Court to decide if petition signers’ names public

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court decided Friday it would get involved for the second time this week in a case in which opponents of gay rights fear they will be harassed if their views are made public.

The high court will consider whether Washington state officials can release more than 138,500 names on a petition seeking a vote on overturning the state’s domestic partnership rights.

Protect Marriage Washington, which unsuccessfully opposed the law giving gay couples expanded rights, wants to shield from disclosure the signers of the petition for a referendum on that law. The group says it fears harassment by gay rights supporters, some of whom have vowed to post signers’ names on the Internet.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has said the names could be made public, but the Supreme Court blocked their release until it decided whether to hear the case.

Justices earlier this week intervened in another case where gay rights opponents complained about potential harassment.

The court’s conservative majority decided to block the televising of a trial on California’s ban of same-sex marriage. Lawyers representing opponents of gay marriage argued that broadcasts would expose their trial witnesses to retaliation from gay marriage supporters.

In Washington state, Referendum 71 asked voters to approve or reject the so-called “everything but marriage” law, which grants registered domestic partners the same legal rights as married couples.

Voters ratified the law.