Donations critical to the success of Calif. marriage amendment

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — People living outside of California can't vote on the much-publicized constitutional marriage amendment known as Proposition 8, but they can donate financially, and thus far both sides of the issue have seen donations pour in from non-residents.

And, with opponents of Proposition 8 apparently outgiving supporters by a significant margin, Proposition 8 backers want to get the word out that out-of-state donations are legal — and needed. If passed in November, the amendment would protect the natural definition of marriage, thus overturning the California Supreme Court's decision legalizing "gay marriage."

So far, opponents have raised $7.3 million, supporters $4.3 million, according to a tabulation on the Los Angeles Times website. The two sides are trying not only to out-raise each other, but also to collect enough cash to run television ads in the weeks just before the election, when the price escalates. The Times quoted one consultant as saying a one-week TV ad campaign this fall would cost $5 million.

"We'll take any donation — $5, $15, $25, $100. We want to hear from everybody. Obviously, the eyes of the nation and the eyes of the world are on the state of California right now, and they're waiting and they're watching to see what California does," Jennifer Kerns, a spokeswoman for ProtectMarriage.com, the group behind Proposition 8, told Baptist Press.

Chris Clark, pastor of East Clairemont Southern Baptist Church in San Diego and a Prop 8 supporter, said people outside of California have reason to be involved in the effort. (Donations can be made online at ProtectMarriage.com)

"If this amendment loses in California, it's only going to be a matter of time before your own state has to deal with this issue," Clark said. "It will come to you, regardless of whether your state has a constitutional amendment or not. Even if your state has a constitutional amendment, it's very likely to be addressed at the federal level.... If you just look the other way, this issue is going to come find you."

Proposition 8 opponents lead supporters in donations of $100,000 or more. Opponents have 16 such donations, supporters nine, according to the Times' tally. The two sides are roughly even when examining five-figure donations between $10,000 and $99,999.

In fact, the top three donations are from opponents. Bruce Bastian, a Utah man who is the co-founder of WordPerfect software, gave a little over $1 million. Philanthropist and Democratic donor David Maltz of Cleveland, Ohio, gave $1 million, while philanthropist David Bohnett of Beverly Hills, Calif., gave $600,000. Bastian and Bohnett are openly homosexual. Another large donation of $350,000 came from the Gill Action Fund, headed by Tim Gill, an open homosexual who founded the Quark Inc. software company. The Gill Action Fund has offices in Colorado and Washington, D.C. Opponents also received $250,000 from the California Teachers' association, and $25,000 from the Democratic National Committee.

Supporters of Proposition 8 knew that the other side would receive some big donations, but they were particularly irked by a $250,000 donation to opponents made by a public utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

"They are a heavily regulated monopoly in the state of California who can make decisions to support particular causes with no regard to their customer base or potential boycott," Kerns said. "A PG&E customer can't decide to pick up and go to another power company."

On the other side, the American Family Association, based in Mississippi, has given $500,000 to supporters, while Focus on the Family, based in Colorado, has donated $420,000. Christian philanthropist Howard Ahmanson Jr. of California gave $400,000 and the Knights of Columbus, headquartered in Connecticut, donated $250,000. Elsa Prince of Holland, Mich., gave $200,000.

Homosexual activists are trying their hands at a boycott of their own, targeting two hotels in San Diego: the Manchester Grand Hyatt and the Grand Del Mar. The hotels' owner, Doug Manchester, donated $125,000 to Prop 8 supporters. Homosexual activists have protested outside the Grand Hyatt — drawing local media attention — and have called on their constituents to take their business elsewhere.

Some observers, though, say the boycotting strategy isn't aimed so much at hurting the hotels' business, but at preventing other big-money donors from giving to the pro-Proposition 8 campaign.

Asked if she would label it an intimidation tactic, Kerns replied, "absolutely."

"These are the same people who have tried to go to the court system time and time again to get their way instead of having a fair day with the voters," Kerns said. "These are people who will intimidate people in the public square. These are the same people who claim they are about tolerance. It's OK if you speak out, as long as you only agree with what they're saying. We're very proud of our donors -- many who in those circumstances have continued to come forward and stand for what they believe in. We feel we're exactly where we need to be at this point in the campaign."

Clark, the San Diego pastor, said the boycott should motivate supporters of Proposition 8 to open their wallets.

"If that insults anyone, if that offends anyone — that such boycotts are going on — they should give," he said.

Clark rejected any argument that the issue is political. Pastors in the state, he said, must get involved.

"It's not a political issue, it's a biblical issue, because the institution of marriage was instituted by God long before any government was created," Clark said. "Furthermore, it's going to directly affect our ability to proclaim the full Gospel, to preach the entire counsel of God."

The California Supreme Court's May decision overturned a law that had been approved by 61 percent of voters in 2000. Proposition 8 would place nearly identical language in the state constitution.