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
“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
“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