SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)–After sounding the alarm two weeks ago, opponents of a proposed California constitutional marriage amendment have outraised supporters by a wide margin, and fundraising in the coming days could determine which side gets more ads on television between now and Nov. 4 — and wins.
Proposition 8 opponents have raised $6.8 million since Oct. 7, when officials with the No on 8 campaign held a press call with reporters acknowledging they were trailing in polls and urging their constituents to donate. Prop 8 supporters have raised $1.2 million since that day.
For the month of October, opponents have brought in $8.3 million — much of it from Hollywood, including a $100,000 donation from comedian Ellen DeGeneres, $50,000 from George Lucas of “Star Wars” fame and another $50,000 from his company Lucasfilm — while opponents have raised $1.5 million. Hollywood added even more to the coffers Oct. 21, with Melissa Etheridge and Mary J. Blige singing at a fundraiser for No on 8 in Beverly Hills that raised more than $4 million (not included yet in the aforementioned state totals). Meanwhile, in a controversial move, the California Teachers Association also donated $1 million.
The fundraising data comes from the California secretary of state’s website, which lists only donations of $1,000 or larger, as required by law.
If passed, Prop 8 would overturn the California Supreme Court’s May decision that legalized “gay marriage.”
“We frankly have not raised the same amount in the past two weeks that they have,” Chip White, spokesperson for the Yes on 8, ProtectMarriage.com campaign, told Baptist Press. ” … If their current course continues, they will catch up and surpass us.”
The gap in recent donations threatens to halt the momentum of Prop 8, which led in the two most recent public opinion polls and led in fundraising through the end of September. That better-than-expected fundraising allowed supporters of Prop 8 to flood the air with TV ads, giving them the lead in polls after trailing all summer.
Frank Schubert, campaign manager of ProtectMarriage.com, sent an e-mail to supporters Oct. 20 asking for emergency donations. The plea comes as the campaign rolls out a new TV ad featuring a Massachusetts husband and wife whose son was read a book about “gay marriage” (titled “King and King”) in class. “Gay marriage” is legal in Massachusetts.
“Our media buyers have determined that the No on 8 campaign will be able to spend $1.4 million more on television ads this week than our campaign can afford to spend,” Schubert wrote. “… [I]f we are outspent by $1.4 million this week, our lead will vanish and we will be in grave danger of losing the campaign. Everything we have worked for is at risk if we can’t raise more money to air this powerful new ad telling voters about what is already happening in Massachusetts where gay marriage is legal.”
The latest poll shows Prop 8 leading, but not by as wide of a margin as an earlier poll. The SurveyUSA Oct. 17 poll, conducted for several California TV stations, shows Prop 8 leading 48-45 percent among likely voters. An Oct. 6 SurveyUSA poll showed the amendment winning, 47-42 percent.
DeGeneres and Lucas aren’t the only big name or notable donors to the No on 8 campaign since Oct. 7. Others include:
— Steve Bing, a producer, who pledged $500,000 as long as it is matched by other donors, according to various media reports.
— John August, screenwriter for the “Charlie’s Angels” movies, gave $50,000.
— Monica Rosenthal, an actress best known as playing Robert’s wife Amy in “Everybody Loves Raymond,” gave $25,000.
— Suze Orman, the TV financial expert and an open lesbian, gave $10,000.
— T.R. Knight, an actor who stars in “Grey’s Anatomy,” gave $50,000.
— Ilene Chaiken, executive producer of Showtime’s “The L Word,” gave $10,000.
— The California Nurses Association gave $40,000.
— The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest homosexual activist organization, gave $500,000, while its California chapter gave $300,000.
The public debate in California in recent days has focused on whether “gay marriage” legalization will impact what students in public schools learn. The latest ad by the Yes on 8 campaign features Robb and Robin Wirthlin of Lexington, Mass. “After Massachusetts legalized gay marriage,” Robin Wirthlin says, “our son came home and told us the school taught him that boys can marry other boys. He’s in second grade!” Robb adds, “We tried to stop public schools from teaching children about gay marriage, but the court said we had no right to object or to pull him out of class.” The scene then shift to a woman in a classroom, who says, “It’s already happened in Massachusetts. Gay marriage will be taught in our schools unless we vote yes on Proposition 8.”
It is not known how much money each side has raised in small donations. About two-thirds of the donations made to Prop 8 supporters through the end of September were $100 or less. Some of the largest donations, though, to both campaigns have come from out of state.
“We’ve got many, many folks who are giving to the Yes on 8 campaign who have never given to any other campaign before in their life, because they recognize the importance of preserving traditional marriage,” White said.
Columnist Maggie Gallagher, writing on a blog at NationalReview.com, said fundraising in the coming days is key.
“Can the pro-marriage forces raise enough money to keep message parity with the ACLU/HRC/Labor unions/Hollywood crowd?” she asked. “The next few days will tell.”
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.