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Calif. marriage amendment supporters have fundraising lead, but know it could evaporate

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)–With less than one month before voters go to the polls, supporters of a proposed California constitutional marriage amendment have built an impressive fundraising lead they hope will carry them to victory — although they’re bracing for a wave of donations to the opposition in the face of such good news.

ProtectMarriage.com reported Oct. 6 to the California secretary of state that it had raised $25.4 million this year and had $12.8 million in the bank as of Sept. 30. By contrast, opponents of the amendment, known as Proposition 8, had raised $22.6 million this year but had only $3 million in the bank. Some of the largest donations for both sides have come from out of state.

ProtectMarraige.com received so many donations — 62,000 — that it had trouble uploading the nearly 5,000-page document to the state computer. About two-thirds of the donations have been $100 or less.

The news drew cautious excitement from supporters — a public poll has them in the lead for the first time in more than four months — but calls for more donations from opponents. Supporters believe opponents of Prop 8 will receive considerably more money in the coming days, partly because the majority of big-money Hollywood opposes the amendment. Director Steven Spielberg and actor Brad Pitt each gave $100,000 to opponents. Big-name companies also have donated. Levi Strauss & Co. — the blue jeans maker — gave $25,000 to opponents, as did AT&T.

The amendment, if passed, would protect the natural definition of marriage, thereby reversing the May decision by the California Supreme Court legalizing “gay marriage.”

“We’re right on budget for our campaign, but we didn’t anticipate how much the other side would raise,” Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, which opposes Proposition 8, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The No on 8 campaign even took the unusual step of releasing its own internal poll showing the amendment leading, 47-43 percent, in the hopes of attracting donations. A public poll by SurveyUSA had the amendment leading 47-42 percent. “We are not matching them dollar for dollar, and that is slippage that we’ve got to stop,” Kors said on a media conference call, according to the Bay Area Reporter.

Chip White, a spokesperson for ProtectMarriage.com, told Baptist Press he expects the other side to see a flood of more money.

“They are using this news as a way to generate donations,” he said. “… This race is not over. This race won’t be over until Election Day.”

Supporters of the amendment trailed for months and took the lead in the latest polls apparently on the strength of their first television advertisement. They since have released their second TV advertisement, showing an elementary school girl arriving home from school and saying, “Mom, guess what I learned in school today. … I learned how a prince married a prince and I can marry a princess.” She then hands her mom a copy of the children’s book “King & King,” an illustrated story of a prince marrying a prince. Richard Peterson of the Pepperdine University School of Law then appears in the commercial and says, “Think it can’t happen? It’s already happened. When Massachusetts legalized gay marriage, schools began teaching second-graders that boys can marry boys. The courts ruled parents had no right to object.”

Opponents have objected to the ad’s assertion, but White says it is true. In fact, parents of an elementary school child in Lexington, Mass., did file suit in federal court after a teacher read a copy of “King & King” to the class. The parents, though, lost.

“If Proposition 8 does not pass, there will be real consequences — especially consequences for California’s public school children,” White said. “If the voters don’t overturn the decision by the four activist San Francisco-based judges, then California schoolchildren will be forced to learn there is no difference between same-sex marriage and traditional marriage.”

The first television ad showed San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom celebrating hours after the California Supreme Court’s ruling and saying about “gay marriage,” “The door’s wide open now. It’s gonna happen — whether you like it or not.” He came across as arrogant in the eyes of some people, and the advertisement uses his “whether you like it or not” phrase at the beginning and end of the ad.

Newsom told the San Francisco Chronicle that he took a weekend trip to Long Beach, where he saw the ad playing “day and night.”

“I watch that commercial and I just cringe,” he told the newspaper. “Candidly, I’m embarrassed by it. And it’s horrible because 30 million people have seen it.”

Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June passed a resolution urging Southern Baptists in California to work and vote for the amendment there and for all Southern Baptists and other Christians to pray for its passage. The resolution passed nearly unanimously. Additionally, in September the executive board of the California Southern Baptist Convention unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the amendment.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For more information about the California marriage amendment, or to learn how you can help it pass, visit ProtectMarriage.com.

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  • Michael Foust