California’s marriage defenders coming up short

Marriage | Angela Lu

California’s marriage defenders coming up short

United States Supreme Court building in Washington

Ahead of the Supreme Court case over California’s Proposition 8, a ruling that could change the nation’s laws about same-sex marriage, traditional marriage proponents are facing financial struggles. 

After raising money year after year to continue supporting Prop 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, traditional marriage coalition now finds itself $700,000 short of the money it needs to cover its litigation costs, according to federal tax records found by Reuters. 

"Unless the pace of donations starts to pick up right away, we could soon be forced over a financial cliff," said in an email to donors earlier this month. 

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Reuters found that by the end of 2011, had a deficit of $2 million, which the group said had been repaid by the end of last year., the official legal defense fund for Prop 8, did not return calls for this story.

While gay rights activists claim the decrease in funding represents a lack of support for traditional marriage, believes convictions have remained strong.

"I don't detect a decrease in enthusiasm," attorney Andrew Pugno told Reuters. "What I detect is a certain degree of fatigue after having to essentially fight this issue non-stop since 2004, when the mayor in San Francisco started issuing marriage licenses."

Then-Mayor Gavin Newsom unilaterally decided to allow gay couples to wed despite Prop 22, a voter-approved proposition in 2000 that recognized marriage as between a man and a women. Although the California Supreme Court voided Newsom’s action, in 2008 it ruled marriage bans unconstitutional, essentially legalizing same-sex marriage in the state. then launched a campaign to pass Prop 8, which used similar wording as Prop. 22. The coalition raised $40 million, matching the finances of its opponents, and helped spread the word with ads, high-profile politicians, and religious organizations. Seven million Californians voted for Prop 8, passing it by nearly 5 percentage points.

Since then, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the proposition unconstitutional, which propelled the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. It will be heard in conjunction with a challenge to the national Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which has support from a different legal defense fund and has not seen a drop in financial support.

Beyond’s battle in California, traditional marriage proponents in other states have been outspent and beaten by gay activists in the past four ballot measures. In Washington state, traditional marriage supporters raised $2.8 million compared to the $12.6 million raised by gay marriage advocates. 

Financial support from Mormons has dropped significantly, as church members have eased their stance on homosexuality to improve their image in the gay community. While Utahans donated $2.7 million for Prop 8, they donated less than $200 to support Washington’s ballot measure.

The Supreme Court case could overturn state bans against same-sex marriage, although the court could also avoid addressing the constitutional right to marriage by saying states should decide. 

“Simply put, defining marriage to include same-sex couples is not required by the U.S. Constitution and Prop 8 doesn’t violate it,” Pugno said in a statement. “By passing Prop 8, the people of California only exercised their reserved sovereign power to amend their Constitution.”

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