The Maine Ethics Commission has voted in favor of opening an investigation into whether an anti-gay marriage group has violated campaign finance laws.

Commissioners voted Thursday 3-2 in favor of looking into allegations of disclosure fraud by Californians Against Hate founder Fred Karger. Karger says the anti-gay marriage group Stand for Marriage Maine is illegally shielding its donors.

The group was formed in the spring after Maine lawmakers approved a gay marriage law and has managed to put the law up for a vote. Stand for Marriage Maine includes the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nation's most vociferous opponent of gay marriage, and the Catholic Diocese of Portland. NOM has played a pivotal role in the gay marriage debates in California, Iowa, New York and the New England region.

Karger has questioned the group's initial financial disclosure that list contributions from individual donors at $400 out of $343,689.50.

“They are trying to toss out all reporting requirements … so the [Mormon] Church and its members can continue to operate in secrecy,” Karger told On Top Magazine in an email.

“I want to commend the Maine Ethics Commission for standing up to the threats of the National Organization for Marriage and doing the right thing,” Karger said. “NOM has been running around all over the country thinking that they are above the law. Well, Maine is joining California as the 2nd state that will be investigating NOM's highly questionable finances.”

Anti-gay marriage leaders have dismissed Karger's complaint in Maine and an on-going effort in California, saying they are attempts at “intimidation.”

“It is yet another example of the harassment that follows supporters of traditional marriage,” Stand for Marriage Maine Chairman Marc Mutty said in a statement referring to the commission's decision. “It is an abuse of power for the commission to have allowed itself to be used as an instrument of politics in this fashion.”

The state ethics commission did not provide a deadline to report its findings. Mainers will vote on the gay marriage law on November 3.