A federal judge on Monday rejected a challenge to state election law brought by a group that opposes gay marriage and supports Republican candidate for governor Carl Paladino.
The Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage argued last week that it should be allowed to run ads for Paladino, who has railed against same-sex marriage, without reporting donors' names or adhering to other election law requirements governing political committees.
U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara dismissed the lawsuit as premature because state elections officials haven't classified the organization as a political committee. The judge added there was "at least a notable chance" it would not meet the definition.
National Organization for Marriage attorney Randy Elf said the group filed a motion in response asking the judge to reconsider. Elf said there's no doubt that the ads NOM wants to run, telling voters to vote for Paladino, will define it as a political committee and that the legal action was meant to head off the classification to begin with.
New York Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin agreed that the National Organization for Marriage would probably be considered a political committee if it went ahead with its plans.
"I can't say for sure because they haven't done anything yet," Conklin said. "Based on what they said they were doing, in the abstract, if a committee is engaging in those types of activities, typically they would be a political committee under New York state law."
He said, "Our goal is for transparency in the election process so we would want them to make filings with us."
The lawsuit had asked the judge to declare the political committee definition unconstitutional because it would interfere with NOM's free speech rights by imposing so many burdens that it wouldn't be worth it to NOM to run the ads.
New York requires a political committee to register its treasurer and bank and submit periodic disclosure reports.
NOM, a major financial backer of campaigns opposing same-sex marriage, has said it wants to use radio and TV ads and direct mailing in governor races and legislative elections in New York and elsewhere. It's pursuing similar legal challenges in several other states.
According to court papers, one of the prepared ads it wants to run in New York features a girl named Emily saying that she learned in school "about a prince who married a prince."
"And I can marry a princess!" Emily says.
"Kids have enough to deal with already without pushing gay marriage on them," the ad's narrator says.
The New York version urges listeners to vote for Paladino, who polls show is trailing Democrat Andrew Cuomo, the state's attorney general.
Earlier this month, Paladino told Orthodox Jewish leaders in New York that he opposes gay marriage and doesn't want children being "brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option." He also told the rabbis, "That's not how God created us, and that's not the example that we should be showing our children."
The next day, he said he was referring only to his opposition to gay marriage, then added that young children shouldn't be exposed to homosexuality, especially at gay pride parades. He later apologized for using harsh words such as "brainwashed" but not for his opposition to gay marriage.
The apology lost Paladino an endorsement, as Orthodox Rabbi Yehuda Levin withdrew his support and accused Paladino of bowing to political pressure.
Cuomo and Paladino are the leading candidates to replace Gov. David Paterson, who took office after former Gov. Eliot Spitzer stepped down in a prostitution scandal but isn't seeking election to a full term. Several minor-party candidates, including Jimmy McMillan, of the Rent is 2 Damn High party, and anti-Prohibition party candidate Kristin Davis, the so-called Manhattan Madam, who once ran a prostitution ring, also are bidding for the governor's office.