California Homosexual Marriage Ban Backers Focus on Businesses

October 24, 2008 at 12:05 am Leave a comment

robb-robin-wirthlin-prop8.jpgLeaders of the campaign to outlaw same-sex marriage in California
made an offer to businesses that have given money to the state’s
largest gay-rights group: Give us money or we’ll publicly identify you
as opponents of traditional unions.

Supporters of same-sex marriage called the tactic “an attempt to extort people” and “a bit Mafioso.”

ProtectMarriage.com, the umbrella group behind a ballot initiative that would overturn this year’s California Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage, targeted about 35 companies in the appeal, spokeswoman Sonya Eddings Brown said.

She
called the letter “a frustrated response” to the intimidation felt by
Proposition 8 supporters, who have had their lawn signs stolen and
property vandalized in the closing days of the increasingly heated
campaign.

Certified letters from the group this week asked companies to withdraw their support of Equality California, a nonprofit organization that is helping lead the campaign against Proposition 8.

“Make
a donation of a like amount to ProtectMarriage.com which will help us
correct this error,” reads the letter. “Were you to elect not to donate
comparably, it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition
to traditional marriage. … The names of any companies and
organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to
ProtectMarriage.com but have given to Equality California will be
published.”

The letter was signed by
four members of the group’s executive committee: campaign chairman Ron
Prentice; Edward Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic
Conference; Mark Jansson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints; and Andrew Pugno, a lawyer for ProtectMarriage.com.

A donation form was attached. The letter did not say where the names would be published.

San Diego businessman Jim Abbott,
who owns a real estate company and is a member of Equality California’s
board of directors, received one of the letters late Wednesday
afternoon. His adult son called Abbott to read it to him.

“He
characterized it as a bit Mafioso,” Abbott said. “It was a little
distressing, but it’s consistent with how the ‘yes’ side of this
campaign has been run, which is a bit over the top.”

Abbott,
who married his same-sex partner at the end of August, estimated that
over the last decade he has given $50,000 to Equality California,
including a recent $10,000 gift to underwrite a San Diego event that raised money to defeat Proposition 8.

When
asked whether ProtectMarriage.com planned to name businesses that have
supported the No on 8 campaign, Prentice initially said he was unaware
of any such effort.

“I’m not familiar of any organized attack against organizations that have given to No on 8,” he said Thursday.

But when asked about the letter to Equality California donors,
Prentice confirmed they were authentic and said the ProtectMarriage.com
campaign was asking businesses backing the other side “to reconsider
taking a position on a moral issue in California.”

Prentice
said it was his understanding that the letter was intended for large
corporations such as cable operators Time Warner and Comcast
instead of small business owners like Abbott. Time Warner and Comcast
are listed on Equality California’s Web site as corporate sponsors that
gave $50,000 each to the group.

Companies
that have contributed directly to one of the campaign committees
collecting cash to fight Proposition 8, including one set up by
Equality California, also were recipients of the letter, Prentice said.
That list includes companies such as Pacific Gas & Electric, Levi
Strauss and AT&T.

“I think the
IDing of, or outing of, any company is very secondary to the question
of why especially a public corporation would choose to take a side
knowing it would splinter its own clientele,” he said.

Equality California executive director Geoffrey Kors said Thursday he has heard from two other business owners besides Abbott.

“It’s truly an outrageous attempt to extort people,” Kors said.

While an anti-Proposition 8 group called Californians Against Hate has posted lists of gay marriage ban
donors on the Internet and even launched boycotts of selected
businesses, Kors said that work has been independent of the official No
on 8 campaign.

“They are going after our long-term funding and trying to
intimidate Equality California donors from giving any more to the No on
8 campaign and from giving to Equality California ever again, which
would impact our work for seniors, youth and other people in need,”
Kors said.

Source: AP

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