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Supreme Court refuses NOM’s challenge to Maine donor laws

Anti-gay group launches website for donors to declare contributions

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Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade
Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday it won’t hear a case challenging NOM’s disclosure laws (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied another request from an anti-gay group challenging financial disclosure laws in Maine that require the organization to reveal who donated to the 2009 marriage ballot initiative campaign.

Justices announced on Monday they wouldn’t hear the case, filed by the National Organization for Marriage, on an order listing hundreds of lawsuits they have declined to hear over the course of the 2013 term.

The court’s decision not to hear the case, known as National Organization for Marriage v. McKee, was made during the September 24 conference, the first meeting of justices for this term, but wasn’t announced until Monday. Last week, the court announced six cases it had decided to consider during the conference.

NOM had filed the lawsuit against state disclosure laws in Maine after the organization in 2009 helped the anti-gay side in a referendum over recently the signed same-sex marriage law, which state voters ultimately rejected by 53 percent.

Among other things, NOM argued the same donor disclosure laws shouldn’t be applied to both political candidates and ballot questions and asserted the $100 reporting threshold in Maine is so low it doesn’t constitutionally further the state’s information interest. But the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in January affirmed a district court ruling upholding the disclosure laws, which NOM later appealed to the Supreme Court.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications at the Human Rights Campaign, took the opportunity of the decision to knock the anti-gay group.

“NOM has shown an unwillingness to play by the rules and this is yet another legal set-back,” Sainz added. “This is proof that their penchant for secrecy has run them afoul of the law.”

NOM won’t be required to reveal its donors immediately, but the decision means Maine can continue to pursue its investigation of the organization’s activities related to the 2009 ballot measure.

Phyllis Gardiner, a Maine assistant attorney general and counsel to the state’s Commission on Governmental Ethics & Election Practices, said the state is “pleased” the First Circuit’s ruling will be upheld, but acknowledged the investigation continues.

“The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics & Election Practices has an ongoing investigation, and there’s pending state court litigation as well that has not yet been fully resolved,” Gardiner said. “So, the constitutionality of the statute was upheld by the First Circuit, and now it’s a matter of the commission completing its work and making its determination.”

Gardiner added she doesn’t know the exact timing for when the ethics commission will finish its investigation.

But NOM wasn’t happy with the decision. John Eastman, NOM’s chair, said in a statement his organization is “disappointed” with the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case, but “will be reviewing” the state’s requests, which the organization says is different now than in 2009.

“In their briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court, the state appeared to have substantially narrowed the type of information they were requesting from NOM,” Eastman said. “Had the state taken the position they took recently back in 2009, this litigation might well have been avoided. We will be reviewing the requests for information that the state has made in light if the narrow interpretation the State has now provided to its own statute.”

Darrin Hurwitz, HRC’s assistant general counsel, responded to NOM’s statement by saying the organization should have complied with Maine laws like other organizations did in the first place.

“This litigation could have been avoided in 2009 if NOM had chosen to abide by the law then and disclose donors to their Maine efforts as every other organization that participated in Question 1 did,” Hurwitz said. “It’s easy to say that you’ll respond to the state’s requests after you’ve lost a 3-year court battle and have no other options.”

Gardiner also took issue with the idea that Maine changed what it wanted from NOM since 2009.

“I think that may be based on a misunderstanding,” Gardiner said. “The commission’s interpretation of Maine’s statute — what it requires — has not narrowed or changed during the course of this litigation.”

On the same day as the court announced it wouldn’t hear the lawsuit, Brian Brown, NOM’s president, announced a new website, KeeptheRepublicandMarriage.com, on which donors can publicly declare they’ve contributed money to the organization.

