Hollywood rallies against Prop. 8

Rob Reiner, Bruce Cohen on board of new org

A group of entertainment industry activists — including Rob Reiner, Bruce Cohen and Dustin Lance Black — are among the board members of a newly formed org behind a federal suit challenging Proposition 8.

When star attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies announced the filing of the suit last week, the names of those on the board were withheld so as not to distract attention from the case itself. The effort is being led by political consultant Chad Griffin, who serves as president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights.

Also on the board are Reiner’s wife, Michele, a producer and children’s advocate, and Kristina Schake, partner with Griffin in a political consultancy and communications firm with a number of industry clients. There are plans to also release a list of donors to the effort in the near future.

The lawsuit created an initial reaction of criticism among some gay rights orgs like Lambda Legal, which fear that a federal case could eventually land in the Supreme Court and perhaps set an unfavorable precedent. Olson and Boies are challenging Proposition 8 on the grounds that it is a violation of the due process and equal protection clauses in the 14th Amendment.

The Hollywood-centric makeup of the Equal Rights foundation board reflects a desire among several prominent figures and fund-raisers involved in the No on 8 campaign to seek a different approach to winning same-sex marriage rights, as a coalition of gay organizations ponders whether to aim for a ballot initiative in 2010 or 2012. Griffin and Cohen were central to organizing a fund-raiser that brought $4 million into the coffers of the No on 8 campaign before the election.

Griffin decided to form the org after the crushing loss on Nov. 4. Informed of Olson’s position on gay marriage, he called the attorney and met with him in Washington on Nov. 21. Boies joined the suit about a month later, adding an attorney of equal stature and also the novelty of having the two Bush vs. Gore legal eagles on the same case together.

Griffin said that the suit should not distract from efforts to win same-sex marriage at the ballot, noting that there is a desire to channel money and energy on “all fronts.”

“When there is a smart strategy with a winnable plan, I think that the funding will be there,” he said.

On Wednesday, a coalition of gay rights organizations unveiled some of the results of a recently completed statewide poll that showed that 47% favor marriage for same-sex couples and 48% oppose. Support for gay marriage increased when provisions were added saying that clergy would not be required to perform a service that goes against their faith.

The backing of around 60% is traditionally the comfort level from which a “Yes” initiative campaign wants to begin, although a pro same-sex marriage proposition could be different because of the high level of voter awareness.

The polling also showed that there was a “small advantage” to putting a repeal of Prop 8 on the ballot in 2012, even as groups like the Courage Campaign and Equality California have endorsed the idea of 2010 after surveying their members.

Donors and fund-raisers, Griffin said, will “want to know that 2010 is the smartest and most strategic ballot to be on.”

If that is the case, Griffin said, “What the polling shows is that there is a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done across this state, full time and around the clock.”

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