Karen Ocamb

Prop. 8 Opponents Worried about the Economy

Filed By Karen Ocamb | September 20, 2008 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Brad Pitt, Bruce Cohen, Chad Griffin, David Bohnett, Ellen DeGeneres, gay marriage, Geoff Kors, Human Rights Campaign, John Gile, LGBT politics, marriage equality, Mayor Gavin Newsom, Melissa Etheridge, No On 8, Ron Burkle, Rosie O'Donnell, same-sex marriage


IMG_0586.JPGThe nation's economic crisis is causing grave concern among LGBT activists fighting Prop 8, the initiative on the California ballot this November that would overturn the right of same sex couples to marry.

"With the economy in so much trouble, we are concerned about the impact on our fundraising since so much money is coming from small donors," says Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California (EQCA) and a leader in the No on 8/Equality for All coalition. "It will take an extraordinary effort by all of the organizations and donors in order for us to fully fund the campaign."

A rally Saturday at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center's Village at Ed Gould Plaza stressed the need for volunteers and money for No on 8 commercials. Center CEO Lorri Jean told a crowd of about 100 that more money than ever has been raised in the history of a fight against an antigay initiative - $11 million. But supporters of Prop 8 have raised more - $16 million and "we have to do a lot of heavy lifting."

California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, both of whom may run for governor in 2010, spoke at the rally.

gov.pngGaramendi told the crowd that California is a state that values full equality. He told a story of how a "crusty old rancher" approached him and said, "I just don't get it. No g-damn government is going to tell us how to live our lives. We all have the right to marry. I'm going to vote No on Prop 8."

Equality for all, Garamendi said, "is a message for all Californians" and "it's time to end the kind of foolishness we've seen for the last eight years." Pledging to contribute some of his own money, Garmanedi told the crowd that it is important "to dig deep" and "see that Prop 8 goes down to defeat."

IMG_0582.JPGVillaraigosa, whom Lorri Jean noted stood with the LGBT community "long before the public polls and the courts," also stressed the importance of full equality.

Villaraigosa said:

"This city stands for the idea that when one of us is denied civil human rights, we are all denied those human rights....Marrying the person you love is basic to who we are. [Those who oppose marriage equality] reflect a different era. But the hands of time only go forward....So the idea that same sex couples can't marry - it's ludicrous. It's a throwback to an era of hatred and divisiveness....The entire city will come behind the effort to defeat Prop 8. We're on the right side of history....The government can't interfere with the fundamental right of happiness....[The people behind Prop 8] are all about the culture wars that divide us...[putting] on the head of a pin all the things that make us different."

And, Villaraigosa said, "I've got a whole list of people I'll be calling to raise money for [fighting] Prop. 8."

Despite upcoming No on 8 celebrity fundraisers and the very public contributions from straight actor Brad Pitt, who donated $100,000 as a "challenge" to the entertainment community, WordPerfect founder Bruce Bastian's $1 million (made through the Human Rights Campaign, which has contributed an additional estimated $1.5 million) and GeoCities founder David Bohnett's $600,000, most of the money given to the fight against the measure has come from small donors, according to a review of the political action committees listed on the California Secretary of State's website. EQCA, which has an annual budget of $1.5 million, is the largest overall contributor, having raised around $4.5 million to fight the measure.

As of Sept. 19, Kors estimates that the No on 8 campaign has raised an estimated $11 million, compared to an estimated $18 million raised by the antigay Yes on 8 campaign.

To date, the Knights of Columbus is the single largest contributor supporting passage of the constitutional amendment, giving $1,275,000 to Yes on 8, with the National Organization for Marriage giving over $941,000, according to Californians Against Hate, which is monitoring Yes on 8 contributions. Their largest single donor so far is John Templeton, Chairman and President of the John Templeton Foundation, who has contributed $900,000. Proponents of the initiative also have a vast network of socially conservative churches promising to contribute.

Though final tallies of all donors will not be made public until the end of October, the No on 8 campaign and Californians Against Hate both tracked an influx of funds to the Yes on 8 campaign immediately after the announcement of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as John McCain's vice presidential running mate on the Republican ticket. From Sept. 1 to Sept. 10, the Yes on 8 campaign raised $5 million in mostly $1000 contributions.

Kors is also concerned that contributors might become complacent after looking at the latest Field Poll which indicates that 55% of likely voters oppose Prop 8, while only 38% support it.

