Despite the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, Maine has continued to be a battleground for gay-marriage opponents, who’ve been fighting since 2009 to shield the identities of those who have given to their efforts here.

Tuesday, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the National Organization for Marriage must disclose donors’ names. This decision is a victory for political transparency and for informed decision-making — in short, the ruling is a win for everybody, no matter what their political leanings.

The National Organization for Marriage came to Maine in 2009. It organized and poured $2 million into a $3 million people’s veto drive to overturn Maine’s marriage equality law. And, in the process, they violated laws requiring it to register with the state and report donors’ names, the state ethics and elections commission concluded in 2014.

NOM paid the record-breaking $50,250 fine imposed by the panel but resisted revealing who gave it money. Now Maine’s highest court has said it won’t stand in the way of the state’s donor disclosure mandate — which has previously been upheld by state and federal courts.

All of them have rejected NOM’s arguments that Maine’s reporting requirement leaves donors open to harassment and prevents them from exercising their constitutional right to contribute money — a form of political speech, according to the Citizens United ruling.

But in a democracy, the real benefits of knowing where political speech is coming from outweigh the possibility of being challenged or criticized for voicing that speech. As U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby wrote in 2009 in favor of the disclosure mandate: “Maine has a very strong interest in providing its voters with information about the source of money that funds the campaign on either side of a ballot issue.”

Even U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia — no supporter of marriage equality — has spoken up against legal efforts to keep a lid on the names of those who’ve come out against gay marriage.

“There are laws against threats and intimidation; and harsh criticism, short of unlawful action, is a price our people have traditionally been willing to pay for self-governance. Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed,” he wrote in 2010, concurring with the majority in a case in which justices ruled against marriage-equality opponents in Washington state who wanted to keep their names secret.

It’s unclear whether the National Organization for Marriage has other legal avenues to appeal this issue. Regardless, instead of courting public ignominy by continuing to inveigh against disclosure, the group would be better off acknowledging that it has lost this battle and — finally — comply with the same state law that everyone else has to follow.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: