AUGUSTA, Maine — A federal magistrate judge recommended that state officials be given information about donors who helped finance a successful campaign to repeal Maine’s gay marriage law.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John Rich III said in Sunday’s ruling that the National Organization for Marriage, which contributed $1.9 million to the repeal campaign, should give documents relating to donors and fundraising dating back to Jan. 1, 2009, to the state attorney general’s office.
Rich denied a request for documents dating back to Jan. 1, 2008, saying the gay marriage campaign was not yet active. A federal district judge must sign off on the recommendation for it to go into effect.
The state campaign regulatory board, the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, voted in October to examine the New Jersey-based pro-marriage group’s contributions after it was accused of not reporting the names of many donors. The group objected, saying its donors contribute to the organization and not to a particular referendum campaign.
In his ruling, Rich rejected the National Organization for Marriage’s claim that disclosure of donor names would leave them open to harassment by those who oppose their one man-one woman point of view on marriage. He also brushed aside the group’s claim that disclosure of donors’ names would have a chilling effect on their First Amendment rights to express their views.
Documents provided to the attorney general’s office will be available to the ethics commission, but they will not be disclosed publicly because of ongoing litigation, said Kate Simmons, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office.
A separate case before Maine Superior Court will determine whether the National Organization for Marriage should have filed with the ethics commission as a ballot question committee, which would have required the disclosure of donors’ names.
A law passed in May 2009 that legalized same-sex marriage was put on hold after conservatives launched a petition drive to repeal it in a referendum. The outcome marked the first time voters rejected a gay-marriage law enacted by a legislature.