Anti-gay group’s campaign contributions questioned

Equality California accuses opponents of gay history law of hiding campaign donations

LISA LEFF | Associated Press
editor@dallasvoice.com

SAN FRANCISCO — California’s largest gay rights group on Monday, Oct. 3 accused the backers of a ballot measure seeking to repeal a law requiring gay history to be taught in public schools of deliberately hiding the size and source of campaign contributions.

Two conservative groups behind the StopSB-48 campaign “may have engaged in an unlawful scheme” to violate campaign reporting rules, Equality California Executive Director Roland Palencia said in a complaint filed with the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

Palencia’s group accuses Capitol Resource Institute and Pacific Justice Institute, the organizations that have taken the lead on undoing the first-of its kind law, of raising and spending money to qualify the repeal referendum for the June 2012 ballot without registering as campaign committees.

Under California’s strict campaign finance laws, political entities that receive more than $1,000 in contributions are required to register with the secretary of state, said Cary Davidson, an election law lawyer on the Equality California board.

“It is critical that backers of any initiative play by the rules, so it is particularly important when that initiative could have such a critical effect on the lives of Californians,” Palencia told reporters during a conference call.

Capitol Resource Institute Executive Director Karen England said her organization’s work on the repeal effort does not require it to register with the secretary of state. She says a new campaign committee, Stop SB-48, has been formed to report fundraising activity, but it has not received any donations of $5,000 or more that would trigger such a mandatory filing.

England also said that while she has been heavily involved in the campaign, it has been as a volunteer. The official Stop SB-48 campaign is leasing office space and equipment from her organization, but for a fee and not as a donation, she said.

Pacific Justice Institute Brad Dacus similarly ridiculed Equality California’s complaint as “a ridiculous but desperate attempt to try to hinder our efforts to get this on the ballot.”

“Our attorneys have been very, very careful to abide by all the requirements,” Dacus said. “We know election law. We’ve been around for 14 years, and we would never risk throwing that away.”

—  John Wright

Judge’s gay relationship at issue in Prop 8 case

Judge Vaughn Walker

LISA LEFF  |  Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Rumors swirled that the federal judge who had struck down California’s same-sex marriage ban last summer was gay, but the lawyers charged with defending the measure remained silent on the subject. Their preferred strategy for getting the ruling overturned on appeal was to focus on the law, not a judge’s personal life, they said.

Eight months later, Proposition 8′s proponents and their attorneys have taken a new position. They filed a motion Monday seeking to vacate Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s historic ruling, a move they said was prompted by the now-retired jurist’s recent disclosure that he is in a long-term relationship with another man.

Lawyers for the ban’s backers argue that the judge’s relationship status, not his sexual orientation, gave him too much in common with the couples who successfully sued to overturn the ban in his court. The judge should have recused himself or at least revealed the relationship to avoid a real or perceived conflict of interest, the lawyers say.

“If at any time while this case was pending before him, Chief Judge Walker and his partner determined that they desired, or might desire, to marry, Chief Judge Walker plainly had an interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding,” wrote attorneys for the coalition of religious and conservative groups that put Proposition 8 on the November 2008 ballot.

They are now asking the judge who inherited the case when Walker retired at the end of February to toss out Walker’s August decision. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals already is reviewing its legal merits at the request of the voter-approved measure’s sponsors.

Walker has said that he did not consider his sexual orientation to be any more a reason for recusal than another judge’s race or gender normally would be. A spokeswoman said Monday that the judge wouldn’t comment on the motion.

American Foundation for Equal Rights President Chad Griffin, whose group has funded the legal effort to strike down Proposition 8, scoffed at the notion that the judge’s personal life could imperil his ruling.

Griffin noted that the Obama administration recently had decided to stop defending the federal law that bans recognition of same-sex marriage after determining that it, too, was unconstitutional.

“This motion is another in a string of desperate and absurd motions by the proponents of Proposition 8, who refuse to accept that the freedom to marry is a constitutional right,” he said.

Walker, a 67-year-old Republican appointee, declared Proposition 8 to be an unconstitutional violation of gay Californians’ civil rights. He also ordered the state to stop enforcing the gay marriage ban, but the 9th Circuit put his order on hold while the case is on appeal.

Speculation about Walker’s sexual orientation circulated during the 13-day trial that preceded his decision and after he handed down his ruling. Lawyers for Protect Marriage, the coalition that sponsored Proposition 8, however, had purposely refrained from raising his sexual orientation as a legal issue until Monday.

But they decided it gave them grounds for getting Walker’s decision struck down after the judge disclosed his 10-year relationship this month to a group of courthouse reporters, said Protect Marriage general counsel Andy Pugno.

“We deeply regret the necessity of this motion. But if the courts are to require others to follow the law, the courts themselves must do so as well,” Pugno added.

Indiana University Law School professor Charles Geyh, an expert on judicial ethics, said that without more evidence that Walker stood to personally benefit if same-sex marriages were legal in California, he found it difficult to imagine that the particulars of the judge’s same-sex relationship provided gay marriage opponents with an avenue for reversing his ruling.

“It really implies it would be fine if he were essentially surfing at bars and had a new partner every night because he wouldn’t want to be married,” he said. “I don’t see that as advancing their cause.”

