Follow the Money: The Knights of Columbus and Anti-Marriage Politics
October 18th, 2012
Moments ago, the Equally Blessed coalition of four Catholic organizations who support full equality for LGBT people issued a new report (PDF:1.3MB/38 pages) detailing heavy financial involvement of the Knights of Columbus in various anti-marriage initiatives across the U.S. The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization similar to the Masons which defines itself as a charitable organizations, has developed a solid reputation for funding a large number of social support and genuinely charitable works.
But since 2003, the Knights has become an increasingly political organization, pouring almost $6.3 million directly to anti-marriage efforts since 2005. In addition, the Knights spent more than $9.6 million in what the report classifies as indirect support for fighting same-sex marriage, including such areas as educational, theological and spiritual programs to support the position of marriage as one-man/one-woman. For example, the Knights has contributed $1.5 million to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has mounted legal challenges to marriage equality on the grounds that it infringes upon the religious liberties of those who oppose it. Other recipients of what the report calls indirect support for anti-marriage efforts include the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family ($6.3 million), the Federalist Society ($130,000), Morality in Media ($150,000), and the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society ($75,000) which sponsors the World Congress of Families.
As for the direct contributions to anti-marriage fights, the Equally Blessed report indicates that the Knights was a major contributor to ballot measures in California, Kansas, Florida, Arizona, Washington, Maryland and Maine. The Knights became involved in anti-marriage fights in 2005 when they donated $100,000 to DOMA, Inc, which was fighting for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to the Kansas Constitution. The Knights was not just the largest single donor to DOMA, Inc., their donation made up 80% of the total $126,000 raised by DOMA. That proposed amendment passed in April 2005 by 70% to 30%.
In 2008, with marriage amendments on the ballot in four states, the Knights stepped up its game considerably. In 2008, the Knights contributed $1,150,000 to ProtectMarriage.com out of a total of $39 million raised to strip California’s gays and lesbians of their rights to marry. The Knights also contributed $200,000 to support Florida’s successful fight in Amendment 2, and $100,000 to pass Arizona’s Prop 102. The Knights also contributed $250,000 in a failed effort to promote a constitutional convention to impose a marriage equality ban.
The Knights has also given significant resources to state Catholic Conferences and other organizations to run public relations campaigns against marriage equality. In 2008, at the same time that the Knights contributed $1.7 million directly to state battles to ban same-sex marriage, they contributed an additional $500,000 to the National Organization for Marriage. With those expensive state-level campaigns over in 2009, NOM became the recipient of $1,430,000, the single largest grant that the Knights have made to date for anti-marriage efforts. NOM, in turn, donated almost $2 million to the effort to turn back marriage equality in Maine. That same year, the Knights contributed $169,000 to Family Institute of Connecticut Action to air “religious freedom” ads on local media in their fight against same-sex marriage. (That year, the state legislature modified their marriage laws to conform with a 2008 state Supreme Court mandate requiring Connecticut to provide same-sex marriage.)
The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops naturally have also been the beneficiaries of the Knights’ largess. Beginning with a $50,000 grant to the USCCB in 2007, the Knights have poured almost $1.2 million to the USCCB’s coffers through 2010. That is in addition to some $300 to state level Catholic organizations.
The report from Equally Blessed was based on the Knights’ IRS-990 tax filings through 2010. Because the Knights have exercised their rights to delay filing their 2011 tax returns until November 15, 2012, the report does not include Knights expenditures for that year. But by examining the campaign filings of marriage opponents Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington campaigns, Equally Blessed was able to tabulate that the Knights have contributed over $635,000so far, with allocations ranging from $250,000 in Washington and Maryland to just $1,135 for Maine.
The report only covers donations made by the national Knights of Columbus. It does not include donations made by individual Knights chapters across the U.S. The full list of donations for direct fights against marriage equality shown below are taken from Table 1 of the report. The report also includes a separate table showing donations for indirect support for marriage quality fights.
|2005||100,000||DOMA Inc. for constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality in Kansas|
|2006||25,000||Various state-level marriage protection initiatives|
|2007||150,000||PA Catholic Conference for marriage protection initiative|
|50,000||MA State Council for marriage protection initiative|
|50,000||Family Institute of Connecticut for marriage protection initiative|
|50,000||US Catholic Conference of Bishops for National Pastoral Initiative for Marriage|
|2008||1,150,000||ProtectMarriage.com to support Proposition 8 in California|
|500,000||NOM to support the mission to be a national resource for marriage-related initiatives|
|275,000||Connecticut Catholic Conference to promote a constitutional convention for a marriage equality ban|
|200,000||Florida Family Action to pass Marriage Protection Amendment|
|100,000||YesForMarriage.com to pass Proposition 102 in Arizona|
|50,000||Catholic Conference for the “Future Depends on Marriage” campaign|
|35,000||NJ Catholic Conference to produce DVD for nationwide use to oppose marriage equality|
|2009||1,430,000||NOM to support the mission to be a national resource for marriage-related initiatives|
|418,000||US Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee for Defense of Marriage|
|169,000||Family Institute of Connecticut Action for “religious freedom” ads|
|50,000||Stand for Marriage Maine to ballot initiative to overturn legalization of marriage equality|
|25,500||Family Institute of Connecticut for administrative costs|
|25,000||NJ Catholic Conference to produce DVD for nationwide use to oppose marriage equality|
|15,000||NJ Council to support pro-marriage rally|
|2010||722,150||USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Defense of Marriage|
|26,000||Family Institute of Connecticut for administrative costs|
|2012||250,000||Preserve Marriage Washington|
|250,000||Maryland Marriage Alliance|
|134,000||Minnesota for Marriage|
|1,135||Protect Marriage Maine|