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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

No High Court Review of Maine Election Reforms

(CN) - The Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider whether Maine election laws chilled the efforts of a group opposed to gay marriage.

Maine legalized same-sex marriage in 2009, but a public referendum overturned the law later that that year. Maine is now the only state in New England that does not allow gay marriage.

The National Organization for Marriage reportedly steered hundreds of thousands of dollars to a group called Stand for Marriage in Maine.

Maine in turn adopted laws that instituted contribution limits, a public financing system for state-office candidates, and various reporting and disclosure requirements for groups that advocate on political issues.

Some sections of the law use the phrase "for the purpose of influencing."

The Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage took issue with rules governing political action committees, including a pure disclosure law.

Though a federal judge rejected most of the group's claims, he severed the phrase "for the purpose of influencing" as unconstitutionally vague.

In August 2011, the 1st Circuit rejected that conclusion and upheld the rest of the challenged statutes.

The Supreme Court declined to disturb that holding Monday. As is their custom, the justices did not comment on their decision.

This past November, the Supreme Court upheld similar requirements against groups that fought gay marriage in Washington state.

The National Organization for Marriage lost a related challenge in the the 1st Circuit on Jan. 31, 2012, related to Maine rules on ballot action committees or BQCs.

Maine's BCQ law requires groups that spend more than $5,000 for the purpose of initiating or influencing a referendum to disclose the names of donors who contributed $100 or more to the effort.

Both 1st Circuit opinions cited the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which states that "the disclosure of information about the source of political-advocacy funds thus enables the electorate to make informed decisions."

Upon receipt of the adverse January decision, a lawyer for the National Organization for Marriage and co-plaintiff American Principals in Action vowed to take that dispute to the U.S. Supreme Court as well.

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