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Gay donors thrilled by Obama gay marriage stance

May 09, 2012|By Joseph Tanfani, Matea Gold and Melanie Mason
  • The T-shirt of an activist during a gay rights rally against Proposition 8 at the El Pueblo de Los Angeles park.
The T-shirt of an activist during a gay rights rally against Proposition… (Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty…)

WASHINGTON -- President Obama’s decision to embrace gay marriage may add a political complication to his reelection bid, but it is also unleashing a wave of new financial support from gay and lesbian donors who were already major backers of his candidacy.

“Today has focused attention and enthusiasm in an almost cathartic way,” said Andrew Tobias, treasurer of the Democratic National Committee and a top bundler for Obama. “Within minutes, people were calling with their credit cards. They’re thrilled.”

One donor pledged $10,000 and decided at the last minute to fly with his partner from Los Angeles to attend an Obama fundraiser in New York on Monday headlined by the singer Ricky Martin, Tobias said.

“I think for people who were holding back, who were disappointed in the president’s position, that this would remove a barrier,” said Jeff Soref, an Obama fundraiser and a former chairman of the LGBT caucus at the DNC. He raised about $120,000 for Obama for an event in New York last year.

“There were people who thought this position on marriage equality was a litmus test and they were either holding back, or were very modest in their contributions,” Soref said. “It’s silly to pretend that it didn’t make a difference to people. I think it did…. People weren’t clear where the president stood. Now they are.”

Obama’s decision is likely to trigger major demand for tickets to a June 6 fundraising LGBT gala in Los Angeles featuring the singer Pink.

“My sense is that everyone is very aware that we have had an ally in the White House, a president who understands the needs and frustrations in the community, but there has been frustration at his evolution on an issue which to many people seems such a no-brainer if you believe in the equality of Americans,” said HBO executive Michael Lombardo, who is helping organize the event. “I think this means maybe you put a little bit more in the check in that you’re writing.”

Lombardo said he started crying as he watched Obama lay out his position Wednesday to ABC’s Robin Roberts, caught off guard by the emotion it provoked.

“I had thought it was important as a political issue, but didn’t really fully appreciate the personal impact about being denied that right has until you hear the leader of this country stand up and say, ‘It’s the right thing,’” he said. “It affected me profoundly.”

The announcement also left in tears Washington attorney Karen K. Dixon, who, along with her partner, Dr. Nan Schaffer, hosted an LGBT-focused 40-person dinner for the president at their home in February that raised $1.4 million for the campaign.

“I don’t have words to express how I feel, beyond incredibly grateful for President Obama’s courage and leadership,” Dixon said.

Dixon said she had not encountered any top gay donors who were withholding money from the campaign because of Obama’s earlier opposition to gay marriage. But she said she “certainly hopes” anyone who has held back will now open his or her wallet.

“If there are individuals that haven’t yet donated, then now’s the time,” Dixon said.

joe.tanfani@latimes.com

matea.gold@latimes.com

melanie.mason@latimes.com

Original source: Gay donors thrilled by Obama gay marriage stance

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