|Kate Kendall, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of the groups leading the legal charge against Prop 8. Photo By Rex Wockner
Campaign disclosure reports made public on Feb. 2 have shown that donors gave more than $83 million to support or oppose Prop 8, the measure that wrote discrimination into the California Constitution and took away queer civil rights for legalized same-sex marriage in California. These new figures are surprisingly higher than originally published, revealing that during the final weeks before and just after the election on Nov. 4, businesses, churches, and individuals sank more than $28 million into the election regarding same-sex marriage.
The numbers clearly indicate that opponents of Prop 8 raised a little over $43 million last year and had a little more than $730,000 left over at the end of the year. Prop 8 proponents raised close to $40 million with about $983,000 left over at the end.
Before the latest figures were exposed, Prop 8 had already become the most expensive ballot measure on a social issue in the history of California. The anti-gay proposition passed by a mere 52 percent of the vote, and opponents of the measure are demanding the California Supreme Court overturn what they call unconstitutional and prejudiced.
The newest statistics have made known that the California Democratic party and Democratic politicians in general contributed heavily in the campaignâ€™s final days to defeat the anti-same-sex marriage ruling. Earlier the California Supreme Court had officially legalized same-sex marriage in June with 18,000 couples hitched.
Findings revealed that the Democratic State Central Committee contributed over $150,000, spending an additional $202,000 on mailers and other in-kind donations. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom spent $20,000 for the No on H8 campaign from the committee he had formed to examine the notion of running for Governor the next election. Apparently House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also gave a similar amount from her re-election coffers.
The newest report related that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (known also as the Mormons), which has been heavily criticized for strongly encouraging its supposedly religious members to support the politically based Prop 8, pumped nearly $190,000 in its efforts to get the initiative passed. More than half, amounting to $97,000, went to the staff of the Mormon Church in Utah, pumping up the Yes on 8 Campaign, according to the report. Another $21,000 was used for church buildings and equipment during the Yes on 8 Campaign. The rest of the money bought airline tickets, hotels, and food for church officials working in a political capacity.
The Mormon Church has argued that it in itself made no cash donations to Yes on 8, and that the funds simply came from individual parishioners. The Church neglected to reveal that higher-up church officials preached from their pulpits that their members had better mortgage their homes to contribute to the cause â€“ questioning their willingness to put their money on the line if they wanted to remain good Mormons. Meanwhile the California Fair Political Practices Commission has been busily investigating the Mormon Church for allegedly under-reporting its spending to abolish legalized same-sex marriage. The Church is arguing that it has followed all the rules regarding financing a political cause.
The latest reports have found that Focus on the Family - the rightwing, fundamentalist, evangelical Christian organization in Colorado, has contributed over $657,000 in cash and services towards removing queer civil rights in California, and amending the California Constitution to include outright discrimination against a minority group.
The latest study also lists approximately 530 small and late donors whose contributions in support of Prop 8 had not been made public until the Feb. 2 report came out.
Yes on 8 sponsors had tried to keep the names of their donors secret, claiming they feared their contributors would be unduly harassed. But a federal judge, U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr., on Thursday ruled that the donors had to be disclosed for the time being, saying the public has a right to know who is giving money to state ballot measures.
Unfortunately he also stated that two homophobic foundations, ProtectMarriage.com and the National Organization for Marriage, could go ahead with a lawsuit demanding the disclosed names be removed from the Secretary of Stateâ€™s website. Those two organizations claimed the disclosure was an invasion of privacy as well as intimidation.
They said they feared death threats and boycotting of businesses. Another 1,600 people will be put at risk of harassment or reprisals when the post-election campaign finance reports are released on Monday, said Frank Schubert, co-manager of the Yes on 8 Campaign. The organizations have yet to state whether or not they will appeal.
Californians Against Hate, a queer rights group that has been listing online the names of Prop 8 contributors, argue that proponents of 8 are utter hypocrites, in that those very opponents of same-sex marriage had themselves been listing names, threatening boycotts against businesses that refused to donate to their campaign.
â€śClearly Californians, and people across the nation, are passionate about the issue of marriage equality, as evidenced by their willingness to put a record amount of money toward both sides of the Proposition 8 Campaign,â€ť Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, told Bay Times. â€śCalifornians do not take well to the idea that a fundamental right can be stripped away by a slim majority vote at the ballot box, and as a result the work to secure the freedom to marry for all couples continues with a new fervor.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s especially troubling that the Mormon Church played such a significant role in supporting Prop 8, because throughout our history, prejudice against various religious groups has led to discrimination and even persecution of religious minorities,â€ť Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors told Bay Times. â€śProp 8 is a radical and unprecedented change to the California Constitution that puts all Californians at risk.â€ť
Kors added, â€śUltimately Prop 8 opens the door for future majorities to change the Constitution to deny equal treatment to any group they donâ€™t like.â€ť.