Calif. gay marriage ban becomes big money race

Sunday, October 26, 2008 | 4:33 p.m. CDT; updated 9:54 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 29, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO — At least 64,000 people from all 50 states and more than 20 other countries have given money to support or oppose a ban on same-sex marriage in California, reflecting broad interest in a race that some consider second in national importance only to the presidential election.

Ten days before the vote on Proposition 8, campaign finance records show that total contributions for and against the measure have surpassed $60 million, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

That would be a record nationally for a ballot initiative based on a social rather than economic issue, campaign finance experts say. It also eclipses the combined total of $33 million spent in the 24 states where similar measures have been put to voters since 2004.

If approved by California voters, Proposition 8 would overturn a state Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriages by changing the state constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman.

Campaign committees formed to back or battle the amendment were close in fundraising as of Oct. 25, the AP's analysis found. Supporters had raised at least $28.2 million; opponents had taken in $32.3 million, closing a fundraising gap that had them $8 million behind a month ago.

The figures for each side are actually higher because small cash donations made since Sept. 30 had not yet been reported.

The measure is likely to attract more money than any race other than the billion-dollar presidential election, judging by campaign-finance data from other high-profile contests. The closest appears to be the U.S. Senate race in Minnesota, at $35 million.

"I'm surprised how much they are spending because I would have thought 90 percent of the people would have made up their minds on this issue," said Robert Stern, president of the nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies. "But if this is a close race, that undecided 10 percent will decide the election. Every dollar, in a sense, counts."

The money pouring into the 13 committees promoting or challenging the measure has come from prominent religious conservatives and gay rights activists, Hollywood actors and moguls, teachers and CEOs.

Individuals who identified themselves as retirees and homemakers accounted for the most donations, giving more than $11 million. Self-identified lawyers gave $2.3 million.

On the yes side, the Knights of Columbus, based in New Haven, Conn., is the measure's largest single contributor so far, having given $1.4 million. Other top contributors to the Yes on 8 campaign were Irvine banking heir Howard Ahmanson Jr.'s Fieldstead and Co. foundation ($1.1 million); John Templeton Jr., son of the late Bryn Mawr, Pa., investor John Templeton ($900,000); the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association ($500,000), and Elsa Prince, ($450,000), mother of Blackwater founder Erik Prince.

Knights of Columbus spokesman Patrick Korten said the Catholic fraternal organization has backed amendments limiting marriage to a man and a woman in every state where they have appeared. But none of the group's other contributions has come close to what the Knights are putting into the Proposition 8 race.

"California is the thousand-pound gorilla when it comes to laws of this sort," Korten said. "California is the big one, so everybody is involved in this who cares about the issue. You can't not be."

On the no side, wealthy individuals making million-dollar gifts account for all but one of the gay marriage ban's top six opponents. The California Teachers Association, the state's largest teachers union, is first, having pledged $1.3 million to fight the initiative.

Giving $1 million or more were retired New York hedge fund manager Robert W. Wilson; GeoCities founder David Bohnett; Jon Stryker, an heir to a Michigan media supplies company; WordPerfect software founder and Utah resident Bruce Bastian; and philanthropist David Maltz of Cleveland.

"I think this is a civil liberties issue, and California tends to be a bellwether state in this country and what happens there often spreads around," said Wilson, a longtime patron of the New York Public Library and the Whitney Museum of American Art. "I don't see any argument in favor of barring queer marriage."

The contest also has drawn contributions from notable names in government, business and entertainment, most opposing the measure. Among them: Hollywood producer Stephen Bing ($500,000); actor Brad Pitt ($100,000); producer George Lucas and Lucas Films ($100,000 combined); director Steven Spielberg and his wife, actress Kate Capshaw ($100,000); talk show host Ellen DeGeneres ($100,000); House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's campaign fund ($10,000); audio systems inventor Ray Dolby and his wife, Dagmar ($135,000); and personal finance guru Suze Orman ($10,000).

