Whosigned.org Using Intimidation Tactics

Gay and lesbian couples who are registered as domestic partners in the State of Washington were recently granted the full benefits of marriage (except the name) by the state legislature. An organization called Protect Marriage Washington, which opposes same-sex marriage, now wants to recall this legislation and will soon be collecting signatures for a referendum to be placed on the November ballot.

A Seattle gay man has announced his intention to post on his Website (Whosigned.org) the names and addresses of those who sign the referendum petition. This is a mistake, and a big one. It reeks of threats and intimidation, and voters do not like it. A Seattle Times editorial on June 8 strongly condemns this tactic, and there is widespread apprehension in Seattle’s Gay community that it will backfire, causing many otherwise indifferent voters to sign the petition.

Supporters of this tactic say that it is reasonable for gays to want to know how their friends and neighbors stand on issues that are critical to their lives. If this is true, then let’s simply ask. While it is true that petition signers are not entitled to the same privacy as voters (their information is held in public archives), they are likely to resent any intrusions that seem calculated to produce a chilling effect on the democratic process.

It may be that public disclosure on the Internet of information about petition signatories will become accepted practice in the years to come. But let’s not be the ones pushing the envelope in this case. Let some other group test the waters. My hunch is that they will quickly get in over their heads. There is too much at stake for us to make such a huge tactical miscalculation.

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