Juan and Ken Ahonen-Jover

Everybody wants our money and time!

Filed By Juan and Ken Ahonen-Jover | June 30, 2008 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics
Tags: California marriage equality, eQualityGiving, presidency

Like most of you, we are often asked to give money and volunteer our time for "the election of our lifetime." Since we have an organization dedicated to give strategically, we spend lots of time thinking about what are the priorities for giving both time and money. Naturally, these priorities will be different for each person depending on their budget and their own personal objectives.

Our list of priorities may surprise many people. Before issuing them, we had a thoughtful discussion about them with major and mega donors.

But before you continue reading... what would you rate as the top two priorities? Why?

We rate as the top two priorities: 1) to win the presidency, and 2) to preserve marriage in California. But what about the races in Congress? In the States? Of course, those are important (and we interview and endorse candidates who are pro-equality and are running for Congress or in a statewide elections - check our endorsed pro-equality candidates). And, of course, you should give your time and money to those races and the other priorities that we have identified.

But here is the rationale for our two top priorities:

  • We believe that there is a very high probability that the Democratic Party will not only keep the majority in both houses of Congress, but actually will widen that majority. However, to win the presidency will be a tough battle. And the presidency is very important to ensure that there would be no presidential vetoes to equality legislation and to ensure that the new appointments to the Supreme Court and federal courts are fair minded.
  • The second priority, in our view, needs to be to preserve marriage equality in California. We can do it... but it will require lots of money and lots of volunteers. A victory there will send a tremendous message to politicians and judges that the people of California do not want to enshrine discrimination in their constitution and that at least they tolerate (if not embrace) marriage equality. A defeat will set us back many years. If we do not fight and finance this cause, who will?

Check our complete analysis for top giving priorities for 2008. In addition, note the discussion on the timing of your giving. Your money can have two or three times the acquisition value if given now versus in September. Once you are comfortable with your own priorities, give immediately and all at once, if you can. Same thing about volunteering your time... start early... let the campaigns know that they can count on you!

The difficult part about prioritizing is that you will have to say no to many good causes. But if we succeed with the top priorities that we list, many things will fall into place, and we will be able to achieve legal equality for our community faster than we imagined in the past.

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I appreciate the thought you've put in to making your decisions. Personally, I always insist on including at least one local group or charity, either as a volunteer or a donor, because the community grassroots groups do so much to support those larger goals, but have a much harder time supporting themselves.

Frankly, I have to put the priority on local and state elections, then on Congress, then on the Presidency, and only then on California marriage.


I live in Kentucky. A couple may travel from KY to CA to marry, but they cease to be married, as far as the rights and obligations of marriage are concerned, as soon as they get off the plane at Standiford Field. Under the Kentucky Constitution, gay marriages and civil unions are banned and those consummated elsewhere are not recognized in any official form. The ability to marry in California doesn't do anyone any good here, until we are able to get rid of the odious 2004 amendment. That will be the work of years, but is possible.

That, my friends, requires good local and state candidates - we also need them to maintain our existing local protections, as well as passing state ENDA-type laws. Electing and re-electing them is Job 1, and I expect it's Job 1 in most Bible-belt states.

We fully appreciate the comments above and as our report indicates each donor needs to give and volunteer according to his or her own needs and priorities.

This said, we still believe in the importance of the presidency for our rights, even in Bible-belt states. In many of these states, it will take long time until we can pass ENDA or Hate Crimes. Half of our states do not provide any of the basic protections (for your state see: http://www.equalitygiving.org/States-of-Equality-and-Gay-Rights-Scorecard ). The fastest way to provide these protections is through federal legislation. We will have a Congress that will pass the required legislation. We need a president who will not veto it.

Why is California important even to residents of states with DOMAs? If we win in California, we send an important message to politicians and judges throughout the country: people can support civil marriage equality (and our commitment to fight for our rights). Then, very soon, you will see other states offering marriage equality and a significant proportion of the population covered with marriage. These married couples travel, and naturally, want to be treated as a married couple everywhere they go. This will bring the case to the US Supreme Court. So, we are in full circle... we need to win in California and we need the presidency so that we have the proper Supreme Court that will treat us as equal under the law and will rule that like with interracial marriage, all states need to provide marriage equality.

I would recommend that everyone who possibly can support the fight against both the California and Arizona amendments. A double victory would cast the efforts of the extreme Religious Right into the same role as the final screeches and wailings of the die-hard segregationalists of ages ago and re-frame the public mindset after the string of voctories by the Right in 2004. It would have a huge symbolic impact as a "turning of the tide"

Those are pretty good priorities, you two! They're both causes that need time and money devoted to them.

But while I can respect your choice to support those causes above all others, I do think that this post also serves as a response to those who argue that marriage drains resources from the LGBT community and has put other, more important fights on the back-burner.

Maura.....Please remember that Florida also has a marriage amendment in the November election. That being said please allow me to alter your statement.

"A TRIPLE victory would cast the efforts of the extreme Religious Right into the same role as the final screeches and wailings of the die-hard segregationalists of ages ago and re-frame the public mindset after the string of victories by the Right in 2004. It would have a huge symbolic impact as a "turning of the tide."