Summit planners stingy with No on Prop 8 dollars
by Seth Hemmelgarn
With hundreds of LGBT marriage equality advocates expected to attend the Equality Summit in Los Angeles Saturday, January 24 it appears that more than half of those organizing the event failed to contribute to the No on Prop 8 campaign during last year's election.
And records show that the lead organizer of the summit contributed only $111.
Proposition 8 passed with 52 percent of the vote November 4, immediately halting same-sex nuptials that had been taking place since the state Supreme Court legalized such unions last May.
An analysis of data filed with the secretary of state's office indicates that 60 percent of the 57 members of the planning committee for this weekend's Equality Summit did not make any financial contributions to the efforts to defeat Prop 8 last year.
The summit, to be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, is meant as a gathering of community leaders and others committed to winning back marriage equality in California to share information and resources, and to plan next steps.
According to the state data, Oren Shepher, one of the committee's co-chairs, was among those who didn't contribute financially. But Shepher, who started the Facebook group Coalition for Equal Rights the day after Prop 8 passed, said he had contributed directly to the Gay and Lesbian Center of Los Angeles and to Equality California. EQCA didn't respond to a request to confirm Shepher's contribution and the Bay Area Reporter could not verify the LA center contribution.
It's not clear if Shepher had been involved in the campaign to defeat Prop 8 in any other way. When asked, he said, "Do you have any other questions? I'm not interested in talking about Prop 8. It's not, for me, what the summit is about. I'm more interested in moving on."
Shepher could not recall how much he contributed or when he made the donations.
Contributions to No on 8 under $100 currently are not posted on the secretary of state's Web site. That data should be available on the site after February 2.
No on 8 campaign officials pleaded for money numerous times in the weeks before Election Day, in part so that the campaign could buy television ad time. But even during the campaign, No on 8's ads were criticized by marriage equality supporters as largely ineffective because images of LGBT families were mostly excluded from the commercials.
Andrea Shorter, who spent months working to defeat Prop 8 through the group And Marriage for All and who's also a committee co-chair for the summit, said financial contributions weren't a requirement for being on the planning committee, and there were plenty of other ways that people may have contributed to the campaign that aren't immediately obvious by looking at the secretary of state's data. People may have made donations through spouses or in other ways, she said.
The secretary of state's data don't reflect any contributions from Shorter, but she said that she contributed $200. Shorter, who isn't married, also set up a wedding registry on EQCA's Web site where friends and family contributed to the No on 8 campaign.
Referring to the percentage of planning committee members who appear not to have made contributions, Shorter noted there are "a number of people coming from nonprofit communities that have been hit very hard in the economy, so that's been tough."
Committee member Jorge-Mario Cabrera, spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, didn't make a financial contribution.
In an e-mail, Cabrera wrote that as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, the amount of resources his organization can spend on any legislative proposal is limited, and the coalition also refrains from donating to specific campaigns "because we believe in the organizing model that promotes community responsibility and involvement."
Asked about why he didn't donate money to support No on 8 as an individual, Cabrera said he doesn't answer questions about his political affiliations or contributions.
Cabrera also wrote about how diverse the summit is likely to be. Along with organizations mainly concerned with same-sex marriage rights, the committee includes representatives from groups focused on overall civil rights, faith, l
"It is important that we take this opportunity to talk about where the LGBT movement is heading as far as coalition building is concerned," wrote Cabrera. "We are interested in working on ways to building ground-up leadership within the community so that awareness and tools that we can use on faith, gender, class, and multicultural issues is not just a matter of placing a person of color in a committee.
Committee co-chair Darnell Grisby acknowledged that he didn't make any monetary donations, but he said, "I put in sweat equity" by reaching out to communities of color during the campaign.
Despite all the work they've likely put in to organizing the summit, many committee members apparently are reluctant to talk about it. When asked for planners' contact information, Anne Marks, coordinator of the summit responded, "Not everyone on the planning committee has expressed comfort with talking to the media."
Marks contacted committee members about speaking with the Bay Area Reporter and a handful responded.
The secretary of state's data indicate Marks donated $111.11 during the campaign, but she said the correct figure is $161.11. Marks was Northern California deputy field director for No on 8 during the campaign.
Another look at report
Shortly after the polls closed on Election Night, the National Election Pool, a consortium of news organizations, including CNN, released exit poll data that indicated 70 percent of black voters supported Prop 8. The data immediately sparked controversy within the community, as many felt that blacks were being blamed for the measure's passage.
However, earlier this month, a report authored by Patrick Egan of New York University and Kenneth Sherrill of Hunter College-City University of New York estimated that black support for Prop 8 was actually in the range of 57 to 59 percent.
Since then, there's been discussion about whether those estimates, especially because of margins of error, were useful. The polling analysis will be part of this weekend's summit.
But Egan told the B.A.R. Tuesday, January 20, that the strength of the study is that it uses multiple data sources, including surveys and actual voting data from five counties in which two-thirds of the state's African Americans reside.
One estimate derived from that voting data put African American support for Prop 8 at 57 percent, plus or minus .8 percent. Another estimate generated using a slightly different technique put blacks' support at 59 percent, plus or minus 2.2 percent.
Egan said the margin of error for how African Americans voted on Prop 8 wasn't in the report because the point was not to come up with a specific number, but rather to show that, together, the six data sources they examined indicate the NEP's estimate that 70 percent of African Americans supported Prop 8 was overstated, and that the actual number was "probably much lower."
Questions have also been asked about the cost of the survey. Matt Foreman, director of the gay and lesbian and immigrant rights programs at the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund – the organization that commissioned the report – told the B.A.R. lang=EN in an e-mail, "We're not going to be more specific about the costs of commissioning this study beyond their being under $10,000."
For more information about the summit, visit http://www.eqca.org and click on "Events."