The latest skirmish in the battle for anti-gay secret advocacy took place in a Maine courtroom Wednesday where federal Judge D. Brock Hornby ruled the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) could not conceal its donor list.

NOM is the nation's most vociferous opponent of gay marriage and the largest contributor to the campaign to repeal gay marriage in Maine. Voters on Tuesday will be asked to affirm – or reject – a gay marriage law approved by lawmakers in the spring.

“Maine is entitled to conclude that its electorate needs to know, on an ongoing basis, the source of financial support for those who are taking positions on a ballot initiative,” Hornby said in his 32-page ruling.

Hornby went on to say that financial disclosure was “not only compelling but critical” to the health of direct democracy.

Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) Attorney James Bopp Jr. is representing NOM in its fight to keep the records of contributors confidential. Bopp has been making similar arguments in courtrooms in California and Washington State.

In Washington State, the group has the attention of the Supreme Court, which agreed two weeks ago to hear Bopp's arguments in a similar case that calls for secret advocacy. ADF attorneys representing Protect Marriage Washington, the group behind the effort to repeal a domestic partnership law that grants gay and lesbian couples all the rights of marriage, want to shield the names of 138,000 people who signed the petition to put the law up for a vote.

In both states, ADF attorneys argue that transparency laws are overly burdensome and unconstitutional.

Bopp has also argued that disclosing the names of petition signers and donors puts them at risk of harassment, reprisals and boycotts of their businesses, amounting to an unconstitutional infringement on free speech rights.

“We're not talking about removing the transparency of government. We're talking about whether citizens should be outed in their participation in our democracy,” Bopp told the New York Times.

Officials in Washington State and Maine disagree and have vowed to fight against secret advocacy.

“In all states with initiative or referendum systems, the ballot measure represents the people substituting themselves for legislatures,” Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna told the paper. “We don't conduct the legislative process in secret, and it doesn't make sense to conduct this legislative process in secret either.”

Fred Karger founded Californians Against Hate last year and has been at the forefront of unraveling the money trail of anti-gay measures. He calls NOM a front group for the Mormon Church and has successfully lobbied California and Maine officials to investigate the group's finances.

“They [the Mormon Church] have created front groups that can do their bidding in banning same-sex marriage throughout the United States. The Mormon Church gave $1.2 million to ban gay marriage in Alaska and Hawaii, and got caught. Ever since they work through front groups to try and hide their direct involvement,” he said.

Karger was recently subpoenaed to be deposed in Bopp's California effort to shield from public view the names of donors to Proposition 8, the voter-initiated constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage in the state. NOM also played a pivotal role financing the campaign to approve the measure.

“They are trying to toss out all reporting requirements … so the Church and its members can continue to operate in secrecy,” Karger said in an email.

NOM has yet to respond to Judge Hornby's ruling. Maine Attorney General Janet Mills welcomed the opinion and said she hoped the group would file its report before Tuesday's election.

“Why not? What is there to hide?” Mills told the Press Herald.

While Judge Hornby denied the group's request to set aside reporting requirements, he allowed the lawsuit to proceed.