Melissa Etheridge sang "Wedding Bell Blues" and Mary J. Blige covered a moving rendition of U2’s "One" at Ron Burkle’s Greenacres estate at a lavish fund-raiser for the No on 8 campaign, which is a fighting a ban on same-sex marriage.
On a stage set up on a portion of Burkle’s sprawling back lawn, Etheridge told the crowd that "I believe we are at the very end of this cycle of fear that has been going on and on."
About $3.9 million was raised at the Tuesday evening event, and campaign officials say they are closing the fund-raising gap with the supporters of Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. No on 8 has raised $25 million, while Yes on 8 has amassed $27 million, said Lorri Jean, CEO of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.
"We are getting close but we are not close enough," she said.
Latest polls show the proposition running about even between the Yes and No sides, and a new batch of data is expected sometime this week that is expected to indicate some improved numbers.
Etheridge remarked on money that has come from churches out of state to support Proposition 8. Between sets, Etheridge said, "Fifteen million dollars — could you imagine all the people they could have housed in Louisiana? Send it to Darfur! Send it to Tibet!"
Some reports have claimed that Mormon church members are contributing substantial sums in a well-organized campaign, although a Yes on 8 spokeswoman disputes claims that 40% of money has come from Mormons.
Among those at a pre-event dinner were Gavin Newsom, John Garamendi, Antonio Villaraigosa and Jerry Brown — all of whom are declared or possible gubernatorial hopefuls in 2010 — as well as Barbra Streisand and James Brolin, Rob and Michele Reiner, Bruce Cohen and Gabriel Catone, Joel Flatow, Mark Leno, Chad Griffin, David Hyde Pierce, John and Mike August, Greg Berlanti, Fabian Nunez, Alan Hergott. and David Bohnett. A number of guests chipped in additional money. Burkle underwrote the cost of the event. Nunez, for instance, donated another $50,000 to the $100,000 he already has contributed.
With Yes on 8 ads apparently helping to drive up poll numbers, Nunez said that the messaging from same-sex marriage supporters should be clear: "You can reserve your right to live your life as you wish, but allow others to do the same."
"There are those who want to pit people against each other, and if you want to protect people’s rights, you you should vote No on 8," he said.
Patrick Guerriero, who came aboard as campaign manager just two weeks ago, outlined campaign plans that include plans to match Yes on 8 ads with responses, efforts to turnout the youth vote and reaching out to ethnic voting blocs. Villaraigosa said he planned to make a commercial spot aimed at the Latino community, conditional on getting the funding to air it.
At the concert, quite a few attendees were anxious to meet Father Geoffrey Farrow, the Fresno priest who was suspended from his parish (and salary and health benefits) after announcing his opposition to Proposition 8 from the pulpit.
Hergott, an entertainment attorney, recalled to writer Karen Ocamb that it "was very moving" to see Sid and Lorraine Sheinberg at the event. They helped organize a 1991 fund-raiser for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, believed to be the first time that major entertainment industry players came out for a gay rights event.