Gay A List Celebrities Go AWOL on Fight Against Prop 8

by Steve Weinstein

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday September 30, 2008

As everyone now knows, on Nov. 4, California voters will decide whether the state's highest court's ruling legalizing gay marriage will become law or whether gay Californians will have to trek to Canada or Massachusetts to give their relationships the same standing as their neighbors'.

Ellen DeGeneres, who marriage to actress Portia de Rossi received front-page coverage in the magazine tabloids, hosted a big party to raise money involving a statewide proposition being voted on Nov. 4. No, it wasn't Prop. 8, the one which, if passed, will make gay marriage illegal. It was Prop 2, a measure to require bigger cages for farm animals.

While this may well be a worthy cause, In Los Angeles Magazine's Karen Ocamb, among many others, are questioning gay celebrities' commitment to fighting Proposition 8.

It isn't as though they don't have any role models in the wider world. Several celebrities and companies have contributed to "No on 8," the organization fighting the amendment. Jeans maker Levi Strauss is teaming with the big local utility Pacific Gas & Electric to donate to the cause.

Director Steven Spielberg and actress wife Kate Capshaw also gave to the tune of $100,000. And so did Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, who have vowed not to get married until gay marriage is legal in the United States. And now there's news that British guitarist Pete Wentz has given money to the fight.

The courage of these corporations and individuals makes all the more striking the silence of otherwise-outspoken celebrities like Rosie O'Donnell, Elton John, Melissa Etheridge, Greg Berlanti (star of "Brothers and Sisters"), producer Marc Cherry ("Desperate Housewives"), producer Joel Schumacher ("Batman and Robin") and Gus Van Sant, the director of the upcoming "Milk."

Ocamb, who poured through records available from the California secretary of state's office, did note that David Geffen donated $50,000 and has reportedly pledged another $50,000. Well--not to be churlish about it, but that does pall compared David Bohnet, David Maltz and Greg Hormel. All of them are certainly very wealthy, but not nearly in the same league as Geffen, who is a billionaire. Nevertheless, their donations dwarfed his.

Meanwhile, Cleveland, Ohio, businessman Jonathan Lewis has pledged $500,000 to No on 8 in a challenge grant to the entertainment industry, Variety reported. "With Election Day six weeks away, we are concerned that the entertainment industry hasn't stepped up to the plate to fight this unnecessary initiative," he said.

Many everyday people have contributed to the campaign, including a grocery clerk in New Jersey who gave $250.

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).