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Calif. marriage amendment supporters take fundraising lead on strength of big donations

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)–After trailing in fundraising by $3 million, supporters of a proposed California marriage amendment have taken the lead over opponents, thanks in part to a series of gifts totaling nearly $2 million.

The news is somewhat surprising, considering that on the national level, homosexual activist organizations historically have out-fundraised opponents on similar ballot initiatives by wide margins of upwards of two-to-one to three-to-one.

The latest tally on the Los Angeles Times website — which was posted Aug. 19 and is pulled from a slew of data on the California secretary of state’s website — has supporters of the proposal, known as Proposition 8, leading by nearly $400,000, $8.1 million to $7.7 million. Just over one week earlier, opponents led, $7.3 million to $4.3 million.

The proposal would reverse the California Supreme Court’s May decision legalizing “gay marriage.”

The good news for supporters comes as Proposition 8 officials push for both in-state and out-of-state donations. Fundraising is critical for both sides because television advertising across the state — with its many media markets — is very expensive.

“We’re doing quite well,” Jennifer Kerns, spokeswoman for ProtectMarriage.com, the main organization supporting Proposition 8, told Baptist Press. “We have supporters who are very passionate about this issue and we have been working very hard to bring together the grassroots efforts with the fundraising effort with the media effort. So what you’re beginning to see is a culmination of the efforts we’ve been laying the foundation for.”

But the news comes with a caveat. Neither side has had to report donations under $5,000 since July 31, the most recent deadline for campaigns to report publicly donations of all sizes. Kerns knows the fundraising is far from over and the other side still might be ahead if all donations were made public. She believes there is a “very real possibility” supporters of Proposition 8 will be out-fundraised by a wide margin.

“What we’re hearing is that they’re still — despite the numbers that are posted — out-raising us by a bit,” she said, noting that some political analysts believe the fundraising for each side could top $15 million. “It will be an extremely expensive race on both sides.”

Supporters of Proposition 8 took the fundraising lead on the strength of a $1 million donation to ProtectMarriage.com from the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization. Knights of Columbus previously gave $250,000. The fundraising boost also was aided by a pair of $450,000 donations by John M. Templeton Jr. — the son of the late philanthropist — who gave one donation to Protect Marriage.com and another donation to the National Organization for Marriage, which is running advertisements supporting the proposed amendment.

Despite the recent financial boost, Proposition 8 officials feel like they’re the underdog, Kerns said. Several recent polls have showed the amendment trailing by a slight margin.

“The opposition has the majority party [Democrats] in support of them in the state of California,” she said. “They certainly have the majority of elected officials behind them. Hollywood has some interest in supporting their efforts. They’ve had a couple of fundraisers down in L.A. And just recently opponents saw the attorney general in California hand them a quasi-victory in terms of their ballot title and summary.”

California Attorney General Jerry Brown changed the ballot title and summary — the exact language voters see on the ballot — so that the summary now says the amendment would “eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.” Previously, the summary said the amendment would result in only “marriage between a man and a woman” being “valid or recognized.” Prop 8 supporters fear that the new ballot title and summary will cost them votes.

About 41 percent of donations to supporters of Proposition 8 have come from out of state, compared to nearly 44 percent of donations for opponents that have come from out of state.

Donations to the effort to pass Proposition 8 can be made online at ProtectMarriage.com.

“It’s still an extremely tight race,” Kerns said. “We need all the resources we can get from not only across the state of California but across the nation. That’s because so much of what happens in California often progresses out to the rest of the country. This is certainly no exception.”

Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June passed a resolution urging Southern Baptists in California to work and vote for passage of the amendment and for all Southern Baptists and other Christians to pray for its passage. The resolution passed nearly unanimously.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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