“Even though donors to NOM are not subject to public disclosure, a number of our donors wanted to show that they would not be bullied and were not afraid to publicly proclaim their support for NOM as a way of encouraging others to publicly stand up to support marriage,” Brown said in a statement. “These key donors were inspired by the courage of Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick Fil A, who resolutely told Americans that he unabashedly believed in God’s design for marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

The website already has 26 people listed, but no information other than an individual’s name is given. The top name listed is Sean Fieler, who presumably is the same Sean Fieler who’s chair of the American Principles Project, a conservative group that opposes same-sex marriage and abortion rights. That group didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment.

Under the headings of the announcement that it won’t take the NOM case, the order from the court states, “The motion of respondents for leave to file a brief in opposition under seal with redacted copies for the public record is granted.”

Hurwitz said this note is procedural and pertains to the respondent brief filed by Maine’s attorney general in the case. The document has lines relating to NOM’s fundraising that are redacted and the court is granting the state’s request to keep them sealed.

It’s not the first time the Supreme Court has declined to hear one of NOM’s challenges to Maine’s financial disclosure laws. In February, the Supreme Court announced it wouldn’t hear a different challenge to Maine’s laws also called National Organization for Marriage v. McKee. But, unlike the later lawsuit, the NOM’s argument in the earlier case was political action committee requirements in state were unconstitutionally broad and vague.

The news on the NOM case comes as many anticipate a decision from the court on whether it take up pending challenges to California’s Proposition 8, known as Hollingsworth v. Perry, and one of the cases against the Defense of Marriage Act, Windsor v. United States. Both were docketed for the September 24, but the order on Monday reveals that no announcements have been made on those high-profile cases.

The Supreme Court has also yet to make a decision on whether it’ll hear the case of Diaz v. Brewer. The request was filed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), who was appealing an injunction placed by a district court prohibiting her from enforcing a law taking away domestic partner benefits from Arizona state employees.

NOTE: This article has been updated from its initial version to include NOM’s response to the decision as well as comments from Phyllis Gardiner.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. spgorm

    October 1, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    The Maine Ethics Committee hasn’t even determined NOM’s standing during all this time.

    Here is Maine Ethic Commission Jonathan Wayne’s response to the Portland Press Herald today.

    Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Ethics Commission, pointed out that, due to the legal challenges, the commission had yet to complete its initial investigation into whether NOM was a ballot question committee. Staff will likely report their findings to the commission in the coming months but not before the November elections, he said.

    But Wayne said Monday’s decision was important.

    “Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is a helpful development because it is another affirmation that our campaign finance laws are constitutional,” Wayne said.

    Bring a book!

  2. jerry

    October 4, 2012 at 4:05 am

    Just find a friendly judge to issue a bench warrant and toss Maggie under the jail..

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Local

Conservatives blame pro-trans policy after assaults in Loudoun schools

‘Gender fluid’ 15-year-old accused of attacking female students

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The Loudoun County, Va., public school system’s recently adopted policy of allowing students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity has come under fire over the past two weeks by outraged parents and conservative political activists following reports that a 15-year-old “gender fluid” boy allegedly sexually assaulted two girls in different high schools.

The parents of one of the girls released a statement through the Virginia-based Stanley Law Group blaming school officials for failing to put in place safeguards to prevent the boy, who they say was dressed in a skirt, from entering the girl’s bathroom to assault their daughter at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Va., on May 28.

The statement accuses Loudoun County Schools officials and the Loudoun County Board of Education of failing to take steps to prevent the same 15-year-old boy from allegedly sexually assaulting another female student at Broad Run High School, also located in Ashburn, on Oct. 6 in a vacant classroom.

School officials acknowledge that the boy was transferred to the second school after law enforcement authorities released him from a juvenile detention facility following his arrest for the first case, in which the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said he was charged with two counts of forceable sodomy against his female victim. 

“The sexual assault on our daughter and the subsequent sexual assault by the same individual were both predictable and preventable,” the parents’ statement says. “Subsequent to the sexual assault on our daughter, Loudoun County Public Schools formalized the policy regarding restroom use that was easily exploitable by a potential sexual assailant,” the statement continues. 

