Nat'l Organization for Marriage v. Walsh

U.S. COURT OF APPEALS, SECOND CIRCUIT
Election Law

New York Law Journal

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Judge Peter Hall

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) advocates against same-sex marriage. Its 2010 action sought judgment that New York Election Law §14-100.1, defining "political committee," violated the First Amendment. NOM claimed its advocacy could render it a "political committee" under §14-100.1 such that its failure to comply with certain state laws would subject it to liability. Vacating district court's dismissal of NOM's action as unripe for adjudication, Second Circuit found that as in Vermont Right to Life Committee v. Sorrell, NOM faced a "credible threat" that the law would be enforced against it, "chill[ing]" it "from proceeding with its speech." That alone made NOM's complaint ripe. Other factors also counseled against abstention. Section 14-100.1's "political committee" designation appears self-executing. NOM asserted it satisfies §14-100.1's elements to merit designation. It was disingenuous for defendants to assert that New York might not enforce §14-100.1 against NOM when the statute applies to NOM's activities, and when defendants' counsel stated that the New York Board of Elections regulates some 11,000 "political committees." Thus, NOM presented a live controversy ripe for adjudication, and Second Circuit remanded suit.

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