While They Temporarily Postpone Your Rights, They Get an Order Temporarily Protecting Theirs

If you've been waiting, say, forever, for the state to grant you and your partner things like the right to use sick leave to care for one another, you'll have to wait a bit longer, while the Secretary of State's office counts the signatures on the R-71 petitions. (Given that the measure's supporters turned in far fewer than the recommended minimum of 150,000, its chances of making the ballot aren't stellar.)

In the meantime, though, those supporters will be protected from harassment and public shame for signing the petitions; U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle has blocked the release of their names, at least until a September 3rd hearing. The names would normally be public record--the state admitted that, absent a court order, it had no legal authority to withhold them. But it's tricky--where does petition signing fall between how you vote (totally secret) and how you donate or lobby (totally public)?

In the end, perhaps the ruling is a good thing, as it makes sense to protect unpopular speech and the exercise of basic voting rights, and as signed petitions don't carry the same risk of corruption and quid pro quos as do donations and lobbying. The supporters' petitions deserve to be pissed on, but not their homes. That would be bad precedent.

Finally, while it might be better to resolve the issue of gay marriage through the political process, it's too bad the courts haven't been as psyched about the rights of gay couples.

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