Nearly three-quarters of the total contributions have been from individuals or institutions based in California, with the rest from out of state or from 90 international donors, representing areas from England to Italy and Thailand to Taiwan. Nearly all international contributors opposed the measure.

The measure's opponents received a greater share of their money from outside the state or country - 33 percent compared with the 19 percent of out-of-state contributions reported by the initiative's backers.

Apart from California, the states whose residents and institutions have invested the most in the contest are New York ($2.5 million), Michigan ($1.6 million), Utah (1.5 million) and Connecticut ($1.4 million). Connecticut is about to become the third U.S. state to sanction same-sex marriage.

Campaign spending on Proposition 8 dwarfs the total of $11.3 million channeled into gay marriage measures this year in Florida and Arizona.

"This is the ball game. There is no other battle than this one, with all due respect to my colleagues in Arizona and Florida," said Frank Schubert, the professional campaign manager for Yes on 8. "If you are concerned about marriage and how it gets to be defined, this is where it will be decided."


Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


daisy core October 26, 2008 | 11:25 p.m.

I think same-sex marriage is OK. Same-sex couples are just as committed in their romantic relationships as heterosexual couples, say researchers who have studied the quality of adult relationships and healthy development. I have a friend getting married with the same sex under the help of the site **BiLoves dotcom** (a site for exploring sexuality, coming out,enjoying life, etc. And there are about 100 members per day and they are very active). And they live happily and wonderfully.If you come here frequently, you may find what you are looking easily and quickly.

(Report Comment)
joe shmo October 27, 2008 | 10:08 a.m.

Can anyone please explain to me why the government is involved in something as personal as marriage anyway?!?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 27, 2008 | 10:29 a.m.

joe shmo because it goes against the Christian principles this very country was founded upon.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz October 27, 2008 | 10:34 a.m.

Not everyone in this country is Christian, nor were all of the founders Christian. I don't believe any of our founders, Christian or not, had marriage licenses either. Those mostly didn't occur until after the Civil War to prevent mixed-race marriages.

(Report Comment)
joe shmo October 27, 2008 | 11:16 a.m.

Charles, I respectfully disagree. This country was founded on religious toleration - the pilgrims were leaving religious persecution to find a safe haven for their own beliefs. George Washington once said, "...they may be from Asia, Africa, or Europe; they may be Mohammedans, Jews, or Christians of any sect, or they may be Atheists." Benjamin Franklin was a Deist. The further you impose religious beliefs and values on the masses, the further you stray from the intent of our founding fathers.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 27, 2008 | 11:48 a.m.

Well joe shmo obviously alot of politicians and citizens disagree with you or there would have been a change to these laws long ago.

(Report Comment)
joe shmo October 27, 2008 | 12:00 p.m.

I don't have a problem with others disagreeing with me, as long as they know that they are not basing their opinions on the intent of our founding fathers. Besides, if you are arguing the Christian view, it has been a LONG time since most any politician has taken the high road on most any issue. Sure they talk the talk (better than most anyone), but when it comes right down to it, few (if any) walk the walk. To clarify, my argument is not if gay marriage is right or wrong. My argument is that the government should have no say in it whatsoever.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 27, 2008 | 12:21 p.m.

joe shmo if they want to go get married they can go hire a lawyer to draw up all the legal paper work involved just like Heterosexual couples can as well in any civil union and have some ceremony or whatever it is called these days to exchange rings.

What it seems to me and alot of others are leaning this way as well is they want to be able to brag about it in the public eye which is offensive to alot of people.

(Report Comment)
joe shmo October 27, 2008 | 12:54 p.m.

They have every right to brag about whatever they want to brag about, offensive or not, and you have the same right. It’s called the First Amendment of the Constitution. If your issue is that the media makes a big deal about it, then that is a different argument all together.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz October 27, 2008 | 1:03 p.m.

