Maine’s supreme court on Thursday cleared the way for a state ethics commission to obtain the donor names of a national anti-gay marriage group that helped defeat a gay marriage law in 2009 before the practice was legalized by voters last year.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court rejected an appeal by the National Organization for Marriage, upholding subpoenas issued by the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices for donors to the organization. NOM, as it is known, has been fighting to keep its donor list confidential for 31/2 years.
“It’s very frustrating to be dealing with such a litigious group as this. You have to wonder what they’re trying so desperately to protect,” Attorney General Janet Mills said.
The national organization helped defeat the Maine law in 2009 through a referendum. Gay marriage was legalized in the state after a second referendum in 2012.
The U.S. Supreme Court already declined to hear a separate appeal challenging the constitutionality of the state’s financial disclosure law, ending a separate challenge in federal court.
NOM was the primary donor when it gave $1.9 million to Stand for Marriage Maine, a political action committee, during the 2009 referendum campaign. But the passing of time doesn’t diminish the importance of upholding the state’s campaign finance laws, Mills said
The commission contends it needs the list of donors to determine if the organization should have registered and disclosed donors. State law requires groups to register as ballot question committees if they raise or spend more than $5,000 to influence a state ballot question.
“That’s the end of the litigation. Now we move to completing the investigation and the commission reaching a conclusion about NOM’s activities in 2009,” Jon Wayne, the ethics commission’s executive director, said from his office in Augusta.
If the ethics commission determines that the organization falls under the state’s ballot question committee requirements, then NOM could be required to register as such, at which time it would have to reveal the names of all donors who contributed to the 2009 effort to repeal Maine’s gay marriage law.
Lawyers for NOM didn’t immediately return phone calls from The Associated Press.
Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington state approved gay marriage in November, making them the first states to do so by popular vote. Gay marriage already was legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia.