Maine court: Anti-gay marriage group must disclose donors

AP News
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Posted: Aug 04, 2015 5:59 PM

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine's highest court on Tuesday rejected a national anti-gay marriage group's latest bid to shield the identities of the donors who contributed to its effort to defeat the state's gay marriage law in 2009.

The National Organization for Marriage had sought permission to delay submitting a campaign finance report that the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices ordered it to file last year when it fined the group $50,250 for its involvement in overturning the law supporting same-sex marriage six years ago.

But the Maine Supreme Judicial Court said Tuesday that NOM can't put off filing the report and revealing its donor list until after the court considers the group's challenge of the commission's ruling because the justices said it's unlikely that the Washington D.C.-based organization will win its appeal.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills praised the court's decision, saying that Maine residents deserve to know who's paying to influence their elections.

"Enough is enough," Mills said in a statement. "NOM has fought for almost six years to skirt the law and to shield the names of the out-of-state donors who bank-rolled their election efforts. The time has come for them to finally comply with state law like everyone else."

After Maine's same-sex marriage law was overturned at the ballot box in 2009, it was legalized again by voters in 2012.

Maine's ethics commission ruled last year that the group broke the law by not registering as a ballot question committee and not filing campaign finance reports despite playing a central role in the 2009 referendum. The commission said the group gave nearly $2 million to Stand for Marriage Maine, the political action committee that led the repeal effort.

NOM has already paid the fine, which is thought to be the largest campaign finance penalty in state history.

But the group maintains that it followed the law, arguing that none of its donations were raised specifically for the purposes of defeating Maine's same-sex marriage law. The group, which has long fought in Maine courts to keep its donor list secret, said that revealing their identities will make people weary to contribute in the future.

Brian Brown, president of NOM, said Tuesday that he needs to discuss the decision with his lawyer to determine the group's next steps. But he said he believes that NOM is being unfairly penalized by the commission and the court because of its views on marriage.

"These are all unjust, illegitimate decisions," Brown said. "It does not bode well for the body politic when the judges and the ethics commission get to punish those they disagree with."

The supreme court acknowledged that forcing NOM to disclose their donor list will likely make the group's appeal of the commission's decision moot.

But the justices said that NOM hasn't put forward any persuasive constitutional challenges to the commission's decision or shown that the panel made any errors in reaching its conclusion, and therefore, hasn't proven that it will has a good chance of succeeding in its appeal.

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