Judge orders release of Ref. 71 petition names

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- A federal judge is ordering the public disclosure of signature petitions that forced a vote on a 2009 domestic partnership law.

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle said in a ruling Monday that it was unlikely that signers would face threats or harassment.

Opponents of the law that expanded gay partnership rights managed to get enough signatures in 2009 to force a vote on the issue. They had pushed in court to keep the names of petition supporters private, arguing that it was a contentious issue and that people could be harassed.

Referendum 71 asked voters to approve or reject the law, which granted registered domestic partners additional state rights previously given only to married couples. It was approved with 53 percent of the vote.