PROTECTING THE PRIVACY OF THOSE WHO WANT TO PROTECT MARRIAGE
Ron Prentice, Chairman of ProtectMarriage.Com
January 17, 2009
[Publisher's Note: As part of an ongoing effort to bring original, thoughtful commentary to you here at the FlashReport, I am pleased to present this column from Ron Prentice, the Chief Executive Officer of the California Family Council and the Chairman of ProtectMarriage.com, the official proponents of Proposition 8 - Flash]
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Opponents of traditional marriage in the Prop 8 debate understood effective strategy. One of their common tactics was to personalize the debate by referring to actual people and real-life stories. There is nothing wrong with this as a communication device; probably everyone agrees that a personal story gets people more engaged in the issue. So, in that vein, let me share a few stories.
Tom, not his real name, was shocked to see a photo of his face posted all over town. His image was distributed on fliers and left on car windshields, with his name, the name of the church he attends, and the word “BIGOT” in large letters underneath.
He contributed to Proposition 8.
Sally, also not her real name, was identified in a published photograph as a supporter of Prop. 8, and was hounded at her workplace and home. The intimidation was so severe that she required protection by her employer’s security team, and a new, unpublished home phone number.
In any other context, citizens would be outraged by these hoodlum tactics and the attempt to intimidate people for taking part in the democratic process. Ironically, even people who opposed Prop 8 have reported intimidation and threats for simply saying the harassment of Prop 8 supporters is wrong. It’s no wonder that so few people are speaking up on the issue.
Many Web sites are providing a “blacklist” of YES on 8 donors, and one site provides a map with the names and residences of people who contributed to Prop 8.
The clear purpose is to abet intimidators, who show no signs of letting up.
This brings us to an interesting question. How and why are the names of these donors released?
The answer is that the Political Reform Act of 1974 requires that the name, occupation and employer of every donor of at least $100 be made public.
The YES on 8 campaign received financial support from more than 70,000 individuals.
Through this public disclosure, they are now facing harassment, intimidation, picketing of businesses, vandalism and even death threats.
Now, disclosure is often a good thing. We certainly want to know if a piece of legislation is favored by pharmaceutical companies or the American Tobacco Industry, as this gives some insight on what might otherwise be confusing legislation. But, when disclosure turns into a nightmare scenario to threaten thousands of citizens who simply took part in the democratic process, we know something is wrong. The medicine is suddenly far worse than the illness.
That’s why an Indiana-based law firm and the Alliance Defense Fund filed complaints in the U.S. District Court last week, seeking injunctive relief from submitting the final donor disclosure report to the state by the YES on 8 campaign committee. Plaintiffs in the complaint include the ProtectMarriage.com coalition, the National Organization for Marriage California, and John Doe #1, who needs anonymity for obvious reasons, representing a class of major donors.
The plaintiffs are asking for a preliminary injunction to protect the names of an additional 7,000 donors whose personal information is scheduled for release in a final report required under current law.
The lawsuit is calling to the court’s attention dozens of examples of intimidation and vandalism, impacting property, employment, and reputation. These are just the tip of the iceberg.
The complaint argues three points specific to the protection of donors.
First, it has been demonstrated with reasonable probability that compelled disclosure of names will result in harassment and reprisals.
The U.S. Supreme Court said in Buckley v. Valeo (1976) that plaintiffs in that case were due a blanket exemption from disclosure for similar reasons.
Second, California’s thresholds for financial disclosure have not been adjusted for inflation since the inception of the Political Reform Act in 1974.
California’s only legitimate interest by this Act was to arm the electorate with information that identified the principals behind a candidate or ballot measure.
Thirty four years later the landscape is completely different in ways we could not have envisioned in 1974. Ballot measures now cost well into the double-digit millions, and (as in this case) many thousands of individuals may give to an effort.
The lawsuit argues that disclosure thresholds no longer serve the “compelling government interest” and conflict with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Finally, continued campaign disclosure information after an election is, quite simply, unnecessary.
If the state’s “compelling interest” is to inform the electorate of the primary sources of donations to a campaign to allow for “informed” votes, how is that interest furthered once an election is done?
The democratic voting process cannot continue if intimidations and threats are effective in silencing citizens.
This is precisely the plan of hostile forces, the proponents of same-sex marriage.
Their blogs are filled with cheers and taunts.
Freedom of speech, whether with our voice or our pocketbooks, is on trial.
Hearing has been set in the Sacramento District Court for January 29, 2009.
You can write to Ron Prentice, via the FR, here.
Biographical information on Mr. Prentice
Ron Prentice is a California-licensed marriage and family therapist and the founding director of the California Family Council, a non-profit organization advocating pro-family values and committed to the protection and promotion of Judeo-Christian principles in California's culture. Prentice is the Chairman of ProtectMarriage.com, the official proponents of Proposition 8 which passed on the ballot in California in November.
Prior to this position, Ron served as the Vice President of Public Affairs with Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, CO. Ron lives in Southern California with his wife and three children, and poorly mannered pets.