August 6, 2012 | by Michael K. Lavers
HRC pledges $1 million for same-sex marriage efforts

HRC President Chad Griffin (Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Human Rights Campaign on Monday announced it has given an additional $1 million to support same-sex marriage efforts in four states.

Campaigns in Maryland, Washington, Minnesota and Maine each received $250,000 to either defend their state’s same-sex marriage laws, defeat a proposed constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman or allow nuptials for gays and lesbians. HRC has so far contributed $4.8 million to marriage-related efforts in this election cycle. This figure includes $853,000 to the legislative campaign to secure passage of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law earlier this year and $728,000 in cash and in-kind donations to Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the group defending the statute ahead of the November referendum on it.

“This is a tipping point year in the fight for marriage equality that requires significant investment,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “We are committed to making sure this is the year that our opponents can no longer claim Americans will not support marriage equality at the ballot box.”

Recipients were quick to welcome the additional HRC funds.

“It’s a fantastic investment that they’re making in our work here,” Josh Levin, campaign director of Marylanders for Marriage Equality, told the Blade. “They’ve been a tremendous partner throughout the legislative fight and this has shown they are dedicated to winning here and confident that we have the resources to be successful.”

“It’s great to have their support,” added Matt McTighe, campaign manager of Mainers United for Marriage, which seeks marriage rights for gays and lesbians in the Pine Tree State.  “We’re thrilled to have it and it’s just a great validation of the work that we’re doing in Maine.”

Zach Silk, campaign manager of Washington United for Marriage, the group defending the Evergreen State’s same-sex marriage law, echoed McTighe and Levin.

“We are incredibly grateful for HRC’s contribution to the campaign,” he told the Blade. “They’ve played a sustained and continued role in our campaign since before the legislative battle. They’ve been on the ground here in Washington State since last fall, and [has] really stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us fighting the key moments of the campaign.”

 

Groups plan to use HRC money to fund ad buys, voter outreach

Levin declined to comment on either the amount of money his group has raised or the amount of money HRC has given to the campaign, but McTighe told the Blade that Mainers United for Marriage has raised slightly under $2 million. Washington United for Marriage said in a press release earlier this month that its budget is more than $5.4 million — including the $2.5 million that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie donated last month.

Minnesotans United for All Families, which opposes the proposed state constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman, has raised slightly more than $5.7 million as of July 23. Campaign spokesperson Kate Brickman told the Blade that 80 percent of this money has come from inside the state, while 91 percent of the 25,000 individual campaign donors are Minnesotans.

Brickman added the HRC funds will help the campaign respond to what she expects will be a flood of pro-amendment ads in the weeks leading up to the November vote.

“For us it’s a matter of us to be able to combat that late in the game and respond to the hurtful [and negative ads,]” she said.

McTighe also discussed how his campaign plans to use some of the HRC money it received.

“Media buys are a huge part of it because that’s something that’s really competitive in a presidential election year — there’s a lot of competition to buy up time from our opponents, from the other campaigns,” he said. “One thing we’ve been doing over the last two years in Maine is really trying to have as many one-on-one conversations as possible through our field and canvass operations. We’re going to continue to fund that work and try to do paid media as well.”

Like in Maine and Minnesota, Silk said the additional funds will go towards what he described as an “aggressive advertising campaign” in Washington ahead of the referendum.

“This will be an important part of it,” he said.

A CNN/ORC International poll in June that 54 percent of Americans support marriage rights for same-sex couples.

A survey that Hart Research Associates conducted late last month found that 54 percent of Maryland voters would vote for the state’s same-sex marriage law in November. A Public Policy Polling poll in June noted 51 percent of Washington voters back their state’s same-sex marriage law. A Critical Insights survey last month indicates that 57 percent of Maine voters support extending marriage rights to gays and lesbians.

A PPP survey in June found that only 43 percent of Minnesotans support their state’s proposed constitutional amendment to ban nuptials for same-sex couples, compared to 49 percent of voters who oppose it.

HRC spokesperson Fred Sainz conceded to the Blade that the presidential election, high-profile congressional races and other ballot initiatives are among the hurdles that same-sex marriage supporters will face in the coming weeks and months. He stressed, however, that momentum remains on their side.

“The good news for us, which is really, really, really good news, is the atmospherics are positive ones,” said Sainz. “The public opinion polls are continuing to head in the right directions — all the public opinion polls in these four states are headed in the right direction, the president’s support for marriage equality is good. Every single federal court that has expressed an opinion on this issue has expressed it in our favor, so the atmospherics are definitely very positive and are all trending in the right direction.”

 

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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