“Because of poor planning and misguided policies, Loudoun Schools failed to institute even minimal safeguards to protect students from sexual assaults,” says the statement.

Loudoun County Schools Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler apologized at an Oct. 15 news conference for what he acknowledged was the school systems’ mishandling of the two sexual assault cases. He noted that school officials should have publicly disclosed the two cases or at least alerted parents at the time they occurred. But he said a federal civil rights law known as Title IX that mandates how schools must respond to cases of sexual harassment appeared to prevent Loudoun school officials from initially disclosing the two cases of sexual assault until they were investigated by law enforcement authorities.

Ziegler said the school system was revamping its disciplinary procedures and its interaction with the Loudoun Sheriff’s Office to ensure that parents and students are alerted to potential danger similar to the cases where the 15-year-old boy allegedly assaulted the two female students.

Meanwhile, school officials and the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Loudoun have pointed out that law enforcement officials have yet to confirm whether the 15-year-old boy charged in the two cases was actually dressed in women’s clothes during the first incident or whether he is trans or gender fluid.

Equality Loudoun’s president, Cris Candice Tuck, released a statement to the Washington Blade on Oct. 18 that she said was the first official known statement responding to the Loudoun school controversy from an LGBTQ organization.

“In light of the reporting of recent sexual assault allegations, the Board of Directors of Equality Loudoun wishes to extend our deepest sympathies to the victims of these heinous attacks and their families,” the statement says. “Equality Loudoun advocates for due process and justice for the victims regardless of whether the alleged perpetrator was a member of the LGBTQ+ community,” the statement continues. “Such actions have no place in our community, and Equality Loudoun does not condone any form of sexual violence, assault, or harassment,” it says.

“However, the accusations that the alleged perpetrator of these assaults is transgender or genderfluid have so far been unverified,” the Equality Loudoun statement asserts. “Attempts to shift blame of this incident to any individual, group, or policy – other than the alleged perpetrator – does a grave disservice to the victims of these crimes and already marginalized youth in our community.”

The statement adds, “We remind those advocating for change to the laws and policies that the initial assault predated any enactment of Policy 8040 by almost 4 months.”

The Equality Loudoun statement was referring to the fact that the Loudoun County School Board did not vote to approve the school system’s trans nondiscrimination policy until August of this year, more than three months after the first of the two sexual assault incidents occurred. 

The policy, among other things, allows transgender and genderfluid students to use the school bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. The policy also requires that teachers, school administrators and fellow students address a trans or genderfluid student by their chosen name and pronouns.

“Inadvertent slips in the use of names and pronouns may occur,” the policy states. “However, staff or students who intentionally and persistently refuse to respect a student’s gender identity by using the wrong name and gender pronoun are in violation of this policy,” it states.

The statement says that rumors of a bathroom “pilot” program that predated the official approval of Policy 8040 that would have allowed female trans or genderfluid students to use the girls’ bathrooms “are simply untrue” and were never put in place.

In a separate statement to the Blade, Equality Loudoun’s Cris Candice Tuck challenged claims by some parents and conservative political activists, some of whom are supporting Virginia’s GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin over Democrat Terry McAulliffe, that the trans nondiscrimination policy is placing students at risk for sexual assault.

“The adoption of nondiscrimination policies are in no way endangering students,” Candice Tuck said. “Across the country, sexual assaults have occurred in schools for decades before any transgender inclusive policies were passed,” she said. “And in those counties and states where such protections have passed in recent years, there has been no verified incidence of anyone abusing such policies to commit such attacks in schools.”

Candice Tuck added, “The focus should be on improving systems of reporting, coordination, and investigation, protecting the victims of these attacks, and creating safer school environments by creating modernized areas and bathrooms that increase protection for all students, including LGBTQ+ students who are statistically more likely to be the victim of such a crime.”  