Kors says:

"The Field Poll is encouraging. However, we know from other states that many, many people -- as high as 12% in one election -- who intend to vote for antigay measures often do not tell pollsters their true intention. Add that to the 10% undecided, and the lead shown in the poll would be more than wiped away. With the other side launching on unprecedented ad campaign, we cannot rest for one minute or we risk losing this election and having our right to marry eliminated by the voters."

Yes on 8 supporters concur that the swing voters matter. Karen England, campaign manager for Yes on Prop. 8, said in an email solicitation:

"Polls can be skewed, depending upon how questions are phrased, and we know that polling for marriage amendments historically underreport the level of true support...There are still a significant number of undecided voters in this race. It is our job to educate and inform these voters about the consequences of destroying traditional marriage...Our nation depends upon our commitment and activism."

As of Sept. 15, the names of LGBT celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O'Donnell and Melissa Etheridge - who have all been very public about their relationship - have not appeared on any No on 8 PACs on the Secretary of State's website. Additionally, DeGeneres and new wife Portia de Rossi are slated to throw a celebrity-filled fundraiser for Yes on Prop 2 - another initiative supporting animal rights.

(Some people argue that what Ellen has done on her show and her wedding on the cover of People magazine has done more for marriage equality than a simple monetary donation. Similar arguments could be made for Melissa and Rosie.)

Kors says:

"We were thrilled when Ellen's Mom made a donation in honor of Ellen and Portia's wedding and offered to send an email to EQCA members asking them to join her. Ellen's discussion of their marriage on her show and her visibility on this will have a tremendous impact this November. Ellen's singular ability to move people on this issue, and her continued willingness to use that ability, is truly appreciated."

But, adds West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran, who is also well known for his fundraising prowess as president of the board of Equality California - "To those who are given much, much is expected" - quoting an old Hebrew proverb.

Political strategist Chad Griffin was instrumental in encouraging Brad Pitt, with whom he has worked on other political campaigns, to donate to the
Californians Against Discrimination - No on 8
PAC set up by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Hererra to encourage the straight community to contribute.

Griffin says:

"This is the first time our constitution is being used to eliminate a right of a minority. We have to defeat Prop. 8 in order to prevent a small group of [antigay] activists from changing the California Constitution to eliminate a right the Supreme Court said is a fundamental right for all people. It is so important to win here to set an example for other states and he nation on this issue. So many people would be impacted negatively were this initiative to pass - It's one of the most important battles in this country.

We can win - but we have to really match their funding and small groups fo out of state and some in state have made this a priority and are spending significant amounts of money. For someone like Brad Pitt - who is not a member of our community but is a great ally and understands our issues- to make such a generous contribution sets an example for the entertainment industry to follow."

In fact, Griffin says, a big push is coming up, led by Oscar-winning producer Bruce Cohen and John Gile, former executive director for Project Angel Food. Next Thursday, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Hererra will be the honored guests at a fundraiser in New York City. And in mid-October, straight billionaire businessman Ron Burkle will host a high-powered celebrity fundraiser at his famous Beverly Hills estate, Green Acres. (Information is on the No on 8 - Californians Against Eliminating Basic Rights website.)


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Karen, thanks for keeping us in the loop about this. I think it's great that straight supporters like Brad Pitt are doing so much for the cause. I also agree with John Duran. Yes, Ellen's discussion of her wedding on her show is good PR. But that PR needs to be backed with fiscal support, too.

I agree that the publicity, and more importantly, the human face, that Ellen has put on same sex marriage is invaluable. However, I'm unaware that this is an either/or situation. I suppose if it was, I'd prefer the publicity. But Ellen has more money than she could ever spend comfortably in a single lifetime.

And now, learning that she's putting on the fundraiser for animal rights, I find it especially galling
that she hasn't done anything monetary for No on 8. It would have been simple enough to make the event a benefit for both.

Great reporting, Karen!

I have to say I'm a little torn about the Ellen issue. I think she is doing worlds of good with the publicity she gives our causes (from hate crimes to marriage equality to homophobic politicians). I also think a financial contribution would be a strong statement (like Rory said, at least throw another fundraiser).

I guess I'm just torn about holding someone like Ellen to this standard of never "doing enough" for our community when she almost lost her career (when she originally came out on her sitcom) and continues to advocate vocally for us. I would rather have her talking about LGBT issues on her show than money any day, but I don't understand why she can't give both... For now, I’m still looking at all the good she does for us.

