It’s been just two years since a small group of friends and I started Californians Against Hate to draw attention to the mega-donors to California’s Proposition 8 campaign. It’s been a busy 23 months.
We began on July 18, 2008 by helping to assemble a coalition of LGBT organizations and labor in San Diego to boycott Doug Manchester’s three hotels. Doug Manchester had contributed $125,000 in very early money to quality and pass Proposition 8, which took marriage rights away from millions of Californians. Why should we support his three hotels, only to have that money used against us?
The Manchester Hotels boycott exceeded our wildest expectations. According to their own admission, the boycott is costing the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel alone approximately $1 million per month. This is due to dozens of canceled large meetings and conventions at Manchester’s flagship property, and thousands of individuals and businesses who refuse to cross our picket line.
Manchester also sold his Idaho hotel, and now rumors abound that his brand new $400 million Grand del Mar Resort in San Diego is in receivership. It has recently been reported that Global Hyatt Corporation may be buying a majority interest in his Manchester Grand Hyatt. The sale was just approved by the San Diego Port Commission.
We have led three other boycotts against the biggest donors to Proposition 8. We have settled two; one against Bolthouse Farms and another against Garff Automotive Group. Both had family members who contributed $100,000 to pass Prop 8. Now both companies are generous supporters of a variety of LGBT organizations.
Our one remaining boycott is against Terry Caster’s A-1 Self Storage Company. Terry Caster and his family gave a whopping $693,000 to Prop 8. Caster was even quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune saying that gay marriage “would create a sick society.”
During the summer of 2008, we discovered the active involvement of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) in Prop 8. The Mormon Church had taken over virtually every aspect of the Yes on 8 campaign.
Mormon families contributed approximately $30 million of the $40 million raised, the Church produced 27 slick commercials, put up an expensive web site, bussed in thousands of volunteers from Utah, had massive phone banks yet only reported a mere $2078 in non-monetary contributions three days before the election. Two weeks later I filed a sworn complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) against the Mormon Church for not reporting its vast financial involvement in the campaign.
The Commission prosecuted the case, and conducted an unprecedented 19 month investigation of the Salt Lake City based Church’s finances. Three weeks ago the FPPC found the Mormon Church guilty of 13 counts of late reporting and they were fined $5539. That was the first time a religion was found guilty of election irregularities in the 36 year history of the FPPC.
I also have done battle with the Mormon Church’s front group, the infamous National Organization for Marriage (NOM). I have challenged all of their false and misleading actions for the last two years. It was all of their arrogant and illegal campaign activities last fall in Maine that was the final straw.
NOM contributed over $1.9 million to take away that state’s recently passed right to marry for all, and completely disregarded Maine’s long-standing election law in the process. NOM was required to report all its contributor names of $100 and more to election officials. NOM refused, and continues to refuse to turn over their records, even after being ordered to do so by three federal judges and the Attorney General of Maine. I have attended three separate Commission meetings in Maine to make sure they comply with the Maine election law.
As a result of all my efforts, I was subpoenaed by the National Organization for Marriage last September as part of their federal law suit, ProtectMarriage.com v. Bowen. That law suit was filed in California by the official Yes on Prop 8 committee and NOM to invalidate all campaign reporting laws in California. They subpoenaed me strictly to harass me and make me spend a lot of money. Thanks to the generous support of so many of you who contributed to my legal defense fund, Five for Fred, most all of the legal costs have been covered.
Now as we take on new challenges and go in new directions, we have passed a Board resolution to officially change our name. From this day forward, Californians Against Hate will be known as Rights Equal Rights.
Our new name reflects our new direction and makes us more national in scope.
Rest assured, that I have never been more determined and motivated to help lead the LGBTQ community in our fight for full equal rights in this country.
Younger people who begin to realize that they might be lesbian, gay, bi-sexual transgender or queer will soon be afforded all the same rights as their brothers, sisters friends and neighbors.
That is what our founding fathers had in mind when they wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
We will settle for nothing less.