SAN FRANCISCO - Supporters and opponents of a ballot initiative that would outlaw same-sex marriage in California have poured $41.2 million into the race, more than the combined total spent in the 24 states where similar measures have gone before voters since 2004.
Campaign finance figures show supporters of the gay marriage ban have taken a significant lead in fundraising even as Proposition 8 has lagged in public opinion polls. A backer, ProtectMarriage.com, reported taking in $25.4 million through Sept. 30 of this year compared to the $15.8 million in donations raised by the main committee opposing the measure.
"It shows there is tremendous grassroots support for what we are trying to do," said Frank Schubert, co-manager of the gay marriage ban campaign.
Schubert said more than 60,000 people and businesses have given money to help pass the initiative, which would amend the state constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman. He provided the figures Monday before the group filed its official fundraising report with the secretary of state's office to meet the reporting deadline.
Steve Smith, manager of Equality for All, a coalition of groups working to defeat the gay marriage ban, predicted the bank accounts for the two sides would even up by Election Day on Nov. 4. He noted that when the last campaign finance reports were filed at the end of July, the proposition's opponents were ahead.
"What's happening is a little seesaw battle," Smith said.
Both sides have set aside more than $10 million for television advertisements and plan to start airing their second round of ads this week. The fundraising advantage Proposition 8's supporters have at this point is reflected in the remaining cash on hand they reported having on Monday — $12.8 million for supporters of the ban, $1.8 million for its opponents.
According to figures compiled by the National Organization on Money in State Politics, a little less than $33 million was spent on campaigns to pass or defeat gay marriage bans in the 24 states where they appeared on ballots in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Supporters of same-sex marriage had the fundraising edge in all of them, but voters approved all but one, in Arizona.
With a month to go until the election, fundraising by the two sides in the California campaign already has well exceeded that amount. By comparison, the most expensive gay marriage fight before now was in Colorado, where opponents and supporters spent $6.8 million in 2006.
"For an issue like this, it's a lot of money," said Rachel Weiss, a spokeswoman for the national Organization on Money in State Politics. "California is in its own universe."
Associated Press writer Steve Lawrence in Sacramento contributed to this story.