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Proposition 8 foes ahead in poll, but behind in money race
San Francisco--The last two months leading up to the vote on Proposition 8, which would amend California’s constitution to bar same-sex marriage, is seeing a flurry of activity that leaves activists’ heads spinning on both sides of the issue.
Polls show that the new ballot wording, changed in July by state Attorney General Jerry Brown to show that it would remove an existing right of same-sex couples to marry, caused a drop in support for the amendment.
The latest Field Poll last week shows 55 percent against the amendment, 38 in favor. The numbers were 51 to 42 in July. However, pro-gay advocates warn that such polls often underestimate the support for anti-gay initiatives, and that the amendment’s opponents need a further increase of at least five percent.
This could come from television advertising, which the pro-gay side began airing this week. Both sides promise to blanket the airwaves until November 4, spending millions of dollars.
While the pro-gay side initially had an advantage in fundraising, the anti-gay side has now edged ahead.
Supporters of Prop. 8 have raised $17.8 million, while opponents only have $12.4 million.
While much of the money for the anti-gays is coming from churches like the Mormons or religious-affiliated groups like the Knight of Columbus, a Catholic social organization, the pro-gay side is seeing donations from big-name celebrities.
Brad Pitt donated $100,000 to the cause, as did director Stephen Spielberg and his wife, actress Kate Capshaw.
San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom headed to New York on September 25 to raise money to oppose the amendment. He and New York Gov. David Paterson were headlining the $5,000-a-head fundraiser.
However, some of the biggest gay names in show business are notably absent from donation reports.
Ellen DeGeneres and Portia DiRossi, who were just married in California, made headlines with their nuptials. The publicity surrounding their marriage, talked about at length on DeGeneres’ talk show, is a great boost to the campaign to defeat Prop. 8.
Neither woman, however, has donated any money to the cause.
Nor has Rosie O’Donnell, who was wed in San Francisco in 2004. Her marriage was one of thousands later nullified by the California Supreme Court.
Elton John and Melissa Etheridge, two of the best-known LGBT people in popular music, have also not donated, nor have directors Gus Van Sant, Joel Schumacher and Bryan Singer, or producers Greg Berlanti of Brothers and Sisters or Marc Cherry of Desperate Housewives.
Will and Grace creator Max Muchnick did donate, and was joined by super-producer David Geffen.
One of the largest individual donations in the campaign came from David Maltz of Cleveland, who donated $500,000 to defeat the amendment.
While previous ban amendment attempts in other states were, in part, efforts to bring out conservative voters to support George W. Bush’s reelection campaign, an increase in voters for Democratic contender Barack Obama might actually hinder efforts to shoot down the amendment.
“There’s no question that African-American and Latino voters are among our strongest supporters,” Frank Schubert, campaign manager for Yes on 8, told the New York Times. “And to the extent that they are motivated to get to the polls, whether by this issue or by Barack Obama, it helps us.”
Pro-gay advocates are trying to counter that effect by holding casual events in restaurants in predominantly black neighborhoods.
“This is black people talking to black people,” said Ron Buckmire, the president of the Barbara Jordan/Bayard Rustin Coalition, an organization for LGBT people of color in Los Angeles. “We’re saying, ‘Gay people are black and black people are gay. And if you are voting conservative on an anti-gay ballot measure, you are hurting the black community.’ ”
Marriage ban amendments are also on the ballot in Florida and Arizona, where a similar measure was defeated two years ago, the only time one has lost. A measure to bar gays and lesbians from adoption is on the Arkansas ballot, and one to repeal a local equal rights law will be considered by voters in the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck.
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