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Prop. 8 backers outraise rivals

Supporters of a gay marriage ban bring in $17.8 million. Foes' tally is $12.4 million.

September 23, 2008|Dan Morain and Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — The campaigns for and against Proposition 8 have raised a combined $30 million, with donations given in support of the proposed ban on gay marriage running considerably ahead of those to the opposition.

So far, the main group promoting the constitutional amendment, which would overturn a recent California Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, has raised $17.8 million. The main No-on-8 campaign has raised $12.4 million.

But the anti-Proposition 8 forces have announced high-profile donations in recent days. The entertainment industry is becoming more heavily involved, with director-producer Steven Spielberg and his wife, actress Kate Capshaw, announcing Monday that they were giving $100,000 to the No-on-8 effort. Their donation matched the $100,000 donated by actor Brad Pitt last week.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, whose 2004 decision to allow gays to marry in his city prompted the Supreme Court review that led to same-sex marriage becoming legal, is traveling to Manhattan on Thursday for a $5,000-per-person fundraiser cohosted by New York Gov. David Paterson.

Foes of Proposition 8 also announced Monday that they have started airing their first television ad, which will be shown in markets across the state from now until election day.

The weekly cost of a statewide television campaign intended to ensure that typical California viewers would see a spot seven to 10 times is about $3.5 million to $5 million.

Backers of Proposition 8 expect to start airing ads next week.

The overall cost of the Proposition 8 campaign won't come close to setting a record for initiative spending in California. The priciest measures focus on issues with economic consequences -- energy, taxation and gambling. The most costly to date was a 2006 measure that would have imposed an oil tax to pay for alternative energy projects. Advocates for and against the measure spent $154 million.

But Proposition 8 could be the most expensive measure focused on a social issue, said Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies and an expert on initiatives.

The proposition has taken on a national profile, with both sides raising millions from outside the state. The current law is almost certain to have national implications, since same-sex couples from around the country can come here to marry, and then mount challenges in their home states to have their marriages recognized.

In any race, the first ad is believed to be significant because commercials can start defining the issues for voters.

The anti-Proposition 8 spot could become particularly prominent because it is airing in a week when many new television shows are premiering. It also will air later this week around the time of the first presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, said campaign strategist Maggie Linden.

The ad features a gray-haired heterosexual couple who are making an appeal to fairness. Sam and Julia Thoron say in the ad that they've been married 46 years and have three adult children, one of whom is a lesbian. Soft music plays and a Thoron family picture appears.

"My wife and I never treated our children different, we never loved them any differently and the law shouldn't treat them differently either," Mr. Thoron, 69, says.

"If Proposition 8 passes, our gay daughter and thousands of our fellow Californians will lose the right to marry," Mrs. Thoron, 68, says.

Steve Smith, campaign manager for the No-on-8 campaign said the spot is designed to "frame the central issue in the campaign . . . [whether] Californians want to eliminate the fundamental right of marriage for same-sex couples." He called the Thorons "the perfect couple to talk to California voters" about it.

Frank Schubert, managing the Yes-on-8 campaign, called the ad "a blatant appeal to sympathy and emotion."

"I'm not surprised that they're using a heterosexual couple," Schubert said. "I don't think they want to show gay couples. I think they want to make gay marriage as, quote, normal, as possible. They want people to think gay marriage is completely normal, when it was created out of whole cloth by four judges."

Linden said future No-on-8 ads "most probably" will feature same-sex couples.

Proposition 8 would create a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and woman. It seeks to reverse a California Supreme Court decision issued earlier this year that overturned a 2000 initiative that had created a statute banning gay marriage.

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dan.morain@latimes.com

jessica.garrison@latimes.com

Times staff writer Tina Daunt contributed to this report.

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