WASHINGTON, June 24 (UPI) -- The U.S.Supreme Court decided Thursday petition signers have no First Amendment right to keep their identities private.
In an 8-1 decision written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, the court affirmed the decision of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and said a Washington state group called Protect Marriage Washington did not have the right to prohibit publication of their member's names, which appeared on a petition calling for the repeal of the state's Everything-But-Marriage Act, which assured gays of virtually the same civil rights as non-gays.
The court, however, said trial courts should scrutinize on a case-by-case basis whether a given referendum poses sufficiently unique circumstances to justify signatories' anonymity. Thus, the case at hand is allowed to go back to trial. It's unlikely, however, the Protect Marriage Washington group would win, as a majority of the court indicated their claim was of dubious worth.
Regarding First Amendment scrutiny, the court said disclosure of signatories' names does not in and of itself prevent the exercise of free speech, and is trumped by the interest of combating election fraud, correcting mistakes on ballots and promoting transparency regarding elections.
Justice Clarence Thomas dissented.