Halloween came early this year in California. But instead of treats, some Californians got a very nasty trick. Actually, a host of tricks. No, these were not the typical childish pranks like soap on the windows or toilet paper in the trees. These tricks came in the mail.

Last week, some businesses, individuals, and nonprofit organizations supporting the fight against California’s bigoted Proposition 8 received letters in the mail from the so-called ProtectMarriage.com, a coalition of ghouls and goblins who are responsible for the original trick — the nasty Proposition 8 itself. The letter threatened to publish the names of these supporters as against “traditional marriage.” But wait, they did offer recipients of these letter one way to save themselves from the shame of being outed as opponents of Proposition 8. All they had to do was give a “like amount” to ProtectMarriage.com. Here’s the key part of the letter:

The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to ProtectMarriage.com but have given to Equality California will be published. … It is only fair for Proposition 8 supporters to know which companies and organizations oppose traditional marriage.

This blatant attempt at extortion is not only shameful and mean-spirited, it’s downright laughable. If ProtectMarriage.com was aware of the laws in California around ballot measure work (guess its hard when you are intellectually and financially headquartered in Utah), they would know that donors to ballot measure campaigns are already subject to disclosure. And not by scary rightwing blackmail artists, but by the California Secretary of State.

While nonprofit organizations, particularly those fighting for civil rights issues, generally take pride in providing anonymity to their donors, nonprofits fighting for ballot measures in California long ago lost this right to anonymous speech. Perhaps somebody should tell the ProtectMarriage.com coalition. The fact is that most nonprofits in California have generally accepted (grudgingly) the reality of publicizing donors, recognizing the requirement as the price advocates must pay to work on ballot measures in the state. For years, these groups have disclosed the name, address, occupation, and employer of donors whose contributions are used to support ballot measure work. This information is generally used by reporters to provide statistics about who is backing the ballot measure and, more broadly, to ensure public confidence in the ballot system. Unfortunately, the ProtectMarriage.com coalition chose to use it to threaten donors and use scare tactics to help pass Proposition 8.

ProtectMarriage.com’s actions are shameful. Even worse, they are futile since most of the donors to Equality California would proudly tell you that they are staunchly opposed to Proposition 8. Furthermore, anyone interested in knowing who supported Equality California and its ballot measure committee – Equality for All, No on 8 – just contact the California Secretary of State and check out the organization’s electronically filed forms. You don’t have to wait for the ProtectMarriage.com coalition to carry out its silly threat. And you thought Halloween was for children.

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