Ever since a slim majority outlawed gay marriage in California, opponents have waged national protests and petitions, urging the judicial system to reconsider the results of the Nov. 4 referendum. (Proposition 8 overturned an earlier decision by the California Supreme Court that legalized same-sex marriage.) While the court weighs whether or not to get back into the fray, the civil unrest ignited by the ban shows no sign of abating. A national protest against Prop. 8 organized by JoinTheImpact.com is scheduled for today. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which opponents say donated more than $20 million to the Yes on 8 campaign, has already become a focus of protests, with demonstrators gathered around Mormon temples not only in California but across the country.
The Mormon Church is not the only group being singled out for criticism. African Americans, 70% of whom voted yes on Prop. 8, according to a CNN exit poll, have become a target. According to eyewitness reports published on the Internet, racial epithets have been used against African Americans at protests in California with some even directed at blacks who are fighting to repeal Prop. 8. Said Evan Wolfson, executive director of nonprofit group Freedom to Marry: "In any fight, there will be people who say things they shouldn't say, but that shouldn't divert attention from what the vast majority are saying against this, that it's a terrible injustice." (See the Top 10 ballot measures.)
In addition to the protests, gay rights activists have begun publishing lists online exposing individuals and organizations that have donated money in support of Prop. 8. On AntiGayBlacklist.com, individuals who gave money toward Prop. 8 are publicized, and readers are urged not to patronize their businesses or services. The list of donors was culled from data on ElectionTrack.com, which follows all contributions of $1,000 and more and all contributions of more than $100 given before Oct. 17. Dentists, accountants, veterinarians and the like who gave a few thousand dollars to the cause are listed alongside major donors like the Container Supply Company Inc. of Garden Grove, which gave $250,000. "Anyone who steps into a political fight aimed at taking away fundamental rights from fellow citizens opens themselves up to criticism," said Wolfson. "The First Amendment gives them the right of freedom of speech and to support political views, but people also have the right to criticize them."
Even before the passage of Prop. 8, the group Californians Against Hate compiled and published a "dishonor roll" of individuals (and their company affiliations) who gave $5,000 or more in support of the measure. Phone numbers and websites were added, along with commentary about some of the larger donors, all public information obtained through the California secretary of state's office. "My goal was to make it socially unacceptable to give huge amounts of money to take away the rights of one particular group, a minority group," says Fred Karger, a retired political consultant and founder of Californians Against Hate. "I wanted to make the public aware of who these people are and how much they're giving, and then they could make a decision as to whether or not they want to patronize their businesses."
The negative publicity is having an effect on both companies and individuals. Scott Eckern, artistic director of the California Musical Theatre in Sacramento, whose $1,000 donation was listed on ElectionTrack, chose to resign from his post this week to protect the theater from public criticism. Karger says a "soft boycott" his group had started against Bolthouse Farms which gave $100,000 to Prop. 8 was dropped after he reached a settlement with the company. Bolthouse Farms was to give an equal amount of money to gay rights political causes. The amount ultimately equaled $110,000.
Meanwhile, lists of donors to Prop. 8, once trumpeted on the Yes on 8 website, have been taken down to protect individuals from harassment. "It's really awful," says Frank Schubert, campaign manager for Yes on 8. "No matter what you think of Proposition 8, we ought to respect people's right to participate in the political process. It strikes me as quite ironic that a group of people who demand tolerance and who claim to be for civil rights are so willing to be intolerant and trample on other people's civil rights."