Petition fallout | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Petition fallout

Posted By on Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 4:56 PM

The Family Council, which promoted the anti-gay Act 1, has objected to the Massachusetts' group's compilation and posting of the names of people who signed to put the adoption restriction measure on the ballot. Here's the database.

The Family Council  release is on the jump. But first there, you'll find a local activist who worked in the publishing effort, Randi Romo, with a portion of her response. 

Names on ballot petitions are public information. Neither release nor publication of it is a crime, despite the Family Council's libelous implication. The signatures may be scrutinized for authenticity and compliance with state law. Signers may even find themselves in court to testify about signatures in extreme cases of ballot contests. This is worth remembering by anyone who signs a petition. I only sign the ones I support. Signatures mean something.

The Family Council sees a chilling effect in releasing the information. There's a far greater chilling effect in legislating an inferior form of citizenship for a particular class of person based on prejudice, whether against age, sex, race, religion or sexual orientation.  If that suspect class fights back with legal tools -- an open records law and free speech -- the chilling effect is on tyranny, not freedom. Those who fear exposure demonstrate that they have little confidence or pride in their position.  Stand up and be counted. Randi Romo did.

The Family Council apparently wants an attorney general's opinion on whether the information may be released. It says it is prepared to seek legislation to limit public access if necessary. That's silly as well as un-American. It would work against their interest in time. Public review of petitions is critical to the verification process -- even for a pro-gay marriage initiative, come the day. Today's objection is nothing but an attempt to change the subject. It's human nature to want to do mean and embarrassing deeds in secret. Ask the nightriders. Sunshine is, as ever, a disinfectant for such poison.

FROM RANDI ROMO

It is generally understood that when one signs a petition to put an issue on the ballot they are in support of that issue. It is ludicrous to suggest that Arkansans sign off on these petitions en masse in order to see any issue voted on. Indeed to suggest such a thing devalues the committment of those who put forth the peition and those who signed on.
 
Our partnership with Know Thy Neighbor in publishing this list is not about stifling freedom of speech, in fact this is a direct result of freedom of speech. Cloaking signatures in secrecy regardless the issue is not in the best interests of Arkansans. Any attempts to do this would be a great disservice to all of us who live in the Natural State.
 
We regret the discomfort some may feel at knowing that their signature on the list is now available for public viewing. However, we hope that this discomfort will encourage people to consider what the passage of Act 1 meant to the lives of children in Arkansas, the rights of families to make decisions regarding their children and the blatant attack on the LGBTQ community of Arkansas.
 
Jerry Cox was quoted as saying ACT 1 was about blunting the "homosexual agenda". And yes, there is such an agenda - it's equal rights and having our lives and our families respected, valued and protected under the law as our citizenship and tax dollars would seem to dictate.
 
The only "chilling effect" that we are interested in is ending bigotry, discrimination and oppression in all its many forms.

FAMILY COUNCIL NEWS RELEASE

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – KnowThyNeighbor.org, an organization based out of Massachusetts, has published online the names and addresses of Arkansas voters who signed the petition to get Initiated Act 1 – the Adoption & Foster Care Act – on the ballot for the General Election on November 4, 2008.

Formed in response to a petition drive in 2005 to bring the issue of same-sex marriage to a vote by the people in Massachusetts, KnowThyNeighbor.org began its work by publishing the names and addresses of Massachusetts voters who signed that petition. They then went on to publish the full identities of voters in Florida who signed a similar petition that would allow the people to vote on same-sex marriage on Nov. 4, 2008.

Jerry Cox, director of Little Rock-based Family Council Action Committee – the organization that spearheaded the petition drive to get Initiated Act 1 on the ballot in Arkansas – made the following statement in response to the recent actions of KnowThyNeighbor.org:

“We do not yet know what Arkansas laws may have already been broken by KnowThyNeighbor.org in publishing the full identities of voters who signed the petition to get Initiated Act 1 on the ballot. We are currently in the process of asking lawmakers to get an opinion from the state’s Attorney General, Dustin McDaniel. If Arkansas doesn’t have a law prohibiting the release of petition-signers’ personal information, we will ask the Arkansas Legislature to pass such a law next session. This would provide equal protection to any voters who sign a ballot measure petition, regardless of the cause.

It’s especially important to note that many voters will sign any petition based upon one simple principle: that the people, whenever possible, have the right to vote on issues that could directly impact their lives. And yet, KnowThyNeighbor.org acts as though signing petitions is such a horrible thing – as if everyone who signs a petition should be marked as an ardent supporter of a particular cause. The truth is, since gay activists can’t win at the ballot box, they are trying to win by creating a ‘chilling effect’ that will intimidate voters from signing petitions. Stifling a form of free speech is ultimately their last line of defense.”

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