Prop. 8 backers ask to shield donors

SAN FRANCISCO — The sponsors of the November ballot measure that outlawed same-sex marriage in California want a judge to seal selected documents and issue a gag order in their lawsuit challenging the state’s campaign-finance reporting rules.

Lawyers for and the National Organization for Marriage California requested an order late last Friday designed to keep the names of the groups’ supporters secret while the case moves forward. Last week, they sued to have their campaign-finance records blocked from public view, saying the disclosure requirements have caused donors to become the targets of boycotts, hate mail and threats.

“The very essence of this case is that plaintiffs cannot be forced to reveal their identities, or the identities of their donors, without violating their fundamental First Amendment rights,” the group’s lawyers wrote in seeking anonymity for certain parties in the litigation.

Also last Friday, the two groups, which between them raised the lion’s share of the $37 million spent in support of Proposition 8, asked for an emergency exemption from having to file a new round of campaign-finance reports due at the end of the month.

James Bopp Jr., an attorney for backers of the gay-marriage ban, said there’s some urgency, as campaign committees face a Jan. 31 deadline for filing their semiannual reports, which include smaller contributions received late in the election cycle.

“It means additional disclosures will come out about donors and give the competing campaign the ability to punish all these donors through harassment and intimidation,” Bopp said.

If the request is granted, it would keep from being identified about 6,600 people who gave less than $1,000 to the Prop. 8 campaign between Oct. 19 and Dec. 31, according to lawyers for the groups.

Kate Folmar, a spokesperson for Secretary of State Debra Bowen, said Bowen would not comment on a pending case, but that state law requires campaign finance to be available online for 10 years.