Justice Thomas promotes idea that anti-gay donors need special protection

by on January 22, 2010  •  In Supreme Court

In today's Supreme Court decision invalidating restrictions on corporate funding of political campaigns, Justice Thomas (writing only for himself) published an opinion that, in part, argued that the law does not go far enough in protecting anonymous political speech. Why?  Because of the risk of intimidation, the prime example of which, in his mind, is "Proposition 8-related retaliation."  Excerpts from his concurring opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 2010 WL 183856:

Congress may not abridge the “right to anonymous speech” based on the “simple interest in providing voters with additional relevant information." In continuing to hold otherwise, the Court misapprehends the import of “recent events” that some amici describe “in which donors to certain causes were blacklisted, threatened, or otherwise targeted for retaliation.” Ante, at 54. The Court properly recognizes these events as “cause for concern,” ibid., but fails to acknowledge their constitutional significance. …
Amici 's examples relate principally to Proposition 8, a state ballot proposition that California voters narrowly passed in the 2008 general election. Proposition 8 amended California's constitution to provide that “[o]nly marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Any donor who gave more than $100 to any committee supporting or opposing Proposition 8 was required to disclose his full name, street address, occupation, employer's name (or business name, if self-employed), and the total amount of his contributions. The California Secretary of State was then required to post this information on the Internet.
Some opponents of Proposition 8 compiled this information and created Web sites with maps showing the locations of homes or businesses of Proposition 8 supporters. Many supporters (or their customers) suffered property damage, or threats of physical violence or death, as a result. They cited these incidents in a complaint they filed after the 2008 election, seeking to invalidate California's mandatory disclosure laws. Supporters recounted being told: “Consider yourself lucky. If I had a gun I would have gunned you down along with each and every other supporter,” or, “we have plans for you and your friends.” Complaint in ProtectMarriage.com-Yes on 8 v. Bowen, Case No. 2:09-cv-00058-MCE-DAD (ED Cal.), ¶ 31. Proposition 8 opponents also allegedly harassed the measure's supporters by defacing or damaging their property. Id., ¶ 32. Two religious organizations supporting Proposition 8 reportedly received through the mail envelopes containing a white powdery substance. Id., ¶ 33.
Those accounts are consistent with media reports describing Proposition 8-related retaliation. The director of the nonprofit California Musical Theater gave $1,000 to support the initiative; he was forced to resign after artists complained to his employer. Lott & Smith, Donor Disclosure Has Its Downsides, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 26, 2008, p. A13. The director of the Los Angeles Film Festival was forced to resign after giving $1,500 because opponents threatened to boycott and picket the next festival. Ibid. And a woman who had managed her popular, family-owned restaurant for 26 years was forced to resign after she gave $100, because “throngs of [angry] protesters” repeatedly arrived at the restaurant and “shout[ed] ‘shame on you’ at customers.” Lopez, Prop. 8 Stance Upends Her Life, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 14, 2008, p. B1. The police even had to “arriv[e] in riot gear one night to quell the angry mob” at the restaurant. Ibid. Some supporters of Proposition 8 engaged in similar tactics; one real estate businessman in San Diego who had donated to a group opposing Proposition 8 “received a letter from the Prop. 8 Executive Committee threatening to publish his company's name if he didn't also donate to the ‘Yes on 8’ campaign.” Donor Disclosure, supra, at A13.
The success of such intimidation tactics has apparently spawned a cottage industry that uses forcibly disclosed donor information to pre-empt citizens' exercise of their First Amendment rights….


One Response to Justice Thomas promotes idea that anti-gay donors need special protection

  1. Charlie January 22, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    Prop 8 stirred up a lot of emotion in the gay community, including much hate towards it’s sponsors and supporters. And some of them have been subjected to hate crimes. It might be reasonable that society should show it’s added disapproval toward targeting people on their political views by giving enhanced penalties for the perpetrators of these acts. Except they oppose hate crimes legislation. And they weren’t born bigots but have chosen to live the bigoted lifestyle and could change if they wanted. I am not sure why they feel they deserve special rights.

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