On October 14, a 3-judge panel of the 9th circuit heard arguments in Doe v Reed, the case over whether the names and addresses of people who sign referendum petitions should be made public, or whether the Constitution protects the privacy of petition signers. The specific case arose in the R-71 battle. This year, the Washington state legislature passed a bill to provide for civil unions for same-sex couples. Because Washington state has the Referendum process, opponents of the bill filed a petition to call for a vote on the law, so that it will not go into effect unless the voters approve. The election is on November 3, 2009, and the measure is Referendum 71 on the ballot.
The panel consisted of Judges Harry Pregerson (a Carter appointee), A. Wallace Tashima (a Clinton appointee), and N. Randy Smith (a Bush, Jr. appointee). Judges Pregerson and Tashima seemed to feel there is no need for privacy for this particular petition. Judge Tashima asked, “What are the signers afraid of?” He also asked, “Can we take judicial notice of the fact that the plaintiffs represent people who are in the majority? This isn’t a persecuted minority.” The attorney for the plaintiffs said, “We don’t know yet which side is in the majority.” But one of the judges responded by saying, “You’ve won all the elections around the country so far.” Judge Tashima also said that confrontation is just part of politics.
In the meantime, also on October 14, a state court in Washington state ruled that, pending the decision from the 9th circuit, all petitions will be kept secret, not just the R-71 petitions. Judge Richard Hicks of Thurston County Superior Court made this decision, in a lawsuit filed by Tim Eyman, who has sponsored many initiatives in Washington.