Correction to This Article
A July 3 Metro article about a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Virginia inaccurately described the campaign advertising plans of amendment opponents. They have expressed interest in advertising on television and radio but have not made a decision to do so.

Same-Sex Marriage Debate Drives Intense Fundraising Efforts

By Chris L. Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 3, 2006

The proposed state constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in Virginia has sparked an aggressive fundraising effort, with each side of the debate hoping to secure hundreds of thousands of dollars for their cause.

Virginia voters will decide Nov. 7 whether the state constitution should be amended to define marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman. The amendment also would place a ban in the constitution on civil unions, which already are illegal in Virginia.

To help rally amendment opponents, the Commonwealth Coalition, a Richmond-based group, has set an ambitious goal of raising $3 million, organizers said. They want to fund a barrage of radio and television ads in the fall. Meanwhile, the Family Foundation Action, which is organizing amendment supporters, has set a best-case-scenario fundraising goal of $900,000, although activists and volunteers said they expected to raise less than that.

Already, both sides have created Internet fundraising mechanisms and appealed to potential voters through churches and community events across the state. Activists said they plan a direct mailing campaign throughout the summer and fall.

Activists on both sides said money raised for the marriage amendment will go toward outreach, mailers and electronic advertising.

"I don't think there's any question that Virginians are engaged in this fight and that they're stepping up to the plate both as volunteers and contributors," said Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, campaign director for the coalition.

Each organization has to submit its first campaign finance report Sept. 15.

Amendment supporters said they do not feel pressure to raise millions of dollars because they were confident door-to-door activism and church networks would be effective.

"The reality is that we knew from the beginning we might get out-raised and outspent," said Chris Freund, communications director for the Family Foundation. "But an important part about all of this is the grass-roots mechanics. Campaigns tend to get analyzed by their bank account, and sometimes that's not the best reflection of what's really there."

The fundraising drive in Virginia probably will mirror what was seen in other states that have voted on such amendments. In 2004, for instance, supporters and opponents of amendments in 13 states spent more than $13 million, according to the Institute on Money in State Politics. In 2004, supporters of marriage amendments out-raised their opponents. The costliest race was in Oregon, which also was the closest. The two sides spent a total of $5.4 million.

The amendments have passed in each of the 20 states where they have been on the ballot, often by more than 3 to 1.

The struggle over money mirrors the sharp campaigning that has begun. Opponents, who include Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), have argued that the language of the amendment -- that the state will "not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals" -- is so broad that it also would affect contracts between unwed heterosexual couples. Kaine spoke on that point in a radio interview Thursday.

The amendment "in my view disenfranchises . . . unmarried people, both same-sex or heterosexual couples," Kaine said. But he took his criticism one step further, saying that the proposed amendment was discriminatory:

"There's nothing else in the [Virginia] Bill of Rights that takes away rights of people. We're equal citizens in the state; we ought to be treated equally."

Supporters of the amendment believe that the amendment is necessary to preserve traditional marriage. They also say that current law -- Virginia's Marriage Affirmation Act of 2004 -- mirrors the language in the proposed constitutional amendment and has not invalidated contracts between unwed couples.

"There is a law on the books right now that does the same thing as the amendment and that has never been challenged in court," said Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), sponsor of the legislative resolution creating the proposed amendment. "The argument is nothing but a red herring."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company