The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily blocked Washington state officials from releasing the names of people who signed referendum petitions to bring expanded rights for gay couples up for a public vote in November.
The court's action maintains a hold placed Monday by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who temporarily blocked a federal appeals court ruling that had ordered the release of the names. Justice John Paul Stevens was the only member of the court who indicated he would have turned down the stay request.
The court said its order would remain in effect while it decides whether to take up a request by Protect Marriage Washington, the group that wants to reverse the ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Referendum 71 asks voters to approve or reject the so-called "everything but marriage" law, which grants registered domestic partners the same legal rights as married couples. While most domestic partners are gay and lesbian couples, under state law opposite-gender seniors also can register as domestic partners.
Conservative Christian groups that sponsored R-71 want to keep the signed petitions out of public view because they fear harassment from gay-rights supporters, some of whom have vowed to post the names of petition signers on the Internet.