Proposition 8′s sponsors also have been trying to get the federal appeals court to order Walker to return his personal video copy of the trial. The judge has been using a three-minute segment of one of their witnesses being cross-examined for a lecture he’s been giving on cameras in the courtroom.

—  John Wright

Gov. Perry to break anti-gay boycott of CPAC

Gov. Rick Perry

Where is the outrage?

According to multiple reports, Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry has accepted an invitation to speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February, thereby breaking a boycott of the conference by socially conservative groups over the inclusion of the gay group GOProud as a participating organization.

“Happy to announce that Governor Rick Perry is confirmed to speak at CPAC 2011,” the conference announced last week on its Facebook page.

According to the Washington Times, groups boycotting this year’s conference include the Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Council, the Center for Military Readiness, the American Family Association, the American Principles Project, the Liberty Counsel and the National Organization for Marriage:

“The base-line reason is that homosexuality is not a conservative value,” said Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association’s director of issue analysis. “It’s the conservative PAC, not the libertarian PAC.”

Of course, these same groups and their members have historically been among Perry’s biggest supporters, and he’s been among their strongest anti-gay allies. But now that Perry is considering running for vice president, he’s apparently willing to throw them under the bus in exchange for a high-profile speaking engagement. What’s next, accepting an award from Log Cabin Republicans? Taking a gay lover? Wait, maybe he’s already done that.

Anyhow, we’ve left a message with the governor’s press office to try to find out what in the hell he was thinking, but we haven’t heard back.

Again, we ask, where is the outrage?


—  John Wright

AG Brown, couples urge speedy return to gay marriages

PAUL ELIAS and LISA LEFF  |  Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — The attorneys who successfully sued to strike down California’s same-sex marriage ban have joined state Attorney General Jerry Brown in urging a federal appeals court to quickly allow gay marriages to resume in the state.

Theodore Olson and David Boies, the high-profile lawyers representing two couples, told the appeals court that same-sex couples are being hurt every day Proposition 8 is enforced and should not be denied their civil rights while the ban’s sponsors pursue an appeal of this month’s decision overturning the 2008 measure that was approved in a referendum.

“Indeed, the only harm at issue here is that suffered by Plaintiffs and other gay and lesbian Californians each day that Proposition 8′s discriminatory and irrational deprivation of their constitutional rights remains in force,” the lawyers argued in a filing late Friday, Aug. 13.

Brown, who is the Democratic nominee for governor, said in a separate filing that there was no reason for the 9th Circuit to grant the emergency stay request because state and local agencies would suffer no harm by being required to sanction same-sex marriages. County clerks across the state already are gearing up to do so next week, he said.

The swiftly drafted legal papers came in response to efforts by same-sex marriage opponents to get the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals to block a lower court judge’s ruling striking down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional from taking effect this week. If the 9th Circuit refuses to intervene, it would clear the way for same-sex couples to marry starting after the close of business Wednesday, Aug. 18.

Protect Marriage, the coalition of religious and conservative groups that sponsored Proposition 8, has appealed U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s Aug. 4 ruling that found the voter-approved law unconstitutional. After Walker said on Thursday, Aug. 12 that he planned to finalize his ruling on Wednesday at 5 p.m., the group’s lawyers asked the 9th Circuit to prevent any gay marriages while the appeal is pending.

They argued the appeals court should grant an emergency stay “to avoid the confusion and irreparable injury that would flow from the creation of a class of purported same-sex marriages.”

Depending on how the 9th Circuit rules, same-sex couples could get married in California as early as next week or they would have to wait while the appeal works its way through the court and potentially the U.S. Supreme Court as well.

Walker, however, has expressed doubts over whether Protect Marriage has the right to challenge his ruling if neither the attorney general nor the governor elect to do so. Both officials refused to defend Proposition 8 in Walker’s court and have since said they see no reason why gay couples should not be able to get married now.

Although he allowed the group to intervene in the trial, the judge said the appellate court would have to make its own determination that same-sex marriage opponents would be injured if gay couples could wed, a claim Walker explicitly dismissed in his decision invalidating Proposition 8.

The ban’s backers addressed the potential for such a roadblock in their emergency stay request, saying California’s strong citizen initiative law permits ballot measure proponents to defend their interests if state officials will not.

“Proponents may directly assert the state’s interest in defending the constitutionality of its laws, an interest that is indisputably sufficient to confer appellate standing,” they said.

Theodore Boutrous, a lawyer with the legal team representing same-sex couples, said that keeping Protect Marriage from moving forward with an appeal was not necessarily the top priority of the plaintiffs.

“We believe that Chief Judge Walker’s ruling last week on the merits provides a powerful record on appeal, and we want the appellate courts to address the merits of Proposition 8,” Boutrous said. “The standing issue that Chief Judge Walker identified provides another potential weapon in our arsenal that will be part of the appellate arguments.”

California voters passed Proposition 8 as a state constitutional amendment in November 2008, five months after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex unions and an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples already had married.

Five states — Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Iowa — and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. New York and Maryland recognize those marriages even though same-sex couples can’t wed within their borders. However, the federal government doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, nor do the vast majority of states.

—  John Wright