Brad Pitt, shown in May, has thrown his money and his name behind same-sex… (Guillaume Horcajuelo,…)
WASHINGTON — Gay marriage advocates fighting tightly contested ballot initiatives in four states are getting a lift from actor Brad Pitt, who is donating $100,000 to the Human Rights Campaign's National Marriage Fund and calling on others to match his efforts.
"It's unbelievable to me that people's lives and relationships are literally being voted on in a matter of days," Pitt wrote in an email going out Wednesday to supporters of the gay rights group. "In Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington, voters will go to the polls to decide if gay and lesbian couples — our friends and neighbors — are worthy of the same protections as everyone else."
Pitt's contribution represents a rare political donation by the actor, who has generally refrained from giving to candidates and political committees. But he has made an exception on the matter of gay marriage, a cause to which he has lent prominent support: In 2008, he donated $100,000 to the unsuccessful effort to defeat California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. This year, he starred with George Clooney in a Los Angeles production of the play "8," a dramatization of the legal fight over the ballot measure, now pending before the Supreme Court.
His involvement in the four current state ballot measures stems from his past work with Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, who sits on the board of Pitt's nonprofit housing foundation in New Orleans.
Gay marriage advocates are hoping the actor's backing will provide a last-minute jolt of energy as they seek to achieve a historic victory next week over opponents of same-sex marriage, who have consistently prevailed at the ballot box.
The ballot measures in Maine, Maryland and Washington seek to legalize gay marriage, while the Minnesota initiative would ban same-sex marriage. The Human Rights Campaign has already donated $5 million to the state campaigns. Pitt's donation will be split evenly among them, and organizers hope it will spur more giving.
"There's not one of our campaigns that doesn't have additional needs," Griffin said. "Getting an email from Brad is something that gets people's attention at a time when everyone's inbox is incredibly crowded."
In Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is helping to lead the effort to legalize gay marriage there, said the actor's help in the final stretch "will encourage a lot of people to dig a little deeper."
Gay marriage activists in Minnesota, where the marriage fight is shaping up to be the most expensive constitutional amendment campaign in state history, said Pitt's donation would help them raise $380,000 they need to stay on the air through election day.
"It makes a huge difference for us," said Richard Carlbom, campaign manager of Minnesotans United for All Families. "Every dollar counts. Without this kind of money right at the end, we would have to slow down."
Still, Pitt's support may also be fodder for the National Organization for Marriage, which supported Proposition 8 in California and is helping to finance the opposition to gay marriage in the four states. The Washington, D.C.-based group is seeking to raise $1 million, warning that it could be outspent by what it calls President Obama's "billion-dollar campaign apparatus, Hollywood celebrity pals, and rich gay 'marriage' elites."