Names of R-71 donors will remain public

Names of R-71 donors will remain public
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - The state Public Disclosure Commission ruled Thursday that opponents of expanded domestic partnerships can't keep their political donors' names secret.

Stephen Pidgeon, an attorney for Protect Marriage Washington, told members of the Public Disclosure Commission that supporters of the campaign to get Referendum 71 on the ballot have received harassing phone calls and e-mails and death threats.

"What is taking place in the state of Washington is voter intimidation and voter oppression and First Amendment rights suppression," he said.

Pidgeon asked that the group only be required to make public the campaign donors' initials, home city and states. The group would then file a second document with the PDC with the full names for the state to have, under seal.

But campaign finance regulators unanimously rejected the request, saying the group didn't show it would suffer an unreasonable hardship if the names were made public under state campaign finance laws.

The commissioners said that while they were sympathetic to harassment supporters may be receive, they did not prove that it rose to the level that justified a modification to the state's public records law.

"It seems to me that granting this would mean that in any case where what's before the public is an emotional issue, there would be no public disclosure," said commission member Ken Schellberg.

Pidgeon said he wasn't surprised by the ruling, and said Protect Marriage was still weighing the next step, which could include an appeal of the decision in federal court.

Thursday's action comes after the commission blocked an emergency request by Protect Marriage Washington to block the donor names earlier this month.

The group turned in financial disclosure forms earlier this month with just initials and had to amend their filing with the donors' full names after the commission's initial decision.

They have raised more than $35,000 in expectation of a campaign should the measure make the ballot. Supporters of the domestic partnership law, called Washington Families Standing Together, has raised nearly $89,000.

Protect Marriage is seeking a public vote to overturn broader domestic partnerships for same-sex couples and turned in more than 137,000 signatures last month in its effort to make the November ballot. The secretary of state's office has said that the signature checking process should be completed by Tuesday. The campaign needs 120,577 valid signatures.

Protect Marriage is fighting on several fronts to try and shield the names of the people who support overturning the domestic partnership law.

Protect Marriage is also trying to prevent the release of the names of people who signed the petitions to get the referendum on the ballot. A political group called WhoSigned.Org has said it will publish online those names.

The petition-listing effort is not supported by the official campaign that had tried to keep R-71 off the ballot. A federal judge has granted a temporary restraining order to bar the release of signatures on R-71 petitions, and a hearing on that case will be held in Tacoma next Thursday.

The new law was scheduled to take effect July 26, but it has been delayed until officials can verify whether there are enough valid signatures to put R-71 on the November ballot. If there are enough signatures, the law will be delayed until the outcome of the Nov. 3 election.

The new domestic partnership law expands on Washington's existing partnerships, which were established in 2007. The newest version adds registered domestic partners to all remaining areas of state law that presently apply only to married couples. Those statutes range from adoption and child support rights and obligations, to pensions and other public employee benefits.

As of this week, more than 5,800 domestic partnership registrations had been filed in Washington since the first law took effect in July 2007.

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The domestic partnership bill is Senate Bill 5688.