Meanwhile, in bizarro world

Sweet merciful crap! I think I may need to go lie down. First Alito, now this!

More than 20 states have some mechanism for citizen-driven legislation, either through ballot initiative or referendum. In 2009, when Washington state granted domestic partners "everything-but-marriage" rights, a group called Protect Marriage Washington submitted petitions, signed by 138,500 residents, calling for a referendum to repeal the law. Washington's Public Records Act makes those names a matter of public record in the interest of transparency and public inspection. But the signatories—citing harassment and threats against those who organized for Proposition 8 repealing gay marriage in California—asked a court to enjoin publication of their names. A federal court blocked the release of the signatures, but the 9th Circuit reversed, saying that the signatures are collected in public and shown to public officials and that the release of the names furthers the important governmental aim of preserving electoral integrity. Then the Supreme Court stepped in, halted release of the names, and took the case.


Then Scalia tags in to ask, "Do you have any case in which we have held that the First Amendment applies to activity that consists of legislating or of adopting legislation?" Working himself into an Originalist froth, Scalia notes that "for the first century of our existence, even voting was public—you either did it raising your hand or by voice," and then scolds that "running a democracy takes a certain amount of civic courage. And the First Amendment does not protect you from criticism or even nasty phone calls when you exercise your political rights to legislate." Scalia ends with the admonition that "[y]ou are asking us to enter into a whole new field where we have never gone before." [italics in original]


Then Scalia, wiping his hands on his own thick skin blurts: "Oh, this is such a touchy-feely, oh, so sensitive. …You know, you can't run a democracy this way, with everybody being afraid of having his political positions known!"

This is precisely the point I was trying to make here. [Confidential to GJ: I think the precedent you cited in your comment on that post dealt with simple membership in a party, while the question in this case is confidentiality for people who are hoping to effect a change in the law. To my mind, they occupy different spaces in our shared civic lives.] If one expects one's signature as a citizen to be part of the process of changing the law, then one should have the courage of one's convictions and stand by it.

Dear God. Antonin Scalia and I agree about something. Someone please go outside and check to make sure the rain is still falling downward, willya?


  1. As I read it, BROWN v. SOCIALIST WORKERS was about releasing the names of campaign contributors to the Socialist Workers Party. Electing officials is surely part of the process of changing the law, and transparency in campaign finance is in the Public Interest. Nevertheless, the Supremes ruled it constitutional to cloak the names of campaign contributors in anonymity because they might be harassed.

    How is this so much different than Protect Marriage? Aren't some signers likely to suffer harassment, as happened in CA with Prop 8?

    Consider a proposed ballot initiative, say for an environmental law, collecting signatures. Evil, Inc., a major employer in the region, has let it be known that it is officially opposed to the proposed regulation. The good citizens fear that if they sign, their own jobs may be in jeopardy due to retaliation by Evil, Inc. Should the signatures be made public?

  2. GJ, when I testified in favor of marriage equality, several people approached me afterward to challenge my claim to speak on behalf of the Maine AAP (which was valid) and the scientific stance I represented. I was told that I could expect further challenges to come, which ended up being a bunch of hot air but at the time seemed to represent at least some degree of threat. I expected angry calls from patients' families, and possible harrassment if the more odious elements of the Christian fundamentalist groups in the area chose to publicize my role in the campaign.

    I made the statement anyway.

    One would hope that an environmental law would find its way onto the books either through legislative action or executive regulation, but if referendum is the only way to do it, then the signatures should be public if that is the law of the state (as in Washington). If employees are harassed or fired, one hopes they would seek legal redress for wrongful termination. But it is a calculation that each signatory would have to make.

    As for Prop 8, I do not endorse the harassment of its supporters, even if I shared their viewpoint. But it does not change my opinion regarding the question at hand. Prosecute the people doing the harassing, but don't cloak the identities of those who feel their voices should be heard with regard to the law but not be subject to question.

  3. Should the signatures be made public?

    Of course they should, GJ, by the way, how many shares do you own in Evil, Inc.?

    Hey Dr.Dan, funny how I don't think Scalia would feel the same way about card check with regards to unions.

    Hiding is no way to advance laws, if you have such fears then agitate, fight back, strike, or move. I took part in the teachers strike in Oaxaca a few years back and bullets went flying in the streets of Oaxaca when the militia was brought in to clamp down on the strike, if I can brave bullets I am sure gj can brave a few taunts.

    Now it just so happened I wasn't on the street or the crowd where people died, but I could have been. I sure as hell wasn't afraid to stand with my fellow teachers even though I risked deportation (not that I really would have cared, I was almost deported, or worse, out of China when I took some pictures of the Naval base in Xiamen, long story, but the guards seemed to be more worried about reporting me than anything else so they quickly escorted me out of the area, let me say base security in China is not up to snuff, and I was arrested once for taking pictures of a prison in Italy, but they just confiscated my film)

    I just don't get the whole cowering in fear routine. Worse comes to worse, you lose your job. Maybe my experience in life has taught me the wrong lessons, but nobody really cares about the small crap like petitions. In this age of information overload nobody cares.


  4. in case anyone is curious, I was hiking in Xiamen and I like to bushwhack so I came down the other side of a mountain, I had no idea it was part of the military base and came upon the naval base with some Chinese destroyers, naturally I took some pictures, later some guards, or maybe some soldiers, saw me wondering about and got my ass out of there. I didn't intentionally trespass onto the Naval base. I guess Chinese people don't like to mountain climb and bushwhack.

    And the prison I took the picture in Italy was in Venice, there were some kids playing soccer on a space between two canals underneath the guards of a picture overlooking them, it was a fantastic shot. A cop then came over and grabbed my camera and film, apparently it is against the law (or was) to take pictures of prisons in Italy. In both cases I acted completely obliviously so it helped. Also, when I get pulled over in Mexico, I can never speak a word of Spanish. So at this point in my life, I dare anyone to take exception to a petition I sign in the US. If you were to bother me, I would publicly embarrass the hell out of both of us.


  5. I am CEO and Chairman of the Board for Evil, Inc. I own all the class-A preferred stock. I am a huge supporter of the Democratic Party, because they stay bought.

    And let's hear it for charo, who clearly articulates the need to eliminate the secret ballot from all aspects of American life. After all, we must have the courage of our convictions and publicly stand by them, so let's eliminate this idea that your neighbors, and more importantly the ward bosses, have no right to know how you vote.

  6. yeah, because voting and signing a petition are the same...yeah...

    I suppose people should be able to register anonymously, and drive cars anonymously, and pay taxes anonymously...yeah...false equivalency is so easy...yeah

    but good for you to fessing up to your truly hideous and evil nature, I thought you were just minor league evil, I had no idea that you were full on Satan's bitch.


  7. Dude, Ole' Scratch pays me a large retainer, plus the CEOship of Evil, Inc with regular stock options and a prepaid card for the company cafeteria. We have a swell 401K, too.