The Gay Marriage Price Tag: $30 Million for Four States, and Not Even Brad Pitt Can Guarantee a Win

Takepart.com

Brad Pitt added his celebrity and his cash to the Human Rights Campaign Wednesday, making a $100,000 donation to support the national LBGT advocacy group’s marriage equality effort.

Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington State all have gay marriage questions on the ballot November 6. Polls show that the marriage-equality side is leading every state, albeit with under 50 percent support in Washington and Minnesota, where LGBT advocates are asking supporters to vote no on state constitution amendments to define marriage as “only a union of one man and one woman.”

Pitt said he wanted his money to help the cause of gay rights.

“It’s unbelievable to me that people’s lives and relationships are literally being voted on in a matter of days,” Pitt told HRC supporters in an email.  “If you’re like me, you don’t want to have to ask yourself on the day after the election, what else could I have done?”

MORE: The Cost of Same-Sex Marriage Bans (Infographic)

HRC President Chad Griffin said Pitt’s money will be “vital” in the closing stages of these campaigns.

“Brad Pitt’s partnership with HRC in this closing week delivers vital resources into these campaigns, and we’re proud to be working with him as we show that fundamental fairness will win at the ballot box,” Griffin said in a statement. “With his commitment, Brad joins HRC in a tremendous coalition of religious leaders, business leaders, labor groups, civil rights organizations and everyday, fair-minded Americans supporting marriage for gay and lesbian couples.”

HRC has spent about $5 million in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington State, which is only a fraction of the money that advocates have poured into the cause.

But with Election Day next week, there’s no guarantee any of these measures will pass or, in the case of Minnesota, be defeated. Money certainly stacks the deck in U.S. politics, but it doesn’t always buy the good guys a win.

The conventional wisdom, according to campaign consultants, is that it’s much harder to convince voters to support a ballot initiative than to oppose one—generating support requires more outreach to voters. In three out of four states, the LGBT community has its work cut out. They’re only advocating the “no” side in Minnesota.

In an apparent effort to even that playing field, figures compiled by HRC show gay marriage advocates are out-spending their opponents by more than a 5-to-1 margin. According to campaign finance reports in the four states, pro-LGBT advocates have spent about $27.53 million, compared to $5.16 million for those opposing gay marriage rights.

The most expensive campaign is in Washington State. Supporters of Referendum 74, which would legalize same-sex marriage, have spent about $10.8 million. The anti-marriage-equality forces there have spent closer to $2.2 million.

Minnesota has seen the second largest expenditure in favor of the LGBT side. Those opposing the constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman had spent more than $6.7 million as of September 18. Minnesotans campaigning for the limited view of marriage have spent some $1.2 million. Maine’s pro-tolerance and acceptance campaign has also been costly, with more than $5 million being spent by the pro-inclusive-marriage side and about $1.4 million by the anti-gay marriage groups.

In Maryland, where the pro-marriage side has a notable lead in the polls—a recent Washington Post survey had support at 52 percent for the question of whether to grant civil marriage licenses to gay couples—the “yes” side has spent about $5 million compared to $1.7 for those opposed.

But with Election Day next week, there’s no guarantee any of these measures will pass or, in the case of Minnesota, be defeated. Money certainly stacks the deck in U.S. politics, but it doesn’t always buy the good guys a win.

If you could buy one election result in the 2012 voter cycle, what would it be? Tell us where you’d put your money, in COMMENTS.

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Sean J. Miller is a Los Angeles-based writer. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Back Stage, The Christian Science Monitor and The Hill.

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