BY JOE HARRIS
The endorsement last month of President Obama for same sex marriage has all the usual suspects up in arms— social and religious conservatives, Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, and Jews, and traditionalists who are nervous about governmental intervention into an institution older than God (the word itself, I mean, which dates back to around the 6th Century), as well as the center-right candidates who are anxious to assuage them, and thereby earn their political backing.
But the president has been making all the right noises for an important constituency, and his campaign coffers are seeing the windfall results. So stoked is this segment of moneyed Democratic supporters—which comprise wealthy LGBT donors—that an Obama campaign fundraiser held yesterday required a larger venue, after organizers were bombarded with a barrage of RSVPs for the event, which featured pop performer Pink, after Obama’s May announcement.
According to an analysis by CNN, among President Obama’s biggest fundraisers—known in the parlance of campaign finance as “bundlers”—at least 33, or about one out of every 16 of them—is openly gay. The Washington Post reports that as many as one out of six bundlers who supports Obama is gay.
The Advocate.com estimates one in five. All told, they raised at least $8 million for the Obama reelection campaign from January to the end of March. That compares to the efforts of bundlers from the entertainment industry—which includes some of the biggest names in film, music, and television, among them actor and director George Clooney— who, during the same timeframe, raised $6.8 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Laws on campaign finance require that donors disclose their names, addresses, jobs, and employers, but there is no such disclosure required for sexual orientation. The law also doesn’t require that candidates release information about their bundlers. The Obama campaign has released its list, but the campaign of his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, hasn’t.
After the initial excitement of his 2008 campaign wore off, support for the president in the LGBT community waned—in large measure a result of what was seen as Obama’s lukewarm support for a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In 2010, actor Alan Cumming wrote, “We keep hearing that Obama is an ally—that DADT will end under his watch—but what do we actually get? Diddly squat.” DADT—the Pentagon policy that banned openly-gay men and women from serving in the armed forces— officially ended on September 20, 2011.
Among the wealthy LGBT Americans who have opened their checkbooks to Obama’s reelection efforts are software entrepreneur and Gill Foundation benefactor Tim Gill, who has donated, with partner Scott Miller, $672,800 to Obama for America. Fred Eychaner, the owner of Chicagobased Newsweb Corp., has given $1,220,550, and co-hosted in February a $35,800-per-person LGBT fundraiser for Obama. Kathy Levinson, the former President and CEO of E-Trade, has donated $202,150. Karen K. Dixon and Dr. Nan Schaffer, her partner, hosted a Washington, D.C. fundraiser that was reported to have raised over a million dollars for Obama’s campaign.
On the Republican side, Mitt Romney has not disclosed his bundler list, which makes it hard to know if there are any openly gay bundlers working for the GOP. But the presumptive Republican nominee is on record opposing same sex marriage and civil unions, and supports a Constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality for all Americans.
(PHOTO: Neil Patrick Harris, Suze Orman, Ricky Martin, Ellen DeGeneres, Dustin Lance Black)