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Gay marriage opponents running out of cash ahead of Supreme Court hearing

Wednesday, January 30, 2013
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SAN FRANCISCO — ProtectMarriage.com, the principal advocacy group backing California’s Proposition 8, a 2008 voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, is suffering serious fundraising shortfalls, according to their attorney, Andrew Pugno.

Federal tax records showed a $2 million deficit in its legal fund at the end of 2011 — the third year in a row that expenses exceeded donations.

The group said late Tuesday that it has since covered the 2011 shortfall, but according to Pugno, it is still $700,000 short in fundraising for covering its expenses for defending the marriage ban before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Andrew Pugno

In an interview published Tuesday by Reuters, Pugno said that fundraising for ProtectMarriage.com has never been easy. However, he said he does not think changing attitudes are the problem.

“I don’t detect a decrease in enthusiasm,” he said. “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.”

But many legal analysts and equal rights advocates think that the fundraising drop-off is a result of donor fatigue, the continued rise in public support for same-sex marriage, and the softening of some major gay marriage opponents, including the Mormon Church.

In an email to donors earlier this month the group said, “Unless the pace of donations starts to pick up right away, we could soon be forced over a financial cliff.”

Fred Karger, a former political consultant who ran for the GOP presidential nomination last year, has been highly critical of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), an early backer of Protectmarraige.com.

Since 2008, Karger has led a concerted effort to make public the secretive fundraising efforts of NOM and other marriage equality opponents. Karger said that he thinks that both individuals and institutions opposed to same-sex marriage are fearful of being associated with the cause, and this may be causing them to reconsider their financial support.

Karger said he had noticed early on that tremendous financial support for ProtectMarriage.com during the initial push for Prop 8 was coming from the Mormon Church.

According to freelance journalist Stephanie Mencimer, writing for backpage.com:

Karger found Mormons everywhere in the Prop 8 campaign: as actors in the TV ads, as volunteers, organizers, and political consultants. Just as intriguing, he would discover eventually, the group that had done the lion’s share of the work to get Prop 8 on the ballot to begin with, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), also had deep ties to the Mormon Church—and the church itself had been engaged in a campaign to block gay marriage across the nation for more than a decade.

Reuters reported that while the image-conscious Mormon church was one of the most visible Prop 8 supporters, once the church came under fire from LGBT advocacy groups and their allies, Mormon fundraising to oppose same-sex marriage plummeted.

Now, the possibility that the Supreme Court could strike down same-sex marriage bans has created problems for donors who don’t want to waste their money, Pugno said. But donors would be energized, he added, if ProtectMarriage.com wins the case.

“I think our support would be strengthened by the assurance to donors that their vote would matter,” Pugno said.

The Court is set to hear arguments in both the Proposition 8 case and a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Rulings in both cases are expected by the end of June.

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