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Prop 8’s proponents facing fundraising woe as Supreme Court hears their case

Marriage equality Prop 8 Prop 8 trial Supreme Court

By Jacob Combs

ProtectMarriage.com, the legal group representing the Prop 8 proponents before the Supreme Court this spring, is experiencing a significant shortage of funds and faces an uncertain future, Reuters reported yesterday in a fascinating and revealing article.

The group suffered a deficit of $2 million at the end of 2011–the last year for which federal tax records are available and the third in which the group operated with a negative cash flow–and ProtectMarriage.com attorney Andy Pugno says his organization needs $700,000 to cover the cost’s of this years Supreme Court case.  From the Reuters piece:

“‘Unless the pace of donations starts to pick up right away, we could soon be forced over a financial cliff,’ ProtectMarriage.com said in an email to donors earlier this month.

“ProtectMarriage.com’s lead outside counsel, Charles Cooper, has not stopped work on the Supreme Court case, although he declined to comment on financial arrangements with clients.”

As the article points out, it’s not just the proponents of Prop 8 who are facing fundraising shortfalls: opponents of marriage equality across the country are facing similar difficulties.  Proponents of equal marriage rights outspent opponents during the Washington referendum campaign last year nearly tenfold ($12.6 million to $2.8 million), a marked turnaround from 2008, when supporters of Prop 8 in California raised almost $40 million.

In one remarkable statistic, the Reuters article points out that nearly $2.7 million of donations in support of Prop 8 came from the state of Utah.  This year, there were four donations from Utah in the Washington campaign, for a grand total of $197.50.  In 2008, the Mormon Church, which is based in Utah, was a significant backer of Prop 8; since then, however, the church has modulated its rhetoric on gay rights (to a certain extent) and largely backed out of its involvement in anti-gay political movements.

ProtectMarriage.com’s Pugno believes marriage equality-opponents’ cashflow problems are a result of donors feeling tapped out.  “I don’t detect a decrease in enthusiasm,” he told Reuters. “What I detect is a certain degree of fatigue after having to essentially fight this issue non-stop since 2004, when the mayor in San Francisco started issuing marriage licenses.”

While donor fatigue could very well be contributing in part to the downtown in fundraising for anti-equality groups, it seems just as likely that activists on that side of the issue are simply accepting the tide of changing public opinion in the United States.  For them, it simply might not be worth it to continue to throw resources against at an issue which is looks to be moving towards a much speedier resolution than either side could have imagined four years ago.

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