Essex, MA, June 24, 2010 — KnowThyNeighbor.org, the national gay rights organization known for publishing online the names of close to a million anti-gay petition signers, celebrates a major victory in today’s Doe v. Reed by the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that petition signers do NOT have a constitutional right to keep their identities private.
“Signing a petition in public is a powerful and meaningful act. Signing your name in secret means nothing,” says Aaron Toleos, co-director of KnowThyNeighbor.org. “Today the Supreme Court affirmed the idea that a petition derives its legitimacy from the very fact that it is a public document.”
Toleos believes that when petitions deal with controversial issues, it is especially important that the information remain public. “It is the cases where the most important issues are at stake, like the rights of same-sex couples and their children to be equally protected by our laws, that the process should be held to the highest standard,” says Toleos. “Secreting the names of signers in these cases just makes it more likely that fraud will occur and that people will sign thoughtlessly. Hiding public information from the public is exactly what should not happen in these situations.”
KnowThyNeighbor.org has uncovered substantial amounts of petition fraud through its work. In Massachusetts, for example, thousands of signatures were identified as being either stolen through bait-and-switch techniques or forged outright, and the state launched both civil and criminal investigations.
The Doe v. Reed case resulted from the work of KnowThyNeighbor.org — along with local partner WhoSigned.org – to oppose a state referendum aimed at overturning a domestic partnership law in Washington. KnowThyNeighbor.org has previously partnered with churches and other local organizations to publish anti-gay petitioner information in Oregon, Arkansas, Florida, and Massachusetts.
KnowThyNeighbor.org was founded in 2005 by Tom Lang, a gay married Republican, and Aaron Toleos, a straight married Democrat, with the goal of encouraging civil, respectful, and meaningful dialogue between citizens on both sides of gay rights issues.