Traditional marriage supporters who led California's campaign to ban same-sex marriage have been ordered by a federal judge to turn over their private e-mails, memos and other internal documents to lawyers seeking to overturn the ban.
U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker ruled on Thursday in favor of attorneys who filed a lawsuit on behalf of two homosexual couples against Proposition 8 – the state's constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Charles Cooper, lawyer for the Proposition 8 proponents, had argued last week that the discussions between campaign officials were meant to be private and that publicizing them would violate free speech rights and possibly subject the supporters to harassment, as reported by The Associated Press.
But Judge Walker was not convinced that providing the records would subject them to unbridled harassment or inhibit their political activities.
"The First Amendment qualified privilege proponents seek to invoke, unlike the attorney-client privilege, for example, is not an absolute bar against disclosure," Walker wrote in an 18-page order, according to AP. "Rather, the First Amendment qualified privilege requires a balancing of the plaintiffs' need for the information sought against proponents' constitutional interests in claiming the privilege."
The judge placed limits, however, saying the lawyers must cover only central issues and individuals when seeking information. Public access to the documents may also be restricted.
Andy Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, was disappointed by the ruling and said providing that level of information to "the losing side" would discourage others from using the ballot initiative process.
"It just seems like Alice in Wonderland for me, that we would get to a place that a consequence of winning an election is that you would have to open your play book," he said, according to AP.
Proposition 8 was passed by 52 percent of voters last November, overruling an earlier state high court decision that had legalized marriage for same-sex couples.
In addition to the lawsuit, Proposition 8 proponents may battle a 2010 ballot measure that seeks to repeal the amendment. Gay-rights group Love Honor Cherish filed ballot language last week. The proposed language states, "Marriage is between only two persons and shall not be restricted on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion."