Backers of AZ gay marriage ban raise $6.9M

Associated Press

Friday October 3, 2008

Supporters of a measure that would change Arizona's constitution to ban gay marriage have raised $6.9 million, 17 times more than opponents have raised, according to figures released Thursday.

Supporters of Proposition 102 say the money they've gotten signifies broad support against gay marriage among Arizonans. Opponents say the measure is a waste of time and money, considering the state voted down a similar measure in 2006 and gay marriage already is illegal in Arizona.

Either way, the money gives backers of the ban an edge over opponents, said Fred Solop, a political pollster at Northern Arizona University.

"That's an indication that there is obviously support for this ban," Solop said. "Clearly people feel very strongly about this issue - this is one of those moral issues that strikes at the very core of voters."

The ballot proposal, which goes before voters Nov. 4, would amend the state's constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

"This is clearly an uphill battle," said Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington, D.C.-based gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization that donated $50,000 to opponents of Arizona's measure.

"And if the proponents of this really cared about families, they would take the money they raised to help bail out Wall Street rather than trash loving gay and lesbian couples in Arizona."

Rouse called the effort to amend the state's constitution hurtful and discriminatory, considering gay marriage already is illegal in Arizona.

Proponents see it differently, pointing to a recent California Supreme Court decision making gay marriage legal in that state.

"Laws can be changed all the time by politicians and judges," said Kelly Molique, a spokeswoman for the group supporting the measure. "What Prop 102 does is it gives the voters of Arizona a chance to decide if they want marriage to be defined as the union of one man and one woman for future generations."

The state's law against gay marriage was upheld by a state appellate court in 2003.

This will be the second time in two years that voters will be asked to consider a gay marriage proposal.

In 2006, voters rejected a state constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage. But the measure also would have barred government entities from providing employee benefits to unmarried couples living together - also known as civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Analysts said that showed Arizonans support domestic partner benefits, not that they're necessarily more tolerant of gay marriage than dozens of other states that have approved anti-gay marriage measures.

Backers of this year's effort to ban gay marriage saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by not having to collect signatures to put the issue on the ballot - something they had to do in 2006. This time around, the Legislature voted to again put the matter to voters, only without any effects on domestic partner benefits.

Supporters have spent more than $3 million of their money so far, according to the Arizona Secretary of State.

Documents show much of that money paid for television advertising, mailers, consulting and public relations.

Meanwhile opponents say they've raised about $400,000 and spent under $40,000. They plan to start airing a television ad against the ban Monday for $300,000, said campaign chairwoman and state Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.

A recent statewide poll of 976 registered voters found that 49 percent of those surveyed would support the proposal. Forty-two percent said they would vote against it, and 9 percent were undecided.

The poll was conducted Sept. 25 through Sept. 28 by KAET-TV and Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. It has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Sinema said it's good news that supporters have spent $3 million and that the poll showed less than 50 percent of those surveyed would support the proposal.

"It makes my point resoundingly clear," Sinema said. "Arizonans are not concerned about this issue; they're concerned about how to pay their mortgages, they're concerned about gas prices, they're concerned about the economy. They're not waking up in the middle of the night scared about whether the state statute on marriage is adequate."

Republican Rep. Warde Nichols, who supports the gay marriage ban, said he thinks Arizonans are afraid the courts will decide the issue.

Nichols said the poll shows that there's more work to be done for proponents of the measure "but I think that at the end of the day, this will pass overwhelmingly."

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Center for Arizona Policy: www.azpolicy.org/

Arizona Together: http://www.aztogether.org

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