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Religious right group's 2009 victory becomes costly

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The National Organization for Marriage loses another round in court against Maine's disclosure laws. Meanwhile, a soon-to-be released documentary threatens to expose the questionable tactics of those the organization employed to defeat Maine's marriage equality law.

Don't be fooled by the National Organization for Marriage's public bravado and supposed unstoppable appearance.

Behind the facade,the organization seems to be ever so slowly but surely heading towards a precipice and the thing nudging it along the way is the state of Maine.

NOM was successful in its ballot initiative to overturn Maine's law allowing marriage equality in 2009. But it was a messy win which is turning out to be a pyrrhic victory (a win which ends up biting the victor in the ass) for the organization.

NOM continues to fight against the state's public discloure laws, losing at every turn. The latest loss for NOM came yesterday:

A federal appeals court is denying a request for a new hearing in a public-disclosure case stemming from Maine's 2009 same-sex marriage campaign.

The appeal came after a 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston a month ago rejected the National Organization for Marriage's challenge to Maine's political action committee laws, and upheld Maine's law requiring disclosure of independent expenditures in candidate elections.

In a decision Wednesday, the court denied NOM's request for a rehearing.

NOM was the primary donor in 2009 to Stand for Marriage Maine, a political action committee that helped repeal Maine's same-sex marriage law.

According to the website NOM Exposed:

NOM provided more than $1.8 million of the $3 million spent by opponents of marriage equality to pass Question 1 – but it illegally failed to disclose where the money came from. Public disclosure laws create transparency by informing voters who is behind a campaign effort. Maine’s law does this by requiring that any funds raised to support or oppose a ballot question be made public.

. . . Based on an initial complaint filed by Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate, the Maine  Ethics Commission launched a formal investigation into NOM’s fundraising tactics in late 2009. NOM has refused to cooperate with the state inquiry each step of the way, stonewalling requests to turn over documents to the Ethics Commission. The Commission’s executive director defended the inquiry in February 2010: “NOM donated almost $2 million in support of the referendum. The Commission needs to understand how NOM solicited the funds in order to determine whether campaign finance reporting was required.” In June 2010, the Ethics Commission unanimously denied NOM’s latest request to dismiss the state investigation into the organization’s finances.

NOM has also attempted unsuccessfully to halt the state investigation in court, suing to prevent release of its Maine campaign donors and, in a far-reaching effort, to dismantle Maine’s campaign disclosure laws. A federal district judge and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit have soundly rejected NOM’s attempts to evade the ethics investigation and ordered NOM to produce records to the state.

And if questions about its flouting of Maine's disclosure laws isn't bad enough, there is a soon-to-be released documentary which will shed light on NOM's questionable tactics. Filmmakers Joe Fox and James Nubile convinced both sides of the Maine marriage equality fight to give them "fly on the wall" access during the campaign.

What they filmed is the basis of Question One: the Battle for Same-Sex Marriage in America. As we all know, NOM and its supporters won that fight. But it's Marc Mutty, the head of the campaign against Maine's marriage equality law, who has become the documentary's lightning rod

In the documentary, Mutty voiced extreme displeasure with how his group was attempting to sway people to vote against marriage equality. According to the Iowa Independent:

The film begins with Mutty describing his role in the campaign as that of the “chief cook and bottle washer,” but in the campaign’s final weeks, it’s Frank Schubert, president of California-based Schubert Flint Public Affairs -– the same publicity firm used to defeat same-sex marriage in California in 2008 –- who is calling all the shots, telling reporters he’s the chairman of SMM, making himself marketable for a future anti-same-sex marriage campaign.

At one point in the film, Mutty admits to being upset over two ads pushed by Schubert Flint, which Mutty admits “when I saw it, I cringed,” because of their insistence that civil marriage in Maine will lead to teachers instructing first-graders about gay sex. The longer version of the ad, which Mutty opted not to use, discussed sex toys. In the car, a visibly frustrated Mutty tells Schubert in clipped tones that his staff signed off on the ad. He then slams his cell phone shut and mutters, “So Frank wins the day again.”

The documentary also reveals that Mutty was forced to run the campaign:

On screen, Mutty says he never wanted to run the ‘Yes on 1′ campaign, but that his boss, Bishop Richard Malone, wanted the diocese to handle it, and Mutty felt as though he had no choice. In the early days of the campaign, he jokes around with his small staff in their Yarmouth, Maine, headquarters and appears to take his position — one he describes as being “impossible” — in stride. But by the campaign’s end, Mutty often appears agitated, saying things like: “This has been a mother-f***ing son of a bitch.”

And according to a piece written by Peter Montgomery of  Religious Dispatches, the documentary reveals that Mutty may have been simply a figurehead but not really calling the shots in the campaign:

The documentary exposes several myths promoted by the opponents of marriage equality in Maine, including that it was a Maine-based campaign when California-based Schubert-Flint was clearly calling the shots; and that it wasn’t about homosexuality, when religious objections to homosexuality were clearly a driver for many of the activists and leaders. At one campaign rally, for example, a speaker portrays the campaign as a spiritual battle against the devil himself.

One press conference orchestrated by Schubert-Flint used teenagers as props, including one who claimed that at her public school she was made to feel like a second-class citizen for being straight. It seemed like a ludicrous assertion, so I asked filmmaker Joe Fox who told me that those teens were brought out to read their scripted statements, then declared off limits for follow-up questions.

Question 1 is scheduled to have a limited release in the fall and a national release in January. One wonders how NOM will handle damage control then while continuing to fight the disclosure laws not only in Maine but in also several other states.

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