Chuck, drawing up papers between gay partners does not engender the same rights that a marriage license does, especially at the federal level. Gay partners don't get Social Security survivor benefits, for one thing.

Everyone, gay and straight, should have a plain old civil union, essentially a contract between the two parties, recognized by the state. If you want a marriage, go to a church of your choosing.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 27, 2008 | 1:15 p.m.

joe shmo I think the thing is people who do not approve of that kind of behaviors do not like it thrown into their faces nor into the faces of their children. That is their rights as well.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz October 27, 2008 | 1:41 p.m.

No one has a right to not be offended or subjected to behavior they don't like.

I know at least two gay couples and have never seen them act in such a manner, especially around my children.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 27, 2008 | 1:45 p.m.

Protecting the concept of traditional marriage as the union between a man and a woman is essential for the survival of our species and society.
As homosexuality is advocated and encouraged in our society, our society will change and so too will the future growth of our civilization.
When hedonism, homosexual activity and other human-willed/self-centered, selfish behaviors increase, the quality of life for those who behave within more conservative, nature-based, selfless, non-militant lives are threatened. So too are family values, parenting and sense of community diminished.
I find the following New York Times article interesting...
Of special concern is the statement:
“When you have laws that make homosexual marriage a protected class, then the government has a compelling interest to normalize that and must declare anything in opposition to that hate speech,”
--I personally don't care what you do behind closed doors, as long as its not illegal or causing pain and suffering. I prefer you not using your "free speech" to boast to me about your homosexual life or advocate its normalacy or why you think its a good alternative lifestyle. I also don't think the government should be in the "marriage" business. It should be Church business.
Live out of "wedlock" if you don't wish to comply.
There's a reason why there are external controls on human behavior. Afterall, we are unique animals with strong wills.
As for any legal "benefits" for those married vs. unmarried, I'll leave that to the attorneys to work out.

(Report Comment)
joe shmo October 27, 2008 | 3:39 p.m.

Charles: Actually, no. It doesn’t matter if you or others approve of the gay lifestyle. It is their choice. I don’t like other lifestyles, such as the Neo-Nazi marches either, but they have the right to congregate and spread their word just as Christians have the right to congregate and spread their word. Furthermore, it is a parent’s job to shelter their children how they see fit, not the governments.
Ray: Essential? No. That comment alone shows you believe that if the government makes it legal, everyone who is straight will just turn gay because they can, then society will fail and the human race will go extinct. I for one will remain straight. (Yes, I am happily married to a woman) You are right about the gay lifestyle not promoting the increase of our population but last time I checked, the world wasn’t in need of more people. As far as homosexuality threatening your family values and parenting, that is just naive. It is a parent’s job to raise their children and promote family values as they see fit. Socrates, Julius Caesar, Michelangelo, Plato, Donatello, Leonardo DaVinci and others all had homosexual relationships; maybe you should rally to remove these historic figures from textbooks because it threatens your family values. The fact is you feel it threatens society and even civilization because it threatens you personally. And again, I don’t really care if you like homosexuality or not, my original point and the only point I am really trying to make is it is not the governments business.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 27, 2008 | 4:06 p.m.

If the government is to over see the rights of all citizens then it is the government's right to propose/accept or to not propose/deny any and all legislation in this and all matters like this.

Maybe that is not right n your eyes per say but it is how the Supreme Court is seeing it.

You cannot have it both ways my friend unless the government says that they will allow it to be as such.

(Report Comment)
joe shmo October 27, 2008 | 4:31 p.m.

You are correct. Unfortunately the government has its hands in everything. The way I see it, it is the government’s job to protect the borders and deliver my mail, that is about it. I don't want socialized health care, welfare, handouts, social security, the list goes on.
I guess I just want more freedom. Smaller government, lower taxes, more freedom, Libertarian.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 27, 2008 | 4:46 p.m.

Apparently alot of citizens though do not agree with you or the Libertarian views.

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.