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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 5, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 40
NOM loses appeal on donor disclosure
Section One
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NOM loses appeal on donor disclosure

Supreme Court still mum on marriage cases

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

In an October 1 announcement, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear NOM's appeal of a lower court ruling that the group must disclose its donor list. The announcement was included in a document released by the court after its October 1 conference listing the cases it would not hear in its current term.

Perry v. Hollingsworth - the decision striking down California's Prop 8 - and several DOMA cases, which had also been appealed to the Supreme Court, were not on the list of cases the court was rejecting, but they also have not appeared on lists of cases the court has accepted for review.

NOM v. McKee had its origins in the 2009 campaign to reverse Maine's newly passed marriage equality law. NOM (the National Organization for Marriage) spent $1.9 million on a successful effort to repeal the law, but failed to disclose its donors as required by Maine law.

Maine's campaign disclosure law requires groups that raise or spend more than $5,000 on influencing elections to register with the state and disclose their donors. NOM claimed that the law was unconstitutional because it violated the group's First Amendment rights and created an 'onerous' administrative burden that it could not bear.

A federal district judge disagreed and ordered NOM to comply with the state's disclosure requirements. In January the First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court's ruling, and NOM turned to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court turned down NOM's appeal in two curt sentences.

'The motion of respondents for leave to file a brief in opposition under seal with redacted copies for the public record is granted,' the court said. 'The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.'

The 'respondents' in this case are the Maine public disclosure officials who wished to file a brief correcting misstatements and errors of fact in NOM's petition. The 'petition for a writ of certiorari' which the court turned down is NOM's request for the court to hear the case.

For NOM, the court's decision means the end of the line for their attempts to conceal their donors. The group will now have to comply with Maine law.

NOM FINDS A SILVER LINING
NOM tried to put a positive spin on the decision in a statement reacting to the court's announcement.

'While we are disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court did not grant review in our challenge to Maine's application of campaign finance law in 2009, we will be reviewing the state's requests in light of the ruling,' NOM chair John Eastman said.

'In their briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court, the state appeared to have substantially narrowed the type of information they were requesting from NOM. Had the state taken the position they took recently back in 2009, this litigation might well have been avoided. We will be reviewing the requests for information that the state has made in light of the narrow interpretation the State has now provided to its own statute.'

Since the Supreme Court did not reject pending petitions to hear the Prop 8 and DOMA cases, they may be taken up at some point during the current term, but almost certainly not before the November election.

The court has already committed to hear several cases that might establish landmark legal precedents. Fisher v. University of Texas challenges affirmative action; Clapper v. Amnesty International challenges national security wiretaps; and Kiobal v. Royal Dutch Petroleum seeks to hold a foreign corporation accountable for human rights violations in Nigeria.

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