(CN) – Conservative groups that supported Proposition 8 to deny same-sex marriage rights in California may not have to disclose the names of private donors, with the 9th Circuit granting an emergency stay Monday pending the appeal of a federal judge’s ruling.
ProtectMarriage.com – Yes on 8 and the National Organization for Marriage had filed suit against the California Fair Political Practices Commission and various other state officials in 2009, claiming that the Political Reform Act of 1974 violates First and 14th Amendment rights by requiring political campaigns to disclose the names of any person donating $100 or more.
The suit also named Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Gov. Jerry Brown (who was State Attorney General at the time of filing), several district and city attorneys, as well as the San Francisco Department of Elections and the recorder-registrar of Los Angeles County.
They sought to permanently enjoin all future disclosure requirements, to expunge the records of past contributions, and to invalidate as unconstitutional the $100 contribution threshold.
During arguments in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday, the conservative organizations claimed that disclosure requirements made concerned citizens into community targets for harassment and more violent reprisals. Their attorneys argued that Yes on 8 supporters should be treated the same as the NAACP’s supporters were in the 1960s – exempt from closure requirements out of safety concerns.
U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England disagreed in a bench ruling that said private donors face the same disclosure rules that apply to corporate contributors of ballot-initiative campaigns. A written ruling is expected this week.
On Monday, however, the 9th Circuit granted an emergency stay pending appeal and set an expedited briefing schedule. Briefs are due on Nov. 14 and Nov. 28, and oral argument is slated for an as-yet-undetermined date in the week of Dec. 5 at the circuit’s San Francisco courthouse.
The fate of Proposition 8 remains murky, as the California Supreme Court considers whether nongovernmental proponents have the right to defend the legislation on appeal. U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker struck Prop. 8 down as unconstitutional in August 2010 but immediately stayed his own decision, pending the appeal, which has taken a detour to the state’s high court.