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Obama LGBT Dinner Expected to Raise $1.5 Million

Obama LGBT Dinner Expected to Raise $1.5 Million


WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will meet Thursday evening with LGBT donors at a high-ticket fundraiser in Washington, D.C.

The dinner event, held at a private residence in northwest Washington, is expected to draw about 40 people or more and raise up to $1.5 million for the Obama campaign, according to David Bohnett, the billionaire philanthropist who launched GeoCities in the 1990s and is co-hosting this evening's fundraiser.

Bohnett will be joined on the hosting committee by well-known LGBT Democratic donors including James Hormel, the first openly gay U.S. ambassador; Laura Ricketts, co-owner of the Chicago Cubs and one of the Obama campaign's major fundraisers, or "bundlers"; and Henry van Ameringen, whose namesake foundation has supported LGBT groups such as Truth Wins Out. Attendees will be asked to max out their donations to the Obama Victory Fund, a $35,800 sum. (Update: Tim Gill, founder of the Gill Foundation, is also a co-host, as is his husband, Scott Miller.)

The fundraiser comes two days after a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled that Proposition 8, the California ballot measure that stripped same-sex couples of the right to marry, is unconstitutional. The White House has declined comment on the ruling, though Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday that the president "has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts that deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples," a statement the administration has used to address multiple efforts nationwide seeking to rescind or constitutionally prohibit gay marriage. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum all denounced the Ninth Circuit decision as textbook judicial activism and an affront to California voters who passed Prop. 8 more than three years ago.

"I think support for the president is coalescing," Bohnett said, in part due to the barrage of antigay positions staked by GOP presidential candidates. "There's a growing awareness in the lesbian and gay community of how significant he has been on our issues, awareness that has been lacking in some camps. It's not just 'don't ask, don't tell,' DOMA repeal, and hate crimes [legislation], but also work at the agency level that affects thousands of federal employees."

Bohnett said he expects the president "will proudly recap what he has done on behalf of our community," as he has done in previous addresses to the LGBT community, including an October keynote at the national Human Rights Campaign dinner in Washington, D.C.

Gill wrote via email, "While more work is yet to be done, he needs the full support of our community to finish the job. Personally, my husband, Scott, and I will do all we can to help with the President's re-election."

Democrats are set to renominate Obama at the party's national convention this fall in Charlotte, N.C., where voters will decide in May whether to approve a draconian constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage as well as any legal recognition for same-sex couples (the state already statutorily prohibits marriage equality). DNC officials have not yet said whether they will commit any resources to fight the amendment, though DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told reporters in October that Democrats would "certainly consider" doing so.

AmericaBlog's Joe Sudbay, who first reported on the fundraiser, called on attendees to press Obama for an executive order barring federal contractors from anti-LGBT discrimination (read the post here).

A previous version of this story reported that the maximum allowed amount to the joint campaign fund is $37,500. The correct number is $35,800.

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