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Federal judge rules against backers of Prop 8 in campaign disclosure suit


SACRAMENTO — A federal judge on Thursday ruled against two anti-gay groups who were both proponents of the Proposition 8 ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in California, saying they had failed to prove that they should be exempt from California’s campaign disclosure laws.

U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr. rejected claims by and the National Organization for Marriage, that their donors were targeted for boycotts, hate mail and threats after their names appeared on the secretary of state’s website as part of required campaign finance reports.

The two groups filed suit in January of 2009 to be removed from the publicly available list.

England refused at that time to grant an emergency injunction that would have taken the information down temporarily, saying campaign disclosure laws are designed to protect the public and are especially important during expensive initiative campaigns.

The two groups, which between them raised the lion’s share of the $43.3 million spent in support of Proposition 8, said their donors were targeted for boycotts, hate mail and threats.

The suit also asked the court to relieve the two groups and “all similarly situated persons” from having to list any donors who gave $100 or more for any future campaigns. England denied that request Thursday as well.

“The winners here are really the voters of California,” said San Francisco Deputy City Attorney Mollie Lee, after the hearing. “The 1st Amendment interest that the judge upheld in his ruling is the interest in having a robust democracy, an informed electorate and vigorous debate.”

The ruling is the latest setback for the National Organization for Marriage.

Earlier this week, officials in Washington state released copies of petitions documenting the names and signatures of approximately 138,000 supporters of a 2009 failed ballot initiative seeking to overturn the state’s domestic partnership rights, just hours after another federal judge rejected the notion that disclosure of names would subject petition signers to threats or harassment.

Release of the petition was suspended earlier today, following an emergency appeal U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by “Protect Marriage Washington,” an affiliate of the NOM.

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