A California ballot question seeking to ban gay marriage has generated $28.2 million from supporters, with the largest individual donation coming from John and Josephine Templeton of Bryn Mawr.
Templeton, chairman of the John M. Templeton Foundation, based in West Conshohocken, and his wife have contributed $1 million to promote passage of Proposition 8. It would amend the California constitution to "eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry."
A major donor to conservative causes and the Republican Party, Templeton, 68, declined to comment.
According to the Associated Press, Proposition 8 opponents have raised $32.3 million. The funds collected on both sides - a total of $60.5 million - have set a national record for a state ballot initiative based on a social issue. The AP said the combined sum also surpasses the $33 million spent on gay-marriage measures in 24 other states in recent years.
"I'm surprised how much they are spending, because I would have thought 90 percent of the people would have made up their minds on this issue," said Robert Stern, president of the nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles. "But if this is a close race, that undecided 10 percent will decide the election. Every dollar, in a sense, counts."
Gary Rosen, communications director for the Templeton Foundation, said yesterday that the Templetons' donation was private and not from the foundation, which dispenses more than $60 million annually for the study of spirituality, science and free enterprise.
The foundation was the creation of Sir John Templeton, a mutual-funds magnate who died in July at age 95. His son, known as Jack, retired as chief of pediatric surgery at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in 1995 to assume the foundation's helm.
The largest organization to contribute to either side of Proposition 8 has been the Knights of Columbus. The Catholic fraternal group gave $1.4 million in support of the amendment.
"For us, it is something anybody with an ounce of common sense should think important, whatever your faith," Patrick Korten, the K of C vice president for communications, said yesterday. "What it does is seek to protect in law an indispensable societal institution in which children are conceived, born and raised to adulthood by a father and a mother."
In a 2002 referendum, California voters endorsed legislation stating that only heterosexual marriages were valid. In May, the state's supreme court ruled that the statute violated the state constitution's equal protection clause and that people of the same sex could marry.
As a result, same-sex marriages are valid in California. As a constitutional amendment, Proposition 8 would invalidate the same-sex unions - an estimated 11,000 - that have taken place.
Fred Karger, head of Californians Against Hate, which opposes Proposition 8, said the group has posted a list on its Web site of donors who support the proposition, "so our friends and allies know who they are."
Supporters of the referendum are "trying to bury the gay community," said Karger, a retired political consultant and longtime activist for gay causes who lives in Los Angeles.
According to his analysis, he said, the great majority of individual donors seeking to pass the measure are Mormons. The leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has urged all Mormons to give of their "time and means" to defeat same-sex marriage rights in California and elsewhere.
The California Teachers Association, the state's primary teachers union, has pledged $1.3 million to fight the initiative and is the largest donor urging defeat.
The measure has also attracted sizable contributions from the entertainment industry seeking to defeat it. Brad Pitt, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Ellen DeGeneres have each donated $100,000.