Prop. 8: Silicon Valley Vs. Hollywood

Polls for Proposition 8 are still running dead even, with the “No” side perhaps running a couple of points ahead. I also just got a robocall that uses Barack Obama’s statements to MTV in opposition to the constitutional amendment.

And at the end of last week, a group of Silicon Valley leaders, including Sergey Brin and Jerry Yang, took out an ad in the San Francisco Mercury News expressing their opposition to 8. They even formed a group, Silicon Valley Leaders Say NO on Proposition 8, with the statement, “Silicon Valley has always been an example for the rest of the country of how diversity and openness help to drive innovation and value creation. This divisive measure is the antithesis of those values that make Silicon Valley so unique.”

All of this leads to the natural question: Why hasn’t Hollywood mounted a similar organizational effort? Given the makeup of the work force, it would seem to make sense, perhaps even more than in Silicon Valley.

Celebrities like Samuel L. Jackson and the stars of “Ugly Betty” have stepped forward with advertising spots. David Geffen chipped in another $100,000 late last week. Ellen DeGeneres taped her own commercial and, in coordination with Equality California, bought $100,000 worth of ad time, not to mention the statements that she has made on her show and her blog. (A side point: The way she made her contribution, directing her money to be spent solely on ad spots aimed for a particular market, and ensuring that it would not go to overhead, could be the model for future celebrity activism).

But there has not been anything like the coordinated effort waged up north. Of the studio chiefs, only Alan and Cindy Horn have given, a $50,000 contribution made over the weekend. None of the studios themselves have made contributions, which are allowed under California’s freewheeling finance laws applying to state initiatives. I have been told by studio sources, who do not want to go on the record, that the reasons have to do with the congloms not wanting to involve themselves in statewide initiatives, given that they are large media companies. Otherwise, the thinking goes, they will be on the hook to contribute to other causes as well.

That will make sense to those on the No on 8 campaign, who see this as a turning point with national ramifications in the battle for same-sex civil rights. But it actually speaks to a larger historical issue of studios staying away from what they perceive to be local politics.

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