Gay marriage activists raise $13 million for ballot battles

Posted on 26 Jan 2006 at 10:38pm
By Robert Tanner

The 2004 election campaigns that ultimately banned same-sex marriages in 13 states were funded by a mix of national groups, churches and individuals, with ban supporters narrowly outraising opponents and total contributions breaking $13 million, according to a new analysis of state-level fundraising.

Supporters of the state constitutional amendments raised $6.8 million for ballot committees; opponents raised $6.5 million, according to the study by The Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonpartisan research organization in Helena, Mont. The single largest block of givers were advocates of gay and lesbian rights, donating more than $3 million.

Conservative organizations affiliated with a network called the Arlington Group gave nearly $2 million, the report found. Churches also invested heavily, contributing $1.9 million, overwhelmingly in favor of bans on same-sex marriage.

Despite the nearly even split of the $13.3 million raised by ballot committees, the amendments passed overwhelmingly, sometimes by as much as a 3-to-1 ratio. The closest vote, in Oregon, passed with 57 percent in favor of a ban and 43 percent against.

The two sides together spent more than $2 million in each of several battleground states, including Michigan, Oregon and Ohio. But much less went into campaigns elsewhere, with under $100,000 spent in a half-dozen states, and less than $10,000 total in Mississippi and North Dakota.

The fight over gay marriages isn’t over. Texas voters in November approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, though Maine voters rejected a conservative push to repeal a new law that outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Efforts have begun to put same-sex bans before voters in at least seven more states, according to the report. “There was a coordinated effort to bring this issue to the ballot in a number of states,” said research director Sue O’Connell.

Conservative groups affiliated with the Arlington Group included Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, whose leaders had been outspoken against gay and lesbian marriages after Massachusetts’ high court found that the state constitution allowed same-sex marriages.

Among the big-spending advocates of gay and lesbian rights were the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.
In all, 19 states have passed constitutional amendments outlawing same-sex marriage. Only one state Connecticut has enacted a law legalizing civil unions without a court order.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of January 27, 2006.

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