By Julie Bolcer
Originally published on Advocate.com August 28 2012 2:21 PM ET
Marylanders for Marriage Equality plans a powerhouse fund-raiser in New York City next month that will bring together natives of the state facing a marriage equality referendum and New Yorkers determined to advance marriage equality around the country.
The host committee for the event on September 13 includes a mix of celebrities and prominent business figures identified with marriage equality, with Maryland governor Martin O’Malley as special guest. Many of the cohosts have direct connections to Maryland, such as MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts, film director John Waters, actor Josh Charles, and former Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman, all natives of the state. Others, such as New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, actor Julianne Moore, NHL star Sean Avery, and former first daughter Barbara Bush, contributed to the effort to pass marriage legislation in New York last year. That effort, which included the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality video series launched by the Human Rights Campaign, continues to serve as a model for Maryland and other states.
“New Yorkers stepped up in a big way in support of the marriage push here and raised a lot of money in support of equality and fairness,” said Brian Ellner, a host committee member who served as senior strategist for HRC in New York. “The hope is that New Yorkers will continue to be supportive of the four marriage referenda this November.”
An invitation with the most up-to-date cohost list is available here. The evening event, with tickets ranging from $250 to $25,000, is expected to draw a sellout crowd of around 300 people to Jimmy, the rooftop bar of the James Hotel in Soho. The cohost list currently numbers around 40 people.
The Maryland campaign is not alone in drawing on the Wall Street-driven fund-raising prowess of New York City, which regularly attracts presidential candidates from both parties. That same week, the Minnesotans United for All Families campaign plans to host a fund-raiser at a private home in the West Village featuring playwright Tony Kushner on September 11. The Minnesota campaign against an antimarriage constitutional amendment has already held fund-raisers in New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., all hosted by people with ties to Minnesota.
“We're honored that folks with Minnesota connections across the country are eager to help us defeat this amendment and we appreciate their efforts to help us raise the necessary funds to do so,” said deputy director of communications Jake Loesch. “More than 90% of all donations to our campaign are from within the state of Minnesota, proving that the momentum both in-state and across the country to defeat this hurtful and freedom-limiting amendment is strong and growing each day.”
Maine and Washington will join Maryland in voting whether to legalize same-sex marriage on November 6, but as The New York Times reported, polls will close earliest in Maryland, which means the state could literally be the first. Current polling looks favorable for marriage equality in all three states, and recent endorsements from President Barack Obama and the NAACP appear in particular to have boosted the campaign in solidly Democratic Maryland, where African-Americans make up around 30% of voters.
Campaigners in Maryland expect to spend between $5 million and $7 million to uphold the civil marriage law, which Governor O’Malley signed this past March with the expectation it would be put on hold pending a ballot challenge. Marriage equality advocates are prepared for a last-minute deluge in spending by opponents.
Last month, according to the Times, Governor O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown attended a packed fund-raiser in Chevy Chase, Md., a D.C. suburb, that generated $250,000 for the campaign in a single evening. Notable in light of the upcoming fund-raiser in New York City, the governor delivered a speech that compared his state’s marriage decision to the Battle of Brooklyn during the American Revolution.