My sister in California and I were talking about the backlash from gay people over Prop. 8. She wondered if the anger from the gay community helped our cause. All I could say was that sitting back and saying nothing certainly hasn’t. Not that I advocate knocking the Styrofoam crosses out of the hands of the opposition, even if they did come to a candlelight vigil looking for a fight.
I do, however, believe in using money as a political weapon. I for one have never faulted the Southern Baptist Convention for boycotting Disney because the company is gay friendly. I thought their reason for boycotting was stupid, but in my opinion withholding your private dollars is a good way to get a message across.
So, I wonder why there is so much public surprise that gay people and their supporters are now throwing their financial weight around over the recent stripping of their marriage rights in California.
If a company, or the leadership of a company, donated to support Prop. 8 via a public political action group, then there is no way John and I are giving that company our hard earned dollars.
But is it fair to criticize individual citizens for donating against us?
Take for example, Bill Raddon who is, or was, the director of the Los Angeles Film Festival. He resigned (note that he wasn’t fired) over the backlash he received from donating $1,500.00 to a political group that supported passage of Prop. 8.
Don Cheadle (Hotel Rawanda) and Forest Whitaker (Last King of Scotland) are on the board of the Festival and were among those who supported Raddon (I wonder if they would have if he’d donated to a political action group in support of eliminating interracial marriage rights, another pet project of the Mormon’s back in the ’50s). But gay board member Bill Condon, director of Dreamgirls and Chicago did as well, saying:
“I’m personally saddened by the outcome,” “Someone has lost his job and possibly his livelihood because of privately held religious beliefs.”
Raddon quit, but whatever, Condon, see if I ever pay to see your sparkly Broadway film adaptations again. Anyway, Raddon a “devout Mormon” issued a statement that said:
“I prefer to keep the details around my contribution through my church a private matter.”
There is the key question, hidden in those last two quotes. Did you catch it? The pivotal question is, “Was Raddon’s contribution to Prop. 8 simply an expression of ‘privately held religious beliefs’?”
And the answer is no. Heads up would-be political activists. Donations to political causes are PUBLIC RECORD. There was no witch hunt, no McCarthy-ist tracking down of who donated what. If Raddon had simply donated to a church he thought would support Prop. 8 his name never would have gotten into the media for this. But he didn’t. He donated to a political action group, which means any U.S. citizen has access to the record of the donation.
I’m sure that Raddon and many others probably had no idea that their choice would be brought into the light. Raddon never thought he would have to sit next to a gay co-worker who knows full well that he donated well over a grand just to keep that co-worker from marrying. And I don’t suppose Raddon can sit by the ill-informed Condon all day long.
So do I feel sorry for people like Raddon?
Pardon me if I don’t. I’m too busy feeling sad for the millions of Californians who have had their marriage rights stripped away.
Here’s the civics lesson for Raddon and others like him. Donations to a public political cause are public statements so before you make them, consider how you or the organization you represent is going to have to defend them.