From Les Blumenthal in our D.C. bureau:
WASHINGTON – Supreme Court justices from the left and the right seemed downright skeptical Wednesday as a lawyer for religious conservatives argued Washington state had no right to release the names of the 138,000 residents who signed ballot petitions to overturn a same-sex domestic partnership law.
Justice Antonin Scalia dismissed the arguments as “touchy feely” and said, “Democracy requires a certain amount of civic courage.”
James Bopp Jr., a lawyer for Protect Marriage Washington, argued that those who signed the petition for Referendum 71 faced harassment and intimidation from gay rights groups if their names were released and maintained the right to privacy trumped the public’s right to know.
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, who argued for the state, also faced tough questioning as he maintained the voter approved Public Disclosure Act required the release of the names and there has been no evidence of harassment or intimidation.
R71 was an effort by conservative Christian organization to repeal an “anything but marriage” law passed by the Washington state Legislature which granted expanded partnership rights to same sex couples. The referendum, which was on the November 2009 ballot, asked voters to approve or reject the law. Voters upheld the law.
McKenna said later he could see a “clear path” toward a favorable ruling for the state, while Bopp said it was too close to call.
Which ever way the high court rules, it will be breaking new legal ground in a case filled with constitutional implications.
UPDATE: Here’s the full transcript of today’s oral arguments. (The post has also been corrected to say it was Scalia who made the “touchy-feely” comment.)
UPDATE II: And here’s an analysis of the arguments from ScotusBlog.
And this from the same blog.