Last year, Focus on the Family donated nearly $450,000 to support a California proposition outlawing gay marriage.
This year, the Colorado Springs-based organization is setting its sights on Maine, but the outlay is a lot smaller — both because Maine is a lot smaller, and because of the economy.

As of Sept. 30, Focus had donated $98,500 to Stand for Marriage Maine, a coalition supporting an initiative on the Nov. 3 ballot to overturn the state Legislature’s legalization of gay marriage. Efforts began in May to collect signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

Jenny Tyree, marriage analyst for Focus Action, the political arm of the Colorado Springs family group, said the creation of the measure shows that people, not politicians, should decide the parameters of marriage.

“Marriage is the safest in the hands of the people,” Tyree said. “Politicians are swayed by a lot of things.”

Though polls show Maine residents are divided on the issue, Tyree is hopeful the measure will pass, given the success last year in California, where 52 percent of voters amended the state constitution through a ballot measure to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Between December 2007 and July 2008, Focus contributed $448,406 to the California coalition supporting the measure, Proposition 8. Tyree said the reason for the huge difference between the donations to California and Maine is that California is much bigger, which required purchasing more media ads. But she said the recession affected Focus’ spending in Maine to a degree.

“We have been impacted like everyone else,” she said.

The leading donor to Stand for Marriage Maine is the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine, which has given nearly $390,000, Maine records show.

Nonprofits like Focus and the Roman Catholic diocese are legally able to donate up to 15 percent of their annual budget to lobbying efforts.

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