Politics & Government

State high court rejects activist's R-71 challenge

Activist Arthur West's legal challenge of Referendum 71 signatures appeared to end at the Washington Supreme Court today. The court said the election in 2009 has passed and the question of whether it had enough signatures to qualify for the ballot was moot, so it dismissed West's appeal from Thurston County Superior Court.

West, an Olympia-area activist on public-disclosure issues, had challenged Secretary of State Sam Reed's decision on Sept. 2, 2009, to certify R-71 for the November 2009 ballot. R-71 granted all the state rights of marriage to same-sex couples registered on the state's domestic partnership registry.

West wanted a judge in Thurston County Superior Court to review the signatures, and the law allows a person who suspects a measure lacks enough signatures to seek such a review. But Judge Anne Hirsch agreed with Reed's arguments that a federal injunction in an unrelated case kept him from submitting the signatures to the court.

West appealed directly to the Supreme Court. Here is the dismissal order released this morning.

Voters ultimately approved R-71, granting all the state rights of marriage to same-sex couples that register on the state’s domestic partners register. And the U.S. Supreme Court later found that public release of the signatures would not violate the U.S. Constitution.

Religious conservatives collected signatures to put R-71 on the ballot in order to challenge the Legislature's action in 2009 which granted all the remaining state rights of marriage to registered same-sex couples.

Based on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Reed released signatures for many of Tim Eyman's ballot measures that were requested by a lobbyist. But R-71 signatures have not been release pending a separate federal court case pursued by R-71 sponsors. They contend opponents of same-sex partnerships have been harassed and could be subjected to further harassment, if not harm, for exercising their voter rights to sign petitions.