As same-sex marriages became legal in California on June 16, conservative churches vowed to fight it and are spearheading passage of Proposition 8 which would change the state constitution to recognize it.
Same-sex marriage is a controversial issue, but here's a principle that shouldn't be controversial.
Political engagement is a public act.
If you participate in the process -- by volunteering your time or walking precincts or giving money -- you are involving yourself directly in politics. And politics is a contact support. People can get mad at you, criticize you, even hold your political opinions against you.
But that's not how opponents of same-sex marriage in California see things.
They think politics should be something that's practiced inside a protective bubble, with screens disguising your identity, so that there are no costs or risks to engagement with the process. Presumably, someone should always be nearby to offer you a pillow and a warm glass of milk.
That, at least, is the case they are making in court.
Fortunately, so far they are getting nowhere.
A judge this week turned down a legal request by same-sex marriage opponents -- and specifically backers of Prop 8, the successful initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California -- to keep the identities of all their donors secret.
They claim that the fact that political donations are disclosd -- you can find the information on the California Secretary of State's web site -- subjects donors to retribution.
Whatever you think of same-sex marriage, you should worry about this legal case, which amounts to an attack on democracy. Voters, to make informed decisions, need to know the identity of donors to both sides of a campaign.
Disclosure also provides an important check on corruption. If a person is violently or unlawfully attacked for a political action, the attacker shoud be prosecuted. But there's been no evidence presented of that sort of thing taking place here.
What same-sex marriage opponents are trying to do is shield themselves from public scorn or boycotts for their position. Which is to say they are trying to shield themselves from democracy.
Unfortunately, the case will be appealed, and backers of the case think they may eventually win in a U.S. Supreme Court that is seen as favoring conservative causes, particularly in matters of campaign finance.
Of course, there's nothing conservative about undermining the American traditions of democratic participation, disclosure and fair play.