Sara Havranek quit working five years ago after the birth of her first child. Since then, she said, she and her husband have had to be frugal. “Every cent we spend is carefully considered.”
But the Aliso Viejo couple consider Proposition 8 so important that they have donated $1,100 to support the initiative to ban same-sex marriage.
“Our faith is completely centered around the family. We believe the family is a divine institution,” Havranek said to explain the contribution.
Larry Maiman feels just as strongly that Proposition 8 is wrong for California.
“I’m a gay man who has been in a relationship for 19 years who got married [six] weeks ago,” he said, “and we’d like to stay married.”
The owner of Mani’s on Fairfax, a bakery and restaurant, Maiman said the economic crisis has hurt his business. He felt an urgent need to help defeat a proposed constitutional amendment he sees as limiting civil rights. He and his partner, Michael Browning, have given about $500 to fight it.
The campaigns for and against Proposition 8 have raised nearly $60 million so far, making the ballot measure campaign the most costly in the country this year. And contributions have dwarfed those of previous same-sex marriage initiatives. Between 2004 and 2006, 22 such measures were on ballots around the country, and donations to all of them combined totaled $31.4 million, according to the nonpartisan National Institute on Money in State Politics.
“All the battles that have taken place really have been building up to this,” said Edwin Bender, director the institute, based in Helena, Mont. “This is a defining moment.”
As of Friday, supporters of Proposition 8 had raised $27.5 million, with about 19% of the money coming from outside California. Opponents have raised $31.2 million, with 34% of the money coming from outside the state.
Although many initiatives are largely funded by parties with an economic interest in them, Proposition 8 contributors by and large have nothing to gain financially from the measure’s passage or defeat.
Many donors, like Havranek, cite religious beliefs, and Mormons have emerged as the largest source of money to the Yes-on-8 effort, contributing about 40% of its war chest, according to the campaign. Church leaders have urged members to contribute.
Primary contributors to the opposition have included celebrities, liberal groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, public employee unions and gay philanthropists.
Although many of the biggest donors on both sides would not discuss why they gave, those who did made clear how passionately they feel.
One large donor to the opposition is a former Mormon.
“They’re a church and in their name they have the name Jesus Christ. Can you imagine Jesus Christ doing something like this?” Bruce Bastian said. “There is nothing in Jesus’ teachings that justifies what the church is doing.”
Bastian, 60, is gay and lives in Orem, Utah. A founder of WordPerfect Software, he is one of five wealthy individuals who have given $1 million or more to defeat Proposition 8.
“To me this is the civil rights movement of the 21st century,” Bastian said. “How embarrassing is it now to look back at what we did to African Americans in the 19th century.”
From his base in Tupelo, Miss., Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Assn., said his group gave $500,000 to the Yes-on-8 campaign for moral reasons.
“We believe in the Bible, and the Bible teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman,” he said. “That is how the human race continues.”
Wildmon said he fears that if the initiative doesn’t pass, children will be taught about same-sex marriage in schools. And he worries that other things might follow.
“If you change the definition and have no moral standard, then honestly what is wrong with polygamy?” Wildmon asked. “On what basis do you deny three men getting married, or a man with five wives?”
Proposition 8’s opponents dismiss these ideas as fear mongering and say proponents are trying to avoid the direct issue of whether gays should be allowed to marry.
Another major proponent is Elsa Prince, a contributor to Republican causes and candidates including McCain. Prince, of Holland, Mich., gave $450,000 to support Proposition 8. She’s the mother of Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater Worldwide, the private firm that provides security in Iraq.
Mother and son sit on the board of a family foundation that donated $8 million in 2006-07 to Calvinist and other Christian groups involved in the Yes-on-8 effort, including $300,000 to Focus on the Family, on whose board she sits. Focus on the Family gave $450,000 to Proposition 8 and $1.35 million to the 22 same-sex marriage ban campaigns in 2004 and 2006.
“The homosexual activist movement, which has achieved virtually every goal and objective it set out to accomplish more than 50 years ago, is poised to administer a devastating and potentially fatal blow to the traditional family,” Focus founder James Dobson wrote in 2003.
On the flip side is Jon Stryker of Kalamazoo, Mich. He has given $1.06 million to defeat Proposition 8, after donating $950,000 to battle similar ballot measures in 2006.
A billionaire heir to a medical supply fortune, Stryker is a major Democratic donor, having given more than $2 million in Michigan since 2007 to boost Democratic candidates and $400,000 to a political action committee that assists gays running for office.
Another $1-million donor is David Maltz of Cleveland, a major Democratic donor.
“I’m contributing to No on 8 because it’s wrong to eliminate anyone’s fundamental rights and unfair to treat some people differently,” Maltz said in a statement. “I hope my contribution will encourage others to donate, get involved and help defeat this attack on families.”
The California Teachers Assn. has also entered the fray, spending $1.3 million -- more than any other single donor -- to defeat Proposition 8. The California arm of Service Employees International Union kicked in $500,000. Both unions are giving, they say, because their members support same-sex marriage.
“It pertains to our members,” said David Sanchez, president of the teachers’ union, which represents 340,000 public school teachers. “A lot of our members would like to marry.”
California law permits donors to give unlimited sums on ballot measures, opening the way for million-dollar donors. But both sides also raise large sums from small donors.
The Yes-on-8 campaign has been particularly adept at mining small donors, with 30% of its money coming from contributors giving $1,000 or less.
They include folks like Ruth and Irl Denniston. He is 80 but works as a contractor. She sells flowers from their Grass Valley home. The couple gave $100 to the Yes-on-8.
“I’m a Christian, and it is completely against God’s commandments,” she said. “If we don’t hold up God’s commandments in our country, what kind of country are we going to have?”
Maiman, the bakery owner, said he wishes he could have given more to defeat Proposition 8. “But I’m in the restaurant business and things are really difficult right now.”
Computer maker plans to donate $100,000 to fight Proposition 8. BUSINESS, C1