Doe v. Reed was the last case the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments on before the end of the term: should your signature on a ballot petition be allowed to be kept secret. In her report on the oral arguments legal analyst Dahlia Lithwick noted that Justice Antonin Scalia appeared to believe it should not be when he argued
…you can’t run a democracy this way, with everybody being afraid of having his political positions known.
I agree, and this week the court ruled 8-to-1 against the plaintiffs; Justice Clarence Thomas was the man Choire Sicha identifies as the only person “brave enough to protect bigots from angry gays.”
I was thinking that it seemed cowardly for people concerned enough about the all-but-marriage law in Washington to sign the petition to overturn it but then seek to hide their involvement. If people want to take the job of writing laws into their own hands, well, OK…we do have elected representatives to do that for us, so initiative or referendum already smells a little like “sore loser at work,” but OK.
But then, having undertaken that effort, to then say that you shouldn’t be publicly identified as having supported the effort—to keep from being harassed because of your beliefs—just seems cowardly.
You want to participate? Great! Just remember, don’t bring a pocketknife to a gunfight, and if you want to win the pot, you’ve got to show your hand when it’s called.
Yes, some people will say bad things about you…offer mean opinions of your cognitive skills…sling epithets. Get over it. Hiding from confrontation, or even discussion, about differing opinions just reinforces the poisonous political atmosphere.
But consider, it apparently is a First Amendment protection to have your political participation kept anonymous in some instances, like a secret ballot. The Supremes left open the opportunity for the plaintiffs in Doe to get what they want from a lower court.
Here’s what’s more concerning: in a report on the growing fear of intimidation for voicing unpopular positions, Lithwick discusses the possible application of this idea to political participation in the form of financial contributions to campaigns. Yep: hiding from public view the identities of people who give campaign money to our representatives. Imagine that, on top of the Citizens United v. FEC decision that has given corporations the same right to donate money as is already enjoyed by actual real human people.
So, are you OK with letting companies make unlimited campaign contributions, in secret? I’m waiting for my buddy Scalia to jump on that one.