Monday, February 2, 2009

Monday Good News: A Telling Comparison and a Victory for Transparency

1. Epic Comparison

Laws tend to be different when women have a say in them.

2. Victory For Government

As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) filed a lawsuit arguing that campaign finance disclosure laws should not apply to those who contribute to campaigns seeking to deny marriage to same-sex couples. The ADF argued that California's disclosure laws should not apply to their side of the marriage debate because some so-called marriage defenders have been targeted for threats and harassment due to their support for Proposition 8. As I noted in my article, two completely-unacceptable death threats were alleged in the complaint, but the majority of other harms listed were either legal or comparatively minor. Legal and mostly-minor harms do not outweigh the benefits of transparency in government.

US District Judge Morrison England agreed, and has rejected the ADF's request. While recognizing that "some of the reprisals reported by the Prop. 8 committee involve legal activities such as boycotts and picketing," he also noted that when it comes to "repugnant and despicable" acts like death threats, white powder, and vandalism, our legal system already contains mechanisms for dealing with these crimes.

Furthermore, "If the Prop. 8 campaign was exempted from disclosure because of reports of harassments of individual donors, said Deputy Attorney General Zackery Morazzini, the same case could be made for any controversial initiative. Courts would have to 'keep the entire California electorate in the dark as to who was funding these ballot measures.'"

I am not at all surprised by this ruling. Since campaign finance disclosure laws exist to promote transparency as to who is funding political campaigns, claiming that only one side to a ballot initiative should be exempted from finance disclosure laws completely defeats the whole purpose of such laws. It would be in no way fair to mandate transparency for one side of an issue and exempt the other side from the light-shedding disclosure law. As Thomas Elias wrote in a recent op-ed piece, Prop 8 backers were essentially promoting an "end to openness in politics." California has a history of ballot initiatives with misleading names such as the tobacco-industry-funded "Californians for Statewide Smoking Restrictions" which, contrary to its name, actually sought "to eliminate all local laws against smoking in restaurants, offices and other indoor environments." It's not a great idea to set a precedent that allows one side of an issue to exempt itself from finance disclosure laws just because that side (mostly) exaggerates threats its funders have received.

In fact, I find it striking that those who deem themselves capable of predicting gigantic harms to society following the legalization of same-sex marriage have proven themselves to be so short-sighted about the harms of this anti-transparency initiative.

No comments: