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Massachusetts Really Hates Prop 8

Posted by Jim Lopata  February 8, 2012 10:38 AM

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NOTE: In light of the news of yesterday's federal court appeals ruling that California's ban on civil marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional, we are posting an article from Boston Spirit from November/December 2010, which reveals the extent to which Massachusetts residents have rallied to support marriage equality in California. Up until at least October of 2010, Bay Staters' average per capita contributions to the campaign to defeat Proposition 8 were only surpassed by those of The Golden State.

OUT-OF-STATE DONATIONS PER CAPITA TO DEFEAT PROP 8
Prop8_Donor_Story_Web.jpg
Proportional relation of average per capita donations by state for defeating Proposition 8—supporting equal marriage—through October 2010. (Massachusetts' average per capita donation reaches nearly .023%.) (Source: Data gathered from publicly available sources as accessed and compared from projects.latimes.com/prop8 and www.sfgate.com/webdb/prop8 and analyzed by Boston Spirit.)

Only California Claims More Anti-Prop 8 Donors Per Capita

The Bay State boasts more out-of-state citizens donating to repeal Prop. 8 than any other state; though at least one prominent Bay Stater defies that trend, Michelle Ainge, wife of Celtics president Danny Ainge

Proposition 8 has been one of the biggest gay stories since equal marriage became law in Massachusetts.

In 2008, this California initiative to amend the state’s constitution to ban civil marriage for same-sex couples, shattered local and national finance records and attracted more money on both sides than any other campaign that year, with the exception of the presidency.

The initiative passed, and same-sex couples were banned from getting married. Then, this August, a federal judge ruled the amendment unconstitutional, and with appeals in motion, the legal battle could be decided by the Supreme Court. Or a referendum for repeal could be passed.

Either way, money has been pouring in from adherents on both sides of the battle. And except for Californians, more Massachusetts residents, per capita, are putting up money to ensure Golden State same-sex couples the right to marry than residents of any other state.

The public record database of names and partial addresses of tens of thousands of donors across the country who gave money to each side of the campaign reveals that 1,431 Massachusetts residents donated money to defeat Prop 8 (in support of equal marriage) and only 32 to ban same-sex couples from marrying.

A quick look at some of those 1,431 equality supporters reveals a diversity of interest in the matter.

There’s Peter Chavney, the retired political science professor (known by his students as “crazy Pete”) with a bi-sexual son. When asked about his donation, he cited the political philosopher John Rawls. And there’s Katie Farrari, a Harvard student who donated $100 as a wedding present for two close gay friends in California. And Mark Hostetter, the CEO of a $5 billion dollar hedge fund who moonlights as an ordained Presbyterian minister, donated $25,000 dollars in support of gay marriage.

Many donors contacted by Spirit were already married to same-sex partners in Massachusetts. Alexander Ripley, an investor working in downtown Boston, donated $500 against Prop. 8. “I donated money because I believe that marriage is a fundamental human right,” he said. “On top of that, the Proposition 8 campaigners are saying things about gay marriage that are empirically false – they are advancing opinions without backing it up with facts and people are believing it.”

Donna Mayo, who works for a consulting company in Boston donated $1,000. “I know California is a long way away and it seems strange to donate money there but I think everyone should have the same freedom as we do here,” she said. “I think in Massachusetts we have shown that if we legalize same sex marriage the rivers don’t run with blood and people don’t turn into stone.”

Sara Whitman, who keeps a blog under the name ‘Suburban Lesbian Housewife’ and lives in Auburndale donated a whopping $20,000 to the anti-Prop. 8 campaign. “Marriage is the same no matter who it’s between,” she said. “I keep a blog because I want people to understand how everyday my experience as a lesbian housewife is. I want to defend my right to marry. California is a big state.”

While the donors contacted stressed that they had no objection to the California state law mandating the publishing of their personal details, many donors refused to name their employer, and one Boston donor, Christopher Westberg, made two separate donations that cited his company as the law firm Lahive, despite having left the company many years prior.

While pro-equality donors reached by Boston Spirit were happy to speak and stressed that they had no objection to the California state law mandating the publishing of their personal details, not a single one of the 32 anti-equality donors were willing to talk. That included Michelle Ainge, wife of Celtics president Danny Ainge, who donated $1,000 in support of the California marriage ban.

With the terms of California’s 1974 Political Reform Act stipulating that all donors must publish the name of their town, it is possible to draw some interesting conclusions about the political map of Massachusetts. Most noticeably it would seem that Massachusetts’ politically active and gay friendly residents are concentrated heavily in the area around Boston, and are few and far between across the rest of the state.

There were almost twice as many donors, for example, in Somerville than in Amherst, Springfield, Worcester, Fall River, Framingham, Lowell, Andover, Westfield and even Provincetown put together. Indeed, more than 50 percent of all statewide donations opposing Proposition 8 come from Boston, Cambridge, or Somerville (three towns which together make up just 11% of the State’s population). In comparison, just 3 of the 32 who donated money to support the ban live in those three cities suggesting that it Massachusetts reputation for tolerance doesn’t stretch far beyond route 128.

For the donors of Massachusetts their involvement has left an indelible online fingerprint of their own political activism. While Celtics wife Michelle Ainge or Massachusetts resident Esmond Harmsworth (who donated an astonishing $225,000 against the proposition) can expect records of their donation to be buried under their own online chatter, people like Steven Kirkby, a Staples employee from Somerville who donated $100 dollars against Prop 8., might find their names on the LA Times or other database as the first item that shows up on a Google search.

The millions of dollars that flowed out of Massachusetts to the anti-Prop 8 campaign ultimately failed to prevent the 2008 equal marriage ban in California. But court appeals are proceeding and plans for another repeal effort are underway. Whatever course Prop. 8 takes, it seems certain that Massachusetts donors will continue to play a primary role, second only to California funders.

[by Sam Wetherell]

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author: Boston Spirit Magazine’s daily blog brings you all of the information you need on New England’s LGBT community. In addition to highlighting local and national LGBT news, we will also highlight local leaders from the worlds of business, politics, fashion and entertainment and keep you up-to-date on all the latest events and parties, hot spots for travel, shopping, dining, and more!
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