Prop 8 donors sub­jected to threats, in­tim­i­da­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY VA­LERIE RICHARDSON

Af­ter giv­ing $10,000 to Cal­i­for­nia’s Propo­si­tion 8 cam­paign last year, Charles LiMan­dri be­gan re­ceiv­ing some un­ex­pected cor­re­spon­dence.

“I got about two dozen e-mails and hate phone calls,” said Mr. LiMan­dri, who lives in San Diego. “They were call­ing me Nazi, ho­mo­phobe, bigot. I tried to en­gage peo­ple once or twice — I said that Propo­si­tion 8 had noth­ing to do with be­ing big­oted, it was about pre­serv­ing mar­riage — but peo­ple don’t want to en­gage on the is­sue.”

As an at­tor­ney, how­ever, Mr. LiMan­dri knew what to do with the e-mails.

“I col­lected them and turned them in to the law­suit,” he said.

Those e-mails are now among hun­dreds of ex­hibits in a land­mark case chal­leng­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s cam­paign-fi­nance re­port­ing rules, which re­quire the release of the names, ad­dresses and em­ploy­ers of those who con­trib­ute $100 or more to bal­lot­mea­sure com­mit­tees.

The law­suit ar­gues that those who con­trib­ute to tra­di­tional­mar­riage ini­tia­tives should be ex­empt from hav­ing their names dis­closed, cit­ing the wide­spread ha­rass­ment and in­tim­i­da­tion of donors to the Propo­si­tion 8 cam­paign.

Propo­si­tion 8, which stated that Cal­i­for­nia would only rec­og­nize mar­riage be­tween a man and a woman, was ap­proved 52 per­cent to 48 per­cent in Novem­ber. The ini­tia­tive over­turned a May 2008 Cal­i­for­nia Supreme Court de­ci­sion declar­ing that the state’s ex­ist­ing mar­riage def­i­ni­tion of a man and a woman un­con­sti­tu­tion­ally dis­crim­i­nated against gays.

Ex­am­ples of in­tim­i­da­tion tac­tics range from let­ters and emails to death threats, say pro­po­nents. At least one Propo­si­tion 8 sup­porter, a Sacra­mento the­ater di­rec­tor, was fired af­ter his cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions were pub­li­cized by foes of the ini­tia­tive.

“Any­body who’s in Cal­i­for­nia knows that it’s very wide­spread,” said Brian Brown, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mar­riage, one of the big­gest con­trib­u­tors to Proposi-

“I talked to a $100 donor the other day who had a note in his mail­box that said, ‘I know where you live and you’re go­ing to pay.’ ”

tion 8 and a joint plain­tiff in the law­suit. “Ev­ery donor has a story. I talked to a $100 donor the other day who had a note in his mail­box that said, ‘I know where you live and you’re go­ing to pay.’

“Th­ese are just hard­work­ing peo­ple who be­lieve mar­riage is a union of a man and a woman and who never ex­pected to be threat­ened in their homes,” Mr. Brown said.

Lead­ing the ef­fort is Cal­i­for­ni­ans Against Hate — whose Web site, www.cal­i­for­ni­ansagain- sthate.com, lists the names of 1,100 peo­ple and or­ga­ni­za­tions con­tribut­ing at least $5,000 to the Propo­si­tion 8 cam­paign. The list, com­piled from in­for­ma­tion sup­plied by the Cal­i­for­nia Sec­re­tary of State’s of­fice, also gives ad­dresses, phone num­bers and Web site ad­dresses.

The group has also organized a se­ries of boy­cotts tar­get­ing large donors, in­clud­ing the owner of three ho­tels who con­trib­uted $125,000 to Yes on Propo­si­tion 8, and a stor­age com- pany whose $700,000.

While Cal­i­for­ni­ans Against Hate has fo­cused on ma­jor donors, other groups have shown less re­straint. A num­ber of Web sites use Google maps to pin­point the home or of­fice lo­ca­tions of all known Propo­si­tion 8 donors.

Fred Karger, who launched Cal­i­for­ni­ans Against Hate in July, ac­knowl­edged that in­tim­i­da­tion is part of the po­lit­i­cal strat­egy.

“One of my goals was to make it so­cially un­ac­cept­able to make th­ese mega-do­na­tions that take away peo­ple’s rights,” Mr. Karger said. “I want them to think twice be­fore writ­ing that check.”

Those cry­ing foul have ei­ther short or se­lec­tive mem­o­ries, he said. In 1978, donors to the cam­paign against Cal­i­for­nia’s Propo­si­tion 6, which would have banned gays from work­ing in the state’s pub­lic schools, also risked be­ing ha­rassed, fired or black­listed. Propo­si­tion 6, bet­ter known as the Briggs Ini­tia­tive, failed by a mar­gin of 58 to 42 per­cent.

“When I gave $100 to fight Propo­si­tion 6, you risked it all,” said Mr. Karger, adding that the do­na­tion nearly cost him his job. “It was a very scary time. Gay peo­ple have been go­ing through this for decades. Now our op­po­nents are get­ting a taste of what it’s like.”

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AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Seething rain­bow: Pro­test­ers march into the early morn­ing in Los An­ge­les on Nov. 8, 2008, ex­press­ing their anger against the pas­sage of Propo­si­tion 8.

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