so capable of lawlessly intimidating these good people that subsequent legal action against them isn't sufficient.  And, so, in both cases, conservatives seek to trample upon the public's right to know in order to shield from scrutiny those who seek to do gays harm.

Y'know, when I first wrote about this case, I was deliberately cagey about who was on which side of it because I wanted folks to focus on the transparency v. privacy issues and not the underlying merits.  But we're clearly in the midst of a growing trend of anti-gay activists using legal proceedings to try to paint themselves as poor victims trembling in fear of some nebulous lavender menace, and these pernicious efforts can't be ignored.  What they hope to gain from these efforts, I'm not sure.  But something's going on here, and it ain't right.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 06:00 PM PST.

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