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World

Jamaica man attacked after using gay dating app

Victim’s penis partially severed before he was set on fire

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A Jamaican and Pride flag fly on the beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on Oct. 15, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Maurice Tomlinson's Facebook page)

An 18-year-old man in Jamaica remains hospitalized in critical condition after he was targeted on a gay dating app.

The Jamaica Gleaner reports the victim on Oct. 11 went to a neighborhood in Montego Bay, a resort city that is the capital of Jamaica’s St. James Parish, to meet the man with whom he was speaking.

The newspaper reports the man and two other men abducted the victim, robbed him and partially severed his penis before they set him on fire. Officials said the three men took his cell phone and used his bank card to withdraw money from his account.

“He is a very lucky young man because although they left him in a critical condition, he managed to make his way to a security checkpoint in the community where they assisted him to the hospital, where he was admitted in critical condition,” a local police officer told the Jamaica Gleaner.

The Jamaica Gleaner reported a 43-year-old man in St. James Parish disappeared in January 2020 after he went to meet someone with whom he had spoken on a gay dating website. Authorities later found the man’s body, and two men have been charged with his murder.

Violence against LGBTQ Jamaicans remains commonplace. Consensual same-sex sexual relations also remain criminalized in the country.

J-FLAG, a Jamaican LGBTQ rights group, has condemned the latest attack.

“Like all well-thinking Jamaicans at this time, JFLAG is outraged at the recent attack on an 18-year-old man in St. James,” tweeted J-FLAG on Sunday. “His attackers must be brought to justice.”

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National

Colin Powell, leaving mixed legacy on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ dies at 84

Key figure once opposed gays in military, then backed review

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gay news, Washington Blade, Colin Powell, gay marriage
Colin Powell leaves behind a mixed legacy on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Colin Powell, the first ever Black secretary of state who served in top diplomatic and military roles in U.S. administrations, died Monday of coronavirus at age 84, leaving behind a mixed record on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The world continues to grapple with the pandemic and the public grows increasingly frustrated with its persistence as many remain unvaccinated despite the wide availability of vaccines. Powell was fully vaccinated, according to a statement released upon his death. Powell reportedly suffered from multiple myeloma, a condition that hampers an individual’s ability to combat blood infections.

Rising to the top of the military as chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Powell supported in 1993 Congress moving forward with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law that barred openly gay people from serving in the U.S. military.

During a key moment congressional testimony, Powell and other top military officials were asked whether or not allowing gay people in the military would be compatible with military readiness. Each official, including Powell,” responded “incompatible.” Congress would enact “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that year.

Things changed when President Obama took office 15 years later and advocates for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” were eager to claim Powell’s voice among their ranks. After all, Powell was highly respected as a bipartisan voice after having served as secretary of state in the administration of George W. Bush and endorsing Obama in the 2008 election.

After the Obama administration in 2010 announced it would conduct a review of the idea of allowing gay people to serve openly in the military, Powell came out in support of that process. Advocates of repeal called that a declaration of reversal, although the statement fell short of a full support for gay people serving openly in the military.

“In the almost 17 years since the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ legislation was passed, attitudes and circumstances have changed,” General Powell said in a statement issued by his office, adding, “I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen.”

Congress acted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the policy was lifted in 2011. At the time, Powell was widely considered a supporter of ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and publicly counted among supporters of repeal, although the Blade couldn’t immediately find any statements from him to that effect.

In 2012, Powell had similar vaguely supportive words on same-sex marriage, saying he had “no problem with it” when asked about the issue.

“As I’ve thought about gay marriage, I know a lot of friends who are individually gay but are in partnerships with loved ones, and they are as stable a family as my family is, and they raise children,” Powell said. “And so I don’t see any reason not to say that they should be able to get married.”

The Blade also couldn’t immediately find any statement from Powell on transgender people serving in the military. After the Obama administration in 2016 lifted decades-old regulations against transgender service, former President Trump issued a ban by tweet the following year. President Biden reversed that ban and allowed transgender people to serve and enlist in the military in his first year in office.

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