Monday, November 2, 2009

GSA Monday Topic: Can Hate Thrive In The Light, Or Does It Need To Be Secret? Should the names of Anti-Gay-Marriage Petitioners & Donors be Private?

So there's this controversy about whether signing a petition that seeks to take away rights for Gay people should be a private act, or if the names of everyone that signed should be known to all.

The LA Times has a good article about this, explaining that:

The Supreme Court voted last week to block release of the names of more than 138,000 people in Washington state who signed petitions seeking to repeal a same-sex domestic partner law in a ballot scheduled for Nov. 3.

But there's a group called Know Thy Neighbor and their idea is that by publishing the names of voters who signed petitions against gay rights in Arkansas, Florida, Massachusetts, and Oregon,

Anti-gay marriage activists and supporters lost their veil of anonymity. believes that citizens who sponsor an amendment to take people's rights should never be allowed to do so under the cover of darkness.

And I think they have a point. The KKK was able to survive for so long in some part due to the anonymity of the participants.

If their actual faces had been photographed, and their wives and children could see them proudly standing by the victims they had just lynched, would they have acted with such impunity? I don't think so.

And perhaps, people assuming that their signature on a ballot, their donation to a cause they believe in, is private is a systemic way of allowing people to be their worst selves. If the whole thing was more transparent, would people hesitate before trying to take away other's rights?

And yet, we cherish the privacy of our votes in the voting booth. The privacy of the secret ballot is a cornerstone of our democracy.

And what about the L.A. El Coyote restaurant manager and daughter of the owner who gave $100.- of her personal money to fight gay marriage in California and then had her restaurant, usually filled with gay customers, boycotted? Would she have had the $100.- to donate if not for the gay customers in the first place? Should they have the right to know about her donation? What about the gay employees of the restaurant? Do they have a right to know about their boss' anti-gay donation? Is it fair to the employees that the restaurant's business has suffered since the disclosure?

How can we, as a community, reconcile our desire to expose hate to the light to eliminate it, and still respect the privacy of the individual?

Talk about it with your Gay Straight Alliance Club. Where do you draw the line?

Of course, you're welcome to join in the discussion here at our virtual GSA, in comments.


Unknown said...

While I completely support the privacy of the voting booth, I think all signatures on all petitions should be public record. Petitions are instruments used to set public policy, and are subject to fraud in that people who sign them are not required to verify their identity. Therefore, the lists should be open for inspection and verification by anyone who cares to take the time to do so.

Lisa Jenn said...

I agree with WolfBoi.

The irony of the situation is simply cringe-worthy. These petitioners are pushing legislation claiming that lgbtq people should not have "special rights" when we are only asking for equal rights. And here they are asking for what can only be called special treatment in order to protect themselves from potential harassment (which, of course, lgbtq people know *nothing* about). Gosh, that shoe sure feels different when it's on the other foot.

Lisa Jenn said...

For the record, I'm not in favor of harassment of anyone by anyone. I'd hardly call a boycott harassment, though.

kittens not kids said...

I'm so torn by this one. Wolfboi's argument makes a lot of sense, but then I wonder about things like: employers seeing employee names on a petition. What if the petition was for, say, stricter gun control laws? or anything at all to do with abortion? Would there be a freezing effect on people's signing of ALL kinds of petitions, around fear of repercussions or monitoring by employers, friends, governments? If I sign a petition in support of the united states socialist party, how do I know my name won't end up on some weird blacklist somewhere?

But then again, Wolfboi's argument in support makes such logical sense to me.

This is a sticky, tricky issue.

Tobias said...

This isn't an issue of fraud, petitions are subject to certain restrictions that preclude that possibility. Internet petitions are useless for this very reason.

What this is is an issue of privacy. People have a right to support an piece of legislation without fear of people harassing them for it. It works both ways, what happens when someone's homophobic boss fires them because they signed a Repeal Prop 8 petition?

Beyond that, everyone has a right to their personal opinion. I don't object to people being homophobic, I can't control their thoughts (nor would I want to). What I can do is work to remove systematic homophobia from my government and public policy.