Thursday, October 23, 2008

CA's Gay Marriage Fight In Nevada

I woke up a little earlier than usual today and the local papers were a faster read than even they usually are today, so when I spotted a piece on the website of The Advocate about Mormons bankrolling the campaign to ban gay marriage in California and Arizona, I had a little time to do a little looking around.

As you may or may not know, the California Supreme Court earlier this year decided that gays and straights both have the right to marry under the state's constitution. That kicked off an effort known as Prop 8, which would re-ban same-sex marriage. It is now, according to this report, among the most expensive campaigns ever waged over a social issue. The latest poll shows the pro-gay side with a nice lead, but that comes after two polls that found the opposite. Who really knows. In Arizona, there's also a ballot measure out there. I don't know where that stands, but it's not as big a deal only because same-sex marriage isn't already legal right now there.

But Nevada is packed to the gills with Mormons. Rich ones. And so I wondered whether they were giving much to the California effort to keep gays from matrimony.

Turns out, a lot. Nevadans so far have given $48,750 to the anti-gay side and $17,860 to the pro-gay side. That's almost 3-to-1 against the gays. It's also interesting to note that each side had 52 donors, so the anti-gay folks are just giving more.

The records on this on the California Secretary of State's website showed some substantial donations to the anti-gay side, including a $5,000 donation from the Coalition For the Protection of Marriage in Nevada, a group behind the successful efforts in 2000 and 2002 to pass an initiative that wrote into the state constitution that marriage is only for heterosexuals. Western States Dental Equipment in Las Vegas gave $2,300, a retired Henderson woman named Mauretia Peterson gave $3,000, The X-Factor Systems LLC in Henderson gave $5,000, the Paradise Group in Las Vegas gave $3,000, JK Management Inc. gave $2,000, orthodontist John Griffiths gave $2,000 and Equity Group Management gave $2,000.

The pro-gay side was more modest. The two largest donations were $3,000 each, one from Harrah's VP Michael Weaver and another from Ken Smith, former board president for Las Vegas' Gay and Lesbian Community Center. Gwen Migita, who heads up Harrah's diversity efforts, gave $250. None of the other well-known gay activists in the state have evidently given a dime, even though many of them continue to flood my email box with campaign literature germane to Prop 8. That's kind of odd. Otherwise, the only other donations of more than $1,000 came from Kol Entertainment Corp of America in Carson City and Jane A. Leyland a NASA research engineer in Reno.

Nobody from MGM Mirage's corporate brass gave so far as I can tell, but Bellagio's head carpenter, Tracy Stark, gave $100 to save same-sex marriage.

The California gay-marriage issue is of interest and concern outside the Golden State partly because Nevada casino interests have said they hoped to grab a piece of the gay honeymooning pie and, also, because California allows couples from other states to marry there. Massachusetts, the only other state with legal marriage, only recently started allowing that as well.

There do seem to be other matters of concern to officials from Nevada gaming interests going on in California this election cycle. Among them:

* Station Casinos gave a total of $101,733 to a long list of California politicians, which makes sense since they have stakes in the Thunder Valley casino near Sacramento. Oddly, they gave $10,000 to the Democratic State Central Committee of California under their corporate name and $4,900 to the state's Republican Party under the label of Ultimate Fighting Championship. Both are owned by the Fertitta family.

* Terry Lanni, MGM CEO, gave $1,000 to elect Democrat Mark Ridley-Thomas, currently a state senator, to become an L.A. County supervisor. That's random, but he does have a home in the L.A. area.

* Gary Jacobs, MGM Mirage Executive VP, gave $1,600 to support passage of Prop 2, which would require more humane treatment of farm animals. That's nice.

* Sierra Pacific, the public power company based in Reno that just merged with Nevada Power to become NV Energy, gave $43,600 to various California politicians.

Oh! And this cracked me up. Two Tahoe-area ski resorts gave substantial sums to the California Snow Political Committee. I didn't know precipitation required lobbyists. I Googled and was unable to figure out what they do. They're pro-snow? Someone's gotta be, huh?


Anonymous said...

How much have you given Steve?

Judy and Dagmar Jenner said...

In spite of an economy-induced moratorium on political spending of any kind (which didn't last long), my husband (who is married to me, a girl, how traditional are we? :)) insisted that we give some money to the cause, and I was happy to oblige. I do feel very strongly about anyone having the right to marry anyone they choose.

Anonymous said...

How the LDS Church keeps it's IRS tax exempt status after this is beyond me.

If you openly lobby for legislation, to the point of asking for phone volunteers and donations, you should have your tax exempt status pulled.