November 4, 2009
James Dobson might be leaving Focus on the Family, but executives with the Colorado Springs-based evangelical organization say Tuesday’s vote in Maine on same-sex marriages proves his influence and message remain relevant.
Maine voters split 53 percent to 47 percent to repeal a law, passed by their legislators and signed by their governor, that would have allowed same-sex marriages. Focus donated $115, 266 to a coalition supporting repeal, Maine records show. The defeat means gay marriage has lost in all 31 states where the public has voted on it.
Jenny Tyree, Focus’ marriage analyst, said Dobson’s decades-long work to uphold traditional marriage continues to resonate with Americans.
“The results in Maine and other states show people are not convinced that redefining marriage is the right thing to do,” she said Wednesday.
And while Dobson may be leaving his radio show Feb. 28 and retiring from the ministry he founded in 1977, his stand against gay marriage will live on at Focus, said Tom Minnery, senior vice president of Focus Action, the organization’s political arm.
“The principles he’s established here will endure for generations,” Minnery said. “He taught the importance of a mom and a dad to their child, and people get it.”
John C. Green, a senior researcher at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, said Focus may see some fallout from Dobson’s departure, because he has such a large following. But, Green added, Focus is bigger than one person.
“Focus has been involved in a very sophisticated transition and will very likely be a major influence even after Dobson retires,” Green said. “I would be very surprised if Focus’ influence declines after Dobson leaves.”
A Focus spokesman also said he expects Dobson to keep speaking out against gay marriage, pornography and other things he believes harms traditional marriage.
“He won’t stop speaking his mind,” said Gary Schneeberger.
Focus’ celebration over the vote in Maine, meanwhile, was tempered slightly by a defeat in Washington state, where voters approved a referendum expanding legal rights of same-sex couples in civil unions. Focus donated $91,000 to defeat the referendum.
But Focus and its state affiliate, the Family Policy Institute of Washington, are not giving up the fight. In October, the institute filed a lawsuit against Washington state. Institute attorney Jim Bopp said state campaign finance law caps initiative-group donations at $5,000 during the 21 days prior to election day. Bop said the law is unconstitutional, but didn’t elaborate.
Minnery said Focus would have donated more had it not been for the law, and argued that the initiative may have been defeated if donations were not so lopsided. Washington Families Standing Together, a coalition supporting Referendum 71, received more than $2 million in donations, while the opposition received less than $400,000, according to Washington state records.
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