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Backers Of Calif. Gay Marriage Ban Face Backlash

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Backers Of Calif. Gay Marriage Ban Face Backlash

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Backers Of Calif. Gay Marriage Ban Face Backlash

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

Now a look at the other side of Prop 8 and the backlash some people felt after supporting the ban on gay marriage. There are individuals who gave money to the Yes on 8 Campaign for religious or personal reasons. Many then found themselves targeted by angry gay-rights advocates. And a few paid a big price for voting their conscious, as NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: It's no secret who gave money for and against Proposition 8. California's secretary of state publicized the lists of contributors, which were picked up by local media and Web sites.

And in the aftermath of a contentious campaign, protests followed.

Mr. JOHN DENNISON (Protestor): El Coyote, takes your gay dollars to fund gay hatred.

BATES: In Los Angeles, would-be patrons of a popular Tex-Mex restaurant were greeted with furious protestors like John Dennison.

Mr. DENNISON: El Coyote - millions in gay margarita money funding hatred. Boycott El Coyote!

BATES: Margie Christofferson, a faithful Mormon and the restaurant owner's daughter, had made a modest $100 contribution to Yes on 8, and the restaurant's gay patrons, like Edward Stanley, felt betrayed.

Mr. EDWARD STANLEY: I won't be eating here. I won't be in here.

BATES: Business dipped about 30 percent at the height of the protest, and still hasn't returned to pre-protest levels. Several of the restaurant's staff -including many of its gay employees - have seen their hours cut back in response. And Christofferson, who managed the restaurant, has resigned.

In Sacramento, the owners of Leatherby's Family Creamery found themselves part of the backlash when The Sacramento Bee printed the publicly available list of contributors. Dave Leatherby, a devout Roman Catholic father of 10, says he was responding to a direct request from his bishop to give generously.

Mr. DAVE LEATHERBY (Owner, Leatherby's Family Creamery): And so we did, and we gave $20,000 for Yes on Proposition 8.

BATES: And once that was known, retaliation was swift.

Mr. LEATHERBY: We soon started getting very nasty emails and letters and phone calls by the hundreds.

BATES: Dave Leatherby says he was mystified, since the Creamery had always enjoyed good relations with the gay and lesbian community.

And he says something interesting happened when demonstrators arrived outside his shop: Business went up instead of down.

Mr. LEATHERBY: The day they picketed us, there were about 15 picketers, and that day we had people waiting two hours to get in our restaurant for four or five hours.

BATES: Not every backlash story ends that way.

Richard Raddon, director of the Los Angeles Film Festival, and Scott Eckern, director of the California Musical Theater in Sacramento, are devout Mormons. Both made contributions to Yes on 8, and both got demands for their resignations from gay rights protestors. They quit so their organizations wouldn't face further controversy. Ironically, the film festival has been instrumental in introducing works by gay and lesbian filmmakers to a broader audience, and the musical theater included works by gay playwrights and composers.

Mr. FRANK SCHUBERT (Spokesman, Yes on 8 Campaign): This seems to be an effort to indiscriminately go after anyone who contributed money, regardless of their position on gay issues.

BATES: That's Frank Schubert, spokesman for the Yes on 8 campaign. He says the backlash has endangered individuals who exercise their constitutional right to freedom of religion.

Mr. SCHUBERT: I think that overall, the attempt here is to intimidate and punish people so that they are less inclined to speak out in the future.

BATES: And to a certain degree, it's been effective. But it also gives rise to charges that as gay rights advocates tried to change public opinion, some stepped over the line and turned their protest into a witch hunt.

Karen Grimsby Bates, NPR News.

WERTHEIMER: You could look at an interactive map of states and their legal battles over gay marriage at npr.org.

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