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Evan Wolfson

Evan Wolfson

Posted: October 5, 2010 09:15 PM

After historic rulings this summer challenging marriage discrimination in California and Massachusetts and two national polls showing majority support for the freedom to marry, Maggie Gallagher's National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is scrambling.

Never much more than a shell-group to funnel massive amounts of money from concealed sources into important political battleground states, NOM's declared budget has swelled from $500,000 to $10 million in just three years (not counting the role it played in battles such as Prop 8 in California and the assault on the freedom to marry in Maine). But NOM's efforts to shovel no-questions-asked money into partisan and anti-gay campaigns in states such as Rhode Island, Iowa, California, New York, Minnesota, and Maine continue hitting one persistent barrier: the sunshine laws that protect voters by ensuring transparent elections.

NOM's strategy to subvert campaign-finance disclosure and clean election laws is to unleash a wave of controversial lawsuits. Putting aside the irony of NOM turning to the courts to strike down laws that ensure a fair and clean election, given its pattern of complaining about so-called "activist" courts whenever judges strike down discrimination, NOM just doesn't want to play by the rules.

NOM's relentless efforts to shroud itself and its funders in a veil of secrecy is telling: If they really had a good case against the freedom to marry, why would they be so eager to hide what they're doing and who's behind it?

In Minnesota -- where NOM has flooded the airwaves with a shameful ad that equates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s calls for universal equality to NOM's agenda of exclusion -- a court rebuffed NOM's effort on September 20 to overturn the state's campaign disclosure laws.

Last week, NOM began circulating direct-mail pieces attacking pro-marriage candidates in Maine, the same state where several NOM assaults on clean elections have failed and where the organization remains under investigation by the Maine Ethics Commission for its reckless disregard of campaign finance laws.

In rejecting NOM's bid to undermine clean-election laws, U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank of Minnesota said of NOM's ploys:

The voting public has an interest in knowing who is speaking about a candidate... and knowing the sources of election-related spending. ... Such transparency assures that the electorate will be able to make informed decisions and properly evaluate speakers and their messages. Invalidating the election laws at issue here would likely result in corporations [and organizations] making independent expenditures without any reporting or disclosure on the eve of the upcoming election.

Despite unambiguous rulings like these, NOM still refuses to abide by the rules that apply to everybody else. And in its frenzied run on the courts NOM characteristically conjures up thinly veiled claims that it is the victim -- even as it works in state after state to strip away Constitutional rights from a vulnerable minority.

In mid-September, NOM filed a lawsuit against the New York Board of Elections, declaring its intent to once again funnel undisclosed sums of money into political campaigns in key battleground states. As an encore, NOM filed an almost identical lawsuit in Rhode Island five days later, where it will air a polarizing and patently untrue ad to distract from the reality that when committed couples join in marriage, families are helped and no one is harmed. NOM's lawyers have been asked to refile its lawsuit because its effort to evade the rules applied to everyone else is " disorganized, vague, and poorly constructed."

As the midterms approach, the courts and election officials must prevent further efforts by NOM to subvert election laws, as well as the Constitution's promise of equality and fairness. They can start by examining the facts compiled on a useful new website, NOMExposed.org, assembled by the Human Rights Campaign and Courage Campaign.

And we all must do our part, too. The antidote to NOM's toxic rhetoric, anti-gay fear-mongering, and dangerous campaign tactics is what NOM fears most: open and honest conversations about why marriage matters to loving and committed same-sex couples. We must each engage the fair-minded people in our circles and help them along their journey toward support of the freedom to marry. As more and more people join Freedom to Marry on our Roadmap to Victory, we will continue exposing NOM's falsehoods and, even more important, continue to shine the light on the truth that ending marriage discrimination helps families, while hurting no one.

Crossposted at www.freedomtomarry.org

 

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