A lawyer for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has filed a constitutional challenge in three different states to fight against the group being mislabeled as a political action committee. This mislabeling, he argued, would cause the organization to undergo numerous state restrictions which would significantly lessen the scope of their outreach and subject them to criminal prosecution for failure to comply.
James Bopp Jr., who serves as general counsel for the James Madison Center for Free Speech, said in a press release Monday that although NOM wishes to run television and radio ads, send out mailers, and post these items to its website, several states – including New York, Rhode Island and Florida – may define the group as a political action committee in order to stifle their efforts. Within this month, the group has filed constitutional challenges to all three states' election laws in federal court.
Although states such as New York “cannot completely ban NOM from speaking as the Constitution protects the Freedom of Speech,” Bopp wrote, “New York still silences speech by labeling NOM as a 'Political Committee,' which label imposes layer after layer of burdens on NOM and similar groups that wish to exercise their constitutional rights to speak.”
“New York has added so many layers of rules to follow and hoops to jump through that many groups, such as NOM, are dissuaded from even trying to comply,” he added. “By imposing so many rules that carry the possibility of criminal punishment for failures to follow remote provisions of the rules, New York has essentially become like the grinning playground bully taunting 'Speak if you dare.'”
In an e-mail to EWTN News on Sept. 28, Bopp explained that a political action committee “must meet myriad organizational, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements and is limited as to who can donate to it.”
“Failure to file the proper registration requirement or any 'statement' required under the reporting requirements is subject to a civil penalty and any who 'knowingly and willfully' fails to file a statement is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
“NOM seeks to validate its First Amendment rights and the First Amendment rights of similar organizations,” Bopp said.
“No organization should be made to assume a different legal form and report as a political committee in New York simply because it wants to disseminate materials providing information about candidates with respect to issues such as traditional marriage.”