The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Washington state voters who signed a petition asking for a referendum on gay rights do not have the right to conceal their names from the public.
In the case of Doe v. Reed, the high court ruled against the group known as Protect Marriage Washington. The group organized the petition for a public vote to repeal the state's "everything-but-marriage" gay rights law.
The signers of the petition, known as Referendum 71, had hoped to keep their names from becoming public due to fear of intimidation. California residents whose names where made public after signing a similar petition, faced violence and harassment from gay right activists.
Click play for more analysis on the ruling with Regent University law professor Bradley Jacob.
But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco refused to keep their names secret. The Supreme Court stepped in and temporarily blocked release of the names until the high court could make a decision.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing the 8-1 judgment for the court, said it is vitally important that states be able to ensure that signatures on referendum petitions are authentic.
"Public disclosure thus helps ensure that the only signatures counted are those that should be, and that the only referenda placed on the ballot are those that garner enough valid signatures," Roberts said. "Public disclosure also promotes transparency and accountability in the electoral process to an extent other measures cannot."
But Roberts also said that the court's opinion deals with whether disclosure of the names on referendum petitions as a whole violates the First Amendment, not solely the Protect Marriage Washington case.