Richard Raddon, the director of the Los Angeles Film Festival who has been at the center of controversy ever since it was revealed almost two weeks ago that he had contributed $1,500 to the campaign to ban gay marriage in California, resigned from his post over the weekend.
The nonprofit arts organization Film Independent sponsors both the Los Angeles Film Festival, held in May, and the popular Independent Spirit awards. Raddon is a member of the Mormon Church, which actively called on its congregants to work for the passage of Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. It has been estimated that Mormons gave more than $20 million in support of the recently passed ballot measure.
After Raddon's contribution was made public online, Film Independent was swamped with criticism from "No on 8" supporters both inside and outside the organization. Within days, Raddon offered to step down as festival director, but the board, which includes Don Cheadle, Forest Whitaker, Lionsgate President Tom Ortenberg and Fox Searchlight President Peter Rice, gave him a unanimous vote of confidence.
Yet, the anti-Raddon bile continued to bubble in the blogosphere, and according to one Film Independent board member, "No on 8" supporters also berated Raddon personally via phone calls and e-mails. The recriminations ultimately proved too much, and when Raddon offered to resign again, this time the board accepted.
In a statement, Raddon said, "I have always held the belief that all people, no matter race, religion or sexual orientation, are entitled to equal rights. As many know, I consider myself a devout and faithful Mormon. I prefer to keep the details around my contribution through my church a private matter. But I am profoundly sorry for the negative attention that my actions have drawn to Film Independent and for the hurt and pain that is being experienced in the GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender] community."
Raddon's support for Proposition 8 has sparked debate within both the gay community and Hollywood, as many publicly worry about punishing people for free speech, even speech they deemed hateful, and his departure has already provoked ambivalence.
"I'm personally saddened by the outcome," said Film Independent board member Bill Condon, the writer-director of "Dreamgirls." "Someone has lost his job and possibly his livelihood because of privately held religious beliefs. I think the organization was ready to tough this out, but Rich ultimately decided it wasn't worth the cost. I'm not sure he was right."
Ever since the passage of Proposition 8, liberal Hollywood has been debating whether and how to publicly punish those who supported the controversial amendment to the state constitution. Scott Eckern, the director of the nonprofit California Musical Theatre in Sacramento, recently resigned amid a flurry of condemnation from prominent theater artists. There have also been calls for boycotts of the Cinemark theater chain, whose chief executive, Alan Stock, donated $9,999 to "Yes on 8."
Activists have also called for pulling "Milk," the film about slain gay activist Harvey Milk, which opens in limited release today, from Cinemark screens. A representative for "Milk's" distributor, Focus Features, said that the studio had long ago committed to playing "Milk" in Cinemark houses in December, because of their successful exhibition of "Brokeback Mountain," the 2005 Oscar-winning film about two gay cowboys in love.