The political strategist who ran California’s Prop 8 campaign expects more ballot fights over same-sex marriage in the wake of this week’s Supreme Court decisions, but he says activists will need to jolt their fundraising efforts to fund future statewide ballot campaigns.
Frank Schubert, president of Mission Public Affairs and political director for the National Organization for Marriage, says the high court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act should encourage gay marriage opponents to reengage and hopefully boost fundraising. But he admits that those trying to fight back same-sex marriage at the state level have been dealing with a lack of willing donors.
“Donors are afraid to give because they don’t want to be harassed,” says Schubert, who accuses gay marriage supporters of working to “intimidate people into silence.”
“That’s their primary strategy now,” he says. “They’ve given up really trying to convince people.”
According to Schubert, the dip in grassroots funding to fight same-sex marriage initiatives, along with a lack of financial support from the Mormon Church, were the primary reasons gay marriage advocates were able to so heavily outspend opponents during the 2012 cycle.
“Many of [the churches] have not stepped up to write checks themselves or to take collections,” Schubert says. “They’ve just assumed somebody else would do it.”
After years of success at the ballot box, anti-gay marriage activists were met with a series of losses last November. In Maine, Maryland and Washington State, ballot questions to legalize gay marriage passed. And in Minnesota, a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman was struck down.
Maryland’s anti-gay marriage campaign raised less than half of what gay marriage advocates did in the state, and in Washington State opponents only managed to raise some $2.9 million to compete with the more than $12 million raised by gay marriage proponents. The numbers were just as lopsided in Minnesota .
Richard Carlbom, who led Minnesota’s pro-gay marriage campaign, laughs off Schubert’s intimidation claim, noting that gay marriage opponents are still reeling from their recent losses. Carlbom says the real fundraising disparity, which he thinks is likely to continue in future gay marriage ballot fights, is thanks to the country’s rapidly shifting stance on marriage.
“It’s unfortunate that the folks who continue to push these divisive policies in this country frankly don’t understand that it’s not the gay community who is responding in droves, it’s the straight community who is standing up and saying ‘I would never want to be told it’s illegal to marry the person I love, and therefore, I’m going to make sure that everybody has that freedom,’” Carlbom says.
The high court’s decision In U.S. v. Windsor, in which the Defense of Marriage Act was ruled unconstitutional, is a huge win for gay rights advocates. And while the court essentially punted on Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Prop 8 case, the immediate effect is that same-sex marriage is once again legal in the state of California.
Michigan, Oregon, New Mexico and Nevada are among the states that could have gay marriage on the ballot next year.
Earlier this month social conservative activists met in Washington at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference, pledging to help “bring about a pro-family majority in Washington and in every state capital.” But whether anti-gay marriage activists recommit with actual dollars is very much an open question.
Outside the court on Wednesday, Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign said the fight for same-sex marriage in each state is just beginning. Griffin pledged to support allies in efforts to legalize gay marriage in more than two dozen additional states.
“Let’s set a new goal,” he said to a crowd of spectators outside the court building less than an hour after the Supreme Court’s decision came down. “Within five years, we will bring marriage equality to all 50 states.”