Contributions to Yes on 8 pouring in
by Seth Hemmelgarn
When it comes to raising money, supporters of Proposition 8 the anti-gay marriage initiative appear to be catching up to opponents of the measure, and they might be ahead. This would be a dramatic change from a couple weeks ago, when opponents led by millions of dollars.
Data filed with the secretary of state's office indicate ProtectMarriage.com, a group backing Prop 8, has raised at least $8.4 million. About $5.8 million of that has come since June 30, the end of the last reporting period.
Another group supporting the measure, the National Organization for Marriage-California, has raised almost $500,000 that doesn't appear to have been contributed to ProtectMarriage.com yet.
The data for opponents of Prop 8, led by No on 8 Equality for All, show at least approximately $6 million has come in during the same period, bringing its total to about $8.5 million. It's not clear if this includes all of the $1.6 million raised at an Equality California fundraiser earlier this month.
Prop 8 supporters got a boost last week when the Connecticut-based Knights of Columbus donated $1 million to ProtectMarriage.com, dwarfing what the group had already given.
In a mass e-mail titled "What we're up against" that was sent out Monday, August 18, Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, a member of the No on 8 coalition, noted the Knights' contribution and wrote, "We know what we're up against. Right-wing organizations that will stop at nothing to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry ... We need your help to stop them!"
"While we have been working hard to bring in amazing contributions from many generous donors, our momentum must continue. We have to meet our opponents' contributions dollar for dollar to win in November."
Kors urged people to contribute from $50 to $1,000 "and help us stay one step ahead of our opposition."
Before learning about the Knights of Columbus contribution, the Bay Area Reporter asked Steve Smith, senior campaign consultant to No on 8, about the amount of money Prop 8 supporters were raising.
In his e-mail response, Smith wrote, "The Yes on 8 campaign has said several times that they will raise $10 to $15 million to fund their campaign so these large contributions are certainly not surprising. We are well on our way to more than matching them on a dollar for dollar basis. We have a very aggressive fundraising campaign that has worked well."
He noted there have been thousands of small contributions from individuals, as well as large donations from sources such as corporations and unions.
"We expect that breadth of support to continue as we discuss the campaign issues with the voters. Californians don't want state law to be used to treat people differently. ... We are sure that will be confirmed on Election Day."
In a mass e-mail of its own, ProtectMarriage.com referred to the attorney general's choice of the ballot title of Prop 8 when they wrote, "In light of Jerry Brown's efforts to defeat Proposition 8, the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign is urging supporters to Fight Back!"
Backers of Prop 8 had tried in court to get the title and summary of the ballot changed from saying the measure would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry, but their efforts failed.
"... We will need to communicate very clearly to voters that Proposition 8 is about restoring marriage, not taking away 'rights' that never existed. And that means we need your financial support. Campaign donations are needed to produce fliers, yard signs, television ads and other campaign materials that will help ensure voters know that Proposition 8 is, plainly and simply, about restoring the definition of marriage that four judges in San Francisco have tried to re-write."
The message also calls for volunteers.
The state Supreme Court ruled in a 4-3 decision May 15 that same-sex couples have the right to marry in California. Couples began marrying June 16.
Patrick Korten, vice president of communications for the Knights of Columbus, told the B.A.R. , "California is one of the most important states of all when it comes to this sort of thing. We've been an important source of volunteers on campaigns like this all over the country."
Korten said the group is not an official Catholic Church organization, but he said Prop 8 is "pivotal to the Catholic community and to society in general."
"We hope that people look to this donation and are inspired by it and add to the resources available to pass this referendum," Korten said.
Richard Hardy, a retired doctor in San Jose, has contributed $1,000 to the Prop 8 campaign.
Hardy, who's 79 and has been married for 54 years, said he realizes there are same-sex couples who've been together for decades, but questions the level of commitment same-sex couples generally have.
"I believe very strongly in the protection of families in the United States, and ... the current status quo that we've had for hundreds of years," Hardy said. "I believe that marriage is for a man and a woman, not two men and two women."
Hardy said he heard about the campaign through the Mormon Church.
"We've been asked to support passage of this constitutional amendment through our monetary contributions and our involvement in the political process of going out and knocking on doors," he said.
David Alcocer, 41, and his partner of 12 years, Steven Thompson, have a different view. According to Alcocer, the couple has given a total of $2,000 to oppose the measure.
"I think it's important for voters to reaffirm the state Supreme Court decision and to make it clear that Californians aren't going to deny a basic right to people just because they happen to be gay," Alcocer, who lives in Oakland, wrote to the B.A.R. "The stakes are incredibly high. California voters will either lead the way for the rest of the country in expanding human rights or take a big step backwards."