Judge blocks release of petitions for R-71 - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Judge blocks release of petitions for R-71

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OLYMPIA, Wash. - A federal judge in Tacoma is shielding the identities of people who signed petitions to force a statewide vote on expanded benefits for gay couples and domestic partners.

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle granted a preliminary injunction Thursday afternoon, blocking the state from releasing the petitions to the public. Referendum 71 will ask voters in November to approve or reject the "everything but marriage" domestic partnership law that state lawmakers passed earlier this year.

The referendum's sponsors turned in nearly 138,000 petition signatures to qualify for the ballot. The petitions are considered public records under state law. But R-71's sponsors say the petition-signers could be harassed, amounting to an infringement on their free speech rights.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) AP-NY-09-10-09 1934EDT