I take your point, Waymon. But it seems to me that given as much as Ellen is treasuring her marriage, and the whole - before, during, and after process and hubub - that she would want others to have that experience, too.

I'm not especially predisposed to give her a lot of credit for her coming out, though. Many celebrities had come out long before she did, and it wasn't like anyone didn't actually know she was gay. Even the famous Time cover headline of her coming out read as a confirmation, not a revelation.

As for her show getting canceled, most people feel that it was because it got really sucky.

I agree that the show got cancelled because it lost its humor and got preachy (or got "sucky", as you call it- LOL).

About the issue of coming out- it's a different thing for it to be "known" by those who care (like our community) and a completely different thing to be vocal about it, like she is now. Look at other celebs like Queen Latifah, who the community knows is as gay as te dy is long, but average joe on the street has no clue. It's about visibility.

But I completely agree that she should give to the cause financially.

Yes, visibility is key. My point about Ellen prior to officially coming out was that she had a pretty good indication that doing so wouldn't negatively effect her career. Again, Time magazine just confirmed her coming out, saying, "Yep, I'm Gay"; not 'you're never going to believe this... !' ;-)

It's my sense that Queen Latifah isn't viewed as gay nearly as widely as Ellen was outside of the community, prior to coming out.

Gays should give $ to this rather than Obama.

I agree with Eva Young, but I'd go a step further.

This month, as tens of thousands of working people were losing their jobs, being denied good health care, being evicted from their homes and being mauled in a war of imperial aggression in the Middle East, Obama, the Wall Street pet, and McCain the senescent war maker and bigot crossed the bounds of decency.

Instead of donating money to organizations housing and feeding the homeless and to organizations combating attacks on GLBT marriage rights they continued to raise money to finance their race to see who can be the lesser bigot, the lesser war maker, the lesser union buster and the lesser evil.

Their actions, which are a better indicator of what they’ll do than their ‘promises’, point to their broad agreement on bailing out the rich, pandering to bigots and continuing their illegal war of aggression in the Middle East. For all their lack of substantive differences they might as well just toss a coin and end this farce. The only thing we can be sure of is that no matter which one wins, we lose.

We’re still way behind in raising money in California and we should demand that both campaigns donate $10 million dollars or so the No on 8 effort and similar efforts in Arizona and Florida. Since both candidates raise money in our communities and since both are pigheaded religious opponents of same sex marriage (or pretend to be, which is even worse) and repeat their bigoted opposition endlessly to pander to christer bigots this is a way to see who’d really the lesser bigot.

Given the similarities in their Party’s votes on DOMA, DADT, gutting ENDA, and ditching the Hate Crime bill and other LGBT issues it’s simply partisan hyperbole to claim that Obama is better than McCain or that McCain is better than Obama. They and their Party’s have virtually identical voting records on these issues and those records put both parties in the bigot column.

We have our own movement to build and trying to figure out which is the lesser bigot is an absurd and pointless exercise.

If Obama doesn't get elected in November, you won't have to worry about having money to donate to future causes.

A McCain-Palin administration will finish the job of ruining this country and eviscerate you tenous rights at the same time.

Thanks to all for this discussion.

Not to sound too hyperbolic - but this fight feels in some ways like the early days of the AIDS crisis when we had to take care of our own, with the sterling help of some very forward-thinking straight allies.

At it's core, this issue is about the majority voting to take away the existing right of a minority - and this right just happens to be (this time) about what the California Supreme Court called this minority's "fundamental right to marry." In that context, it is important for all of us to step up, in whatever way is most feasible for the individual.

The crazy irony, of course, is how much our marriages are helping the state economy, which is also critical in this terrible economic period. To vote to hurt the economy for the sake of someone's personal religious belief is just incredible.

With as much money as Ellen and Portia have and all of the legal protections their marriage just gave them, they can easily afford to shell out a few hundred thousand to fight the amendment. After all, how much did that wedding cost? They should send the same amount to the Prop 8 folks.

After following this money story for a while, I find it interesting that Republicans keep on selling the idea to low-information voters that people just can't donate to political causes any more and what an awful situation we're in there, blah blah blah.

The sheer amount of money in this situation really should have been reined in somehow.

"About the issue of coming out- it's a different thing for it to be "known" by those who care (like our community)... "

Hey, Clay Aiken just came out. Do you think it will effect his career now that people know? [heheheh]