Catholic Church biggest Prop. 2 donor; local zealots also big donors

CFM shows huge grassroots support in fundraising report

By Dawn Wolfe

Anti-gay proponents of Proposal 2 have raised approximately $1 million, according to an Oct. 8 report by the Associated Press. The largest donor to "Citizens for the Protection of Marriage" was the Catholic Church in Michigan, which donated almost half the money raised by the group. Proposal 2 would amend the constitution to ban not only equal marriage rights, but domestic partner benefits and civil unions for all couples as well.

Detroit's Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton is against this use of Church funds.

"In my own opinion, I think it's an overreaction to the issue," said Gumbleton. "First of all, the law already says that marriage is between a man and a woman and I don't think we need a constitutional amendment. Second, the text as I've seen it is too open-ended, and people who are living as partners would be denied medical benefits, the right to enter the room if someone's dying, that sort of thing. I think it's a cruel overreaction against homosexual people, and I think it's unnecessary."

Dana Houle, political director for the Coalition for a Fair Michigan, the group formed to opposed the amendment's passage, pointed out that the anti-gay group would be hurting for money if not for the Church's support. "If not for the Catholic Church bailing them out at the eleventh hour, our opponents would have reported no money on hand."

"They spent half a million dollars to pay lawyers and political consultants, and the Catholic Church just covered their bill. Which is a shame, since the Catholic Church has been cutting programs and closing churches because of their own financial problems," Houle added.

"It just amazes me that they have that kind of money to spend on this, instead of working on true social justice issues in the state of Michigan," said Michael Gibson-Faith, director of the LGBT Issues Program for the American Friends Service Committee.

Marlene Elwell, campaign director for the anti-gay group, contends that, with "more than 400 donors," her organization has "great grass-roots support." But the CFM boasted three times the donors, with 1,200.

"We're showing our grassroots support by the number of donors - we have three times the number of donors that our opponents have," said Houle. The Coalition reported having raised almost $200,000 in reports filed with the state Oct. 8 - before the AFL-CIO announced that it opposes Proposal 2 on the grounds that the proposal would interfere with collective bargaining rights.

Outside group, anti-gay state residents make their voices heard

In addition to local Catholic churches, one group from outside the state has thrown its financial weight behind the effort to "protect marriage."

According to information provided by the Michigan Secretary of State's website, the Washington, D.C. based Family Research Council had given $130,000 as of the reporting date.

The Catholic Church and the Family Research Council are not alone in their financial efforts to discriminate against unmarried couples. Members of the Devos family have collectively given $50,000 to Elwell's group, and Brian Voorheis, a Clio real-estate developer, gave $20,000. Lagging behind those totals but still a large investment in Proposal 2 was the $5,000 given by Robert Vlasic, owner of Vlasic Investments in Bloomfield Hills, and Richard Haworth, Chairman and CEO of Haworth in Zeeland.

Local businesses aid anti-gay crusade

Two other groups, Michigan Citizens Voting Yes for Marriage and Oakland Citizens to Protect Marriage, benefited from the largesse of local businesses, according to the Secretary of State's online report. "Michigan Citizens" received $2,000 from Landarc, Inc., a homeowner's association management company. Another company at the same address, On Time Communications, donated $2,920.52 to Oakland Citizens to Protect Marriage. [An online search by BTL was unable to find further information about On Time Communications.] "Oakland Citizens" also received $6,000 from Benson's Oakland Wholesale, a hardware and building materials supplier in Pontiac, and $5,000 from Milosch Dodge in Lake Orion. Unistaff, Inc., a Troy employment agency, gave the Oakland committee $3,000, and another Troy company, Annuity Brokerage & Life, tossed in $2,000.

Wendy Howell, the campaign manager for CFM, summed up the David vs. Goliath fight that the Coalition has been waging to protect Michigan's unmarried couples, both gay and straight.

"What's remarkable about the campaign finances is that, while they had more money, we had three times the number of donors. We also have thousands of volunteers. We've built a real grassroots army, and I think that army's going to win it for us on Nov. 2."

To donate to the Coalition, contact them via their website at www.fairmichigan.org or call 248-477-7504.

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