WASHINGTON -- Monday was not a good day for the National Organization for Marriage, a group dedicated to fighting same-sex marriage.
Gay rights activists eagerly awaited a federal judge's decision on the constitutionality of Oregon's ban on marriage equality Monday, expecting a positive outcome. Meanwhile, the National Organization for Marriage, or NOM, failed to win a last-minute delay in the case.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane denied the group's attempt to intervene in the case. On Monday, NOM tried again, this time asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency stay, in order to give the group time to argue why it should be allowed to intervene.
At issue was the fact that Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, like other attorneys general around the country, declined to defend the law, arguing that it is indeed unconstitutional and violates the equal protection rights of same-sex couples.
"This case is an ugly example of inappropriate cooperation between the Attorney General and the gay marriage lobby, both of whom want to redefine marriage in contravention of the overwhelming decision of the people to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman," said Brian S. Brown, NOM president. "The people of Oregon are entitled to a defense of their decision on marriage rather than being abandoned in Court."
The Ninth Circuit, however, denied NOM's request, clearing the way for McShane to strike down the state's ban on same-sex marriage Monday afternoon.
Meanwhile, NOM faced more bad news from the state of Maine.
The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices issued a scathing report, faulting the group for failing to register as a ballot question committee and file campaign finance reports while working to defeat the state's marriage equality law in 2009. The commission called it a "significant violation of the law," and the group could face fines of more than $50,000 and be ordered to reveal its donors.
NOM gave nearly $2 million to Stand for Marriage Maine, an amount that comprised 64 percent of the PAC's total expenditures. Marriage equality later became legal in a 2012 referendum.
A hearing on the commission's recommendations have been scheduled for May 28, and NOM promised to contest the findings.
"NOM strongly denies the findings of the staff report in Maine," John Eastman, the group's chairman, said in a statement. "We did not raise funds designated for the Maine campaign and fully complied with Maine law. The staff has ignored uncontested sworn evidence from donors that we did not designate any contributions for the referendum effort and instead has focused on circumstantial evidence to support its conclusion when a fair reading of those circumstances suggests the opposite. We look forward to presenting our case to the full Commission."
Marc Solomon is national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, which is pushing for the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide. He argued that the confluence of news Monday was essentially a death knell for NOM.
"From coast to coast, today was a particularly bad day for NOM," said Solomon. "They were finally called on the carpet and fined for flouting campaign finance laws and illegally hiding their donors in Maine, while their desperate attempt to keep committed couples in Oregon from marrying failed. Perhaps it's time for them to consider moving on."
Nationwide, polls show increased support for marriage equality, and same-sex marriage is now legal in 18 states plus the District of Columbia. Even opponents have acknowledged the writing on the wall.
Maggie Gallagher co-founded NOM in 2007, but has since stepped down from leading the organization. She sounded a pessimistic note in her final syndicated column in January, in which she reflected on her battles over the years.
"As I lay down this syndicated column after 17 years ... [i]t is a good time though to reflect on the trends: On every key measure, marriage is weaker. The consequences are more obviously unsustainable, yet culturally powerful voices are less willing to engage, and the power of porn and Hollywood to create our norms for family life is more triumphant than ever," she wrote.
NOM has struggled financially in recent years, as it has spent millions unsuccessfully trying to ward off advances in marriage equality.