HRC Blog

DC Marriage Initiative Efforts Funded By National Anti-LGBT Groups, Led By Familiar Players

This post is from HRC Assistant General Counsel Darrin Hurwitz: DC FlagStand for Marriage DC, the group formed to fight against marriage equality in D.C., has branded itself a local group of pastors and community leaders speaking up for the people of D.C. against their elected Council members and Mayor, who last month passed and sent a marriage equality bill to Congress for final review. However, campaign finance reports filed yesterday with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance tell a very different story.  National and out-of-state anti-LGBT groups -- some of the same players that spent tens of millions of dollars to eliminate marriage equality in California and Maine -- are largely coordinating the efforts to put marriage equality to a public vote in D.C.  In its latest filings, Stand for Marriage DC reports having raised $200,000 for its ballot measure efforts so far, including $40,000 from Focus on the Family, more than $30,000 from the National Organization for Marriage and $25,000 from the Family Research Council.  The remainder has come from the High Impact Leadership Coalition, a Maryland-based church non-profit group affiliated with Rev. Harry Jackson, the individual proponent of a public vote whose D.C. residency has previously come under question. Perhaps even more telling is where this money is going.  Besides forking over more than $50,000 in legal fees to Foley & Lardner, which has represented the proponents in their so-far unsuccessful efforts in court to obtain a public vote, Stand for Marriage DC has paid more than $40,000 to Schubert Flint Public Affairs, a firm familiar to anyone who has followed the anti-LGBT initiative efforts across the country.  Frank Schubert’s Sacramento-based outfit managed the Proposition 8 campaign in California and Question 1 campaign in Maine, employing similar fear-based strategies in each to spread misinformation and narrowly win both votes.  For media relations, Stand for Marriage DC has spent nearly $30,000 on Republican consultant Shirley and Banister Public Affairs, whose clients have included Ann Coulter, John McCain and various right-wing groups.  One of the firm’s principals, Craig Shirley, was reportedly involved in creating the infamous racially-charged Willie Horton ad in 1988. At this point though it’s not clear that all the national funding and top-of-the-line consultants can overcome D.C.’s local anti-discrimination laws, which wisely bar referenda and initiatives that cause discrimination under the Human Rights Act.  Twice the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics has rejected anti-marriage ballot measures, and twice its decisions have been upheld by the courts.  This hasn’t stopped the national anti-LGBT forces from continuing their efforts: within days the Board is expected to rule on the eligibility of a third proposed ballot measure. Same-sex marriage is expected to take effect in D.C. in early March, at the end of the Congressional review period.

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