October 15, 2012 at 9:32 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Freedom to Marry fundraisers raise $450,000 for state marriage campaigns
Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Marriage

Zack Wahls speaks at a Freedom to Marry house party in Kalorama on Saturday (Photo by Jamie McGonnigal)

A series of Freedom to Marry house parties across the country this month has raised nearly half a million dollars for statewide same-sex marriage campaigns.

The latest National Engagement Parties took place in D.C., New York, San Francisco and Miami Beach, Fla., on Saturday. These fundraisers and those that took place in San Diego, Atlanta and other cities earlier this month have raised $450,000 for efforts to defend marriage rights for gays and lesbians in Maine, Maryland and Washington and defeat a proposed state constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman in Minnesota.

“Even though I’m straight guy, the policies that affect gay people — my parents — affected me,” said Zach Wahls, whose 2011 testimony before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee against a proposed constitutional amendment that would have overturned the state’s same-sex marriage law went viral, at Drew Murphy and Michael Golder’s Kalorama home. He also spoke about his continued advocacy in support of the Boy Scouts of America allowing gay scout leaders. “The stigmas that affected gay people affected me. And so I really do feel as though allies is definitely the right word, but also to me it’s more than that. This is part of who I am. And that’s why I’ve been so involved in this work since the video blew up and I’ve found this incredible opportunity to talk about this issue and speak for my family.”

Gay Maryland state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) was among those who attended the D.C. fundraiser.

New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler was among the guests at the National Engagement Party in Manhattan. “Good Morning America” weather anchor Sam Champion, who came out earlier this month, attended the Miami Beach fundraiser with fiancé Rubem Robierb. Actress Jane Lynch attended Freedom to Marry’s Los Angeles house party alongside gay former Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger and others on Oct. 7.

“What I’m most proud to be able to report is that these campaigns are in, by and large, tremendous shape,” said Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, as he referred to the four statewide marriage campaigns. “The polling is looking promising. We’ve never gotten into one of these referendum with majority support and in several of the states we have solid majority support. We have outraised our opponents. And we haven’t just outraised our opponents, we’ve been smart in getting money into these campaigns early.”

Freedom to Marry has contributed $4.5 million over the last two years to the four statewide same-sex marriage campaigns — including $30,000 it gave to the NAACP National Voter Fund for Question 6 on from its Freedom to Marry Maryland PAC, according to the campaign finance report it filed with state election officials in Annapolis on Friday. The organization has helped raise an additional $2.4 million for these efforts through public education campaigns and outreach to Freedom to Marry donors.

The group, which remains the largest single source of funding for three of the four statewide same-sex marriage campaigns, raised and spent approximately $5 million in 2011. Freedom to Marry projects it will have raised and spent another $10 million by the end of the year.

Solomon, a former executive director of MassEquality who has worked on same-sex marriage campaigns in California, New York and other states, described the four statewide campaign managers as “truly exceptional.” He further noted that anti-marriage ads have already begun to air in the four states.

“I can tell you we are really prepared, but we know that these fights are always exceptionally difficult,” said Solomon. “And every one of the marriage fights I’ve been involved in has been exceptionally difficult.”

In spite of these challenges, Solomon and others who attended the D.C. fundraiser remain hopeful that voters in Maine, Maryland, Washington and Minnesota will either support their states’ same-sex marriage referenda or defeat the proposed constitutional amendment.

I’m cautiously optimistic,” Wahls told the Washington Blade. “We all remember what happened with Prop 8 [in California] and in Maine, so you can’t get your hopes too high. But I’m feeling very positive. And I think events like this indicate that kind of support.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

  • FTM is reporting the total at $500,000, not $450,000. Also, it would be good if the Blade could probe a bit more into FTM and its plans. In particular, there has been virtually no coverage of its recent decision to assist in Maryland, after first cutting the state out.

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