BY DUNCAN OSBORNE | As members of the Gay Liberation Front stepped on to Fifth Avenue to join the 2009 Pride March, they took up a chant that they used 40 years earlier when the group organized the first march to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots, which are seen as marking the start of the modern gay rights movement.
“Ho, ho, homosexual, the ruling class is ineffectual,” they chanted with some humor. In 2012, it would seem that the “ruling class” is a highly prized and welcome supporter of the lesbian and gay community efforts to win marriage in America.
“I think Paul [Singer] is really setting the bar,” said Marc Solomon, the national campaign director at Freedom to Marry, a pro-gay marriage group.
Singer gave $1 million to Freedom to Marry earlier this summer and raised additional funds from Clifford S. Asness, Daniel S. Loeb, and Seth Klarman, who are, like Singer, hedge fund managers.
“That group of people together have committed more than $1.5 million,” Solomon said. “We hope that is a trigger to others to step up and get involved.”
Singer’s son, Andrew, is gay and married his partner, Corey Morris, in Massachusetts in 2009. Paul’s charitable giving appears to follow his interests as well as those of his children and spouse.
Through a family foundation, Paul gave $1.8 million to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) at a time when Andrew was volunteering at the organization.
Paul has given millions to gay groups and causes. He has been especially generous with organizations that are fighting for same sex marriage. In June of this year, Paul gave $1 million to establish the American Unity PAC, a political organization that will support pro-gay marriage Republicans. His support for the marriage cause shows he is a devoted father.
“First and foremost, he loves his son and he loves his son-in-law,” said Solomon who has met the father about a half dozen times. “I imagine that is one of the main impetuses for getting involved.”
In published reports, the elder Singer is described as conservative, but with a libertarian streak.
“His political philosophy is really libertarian,” Solomon said. “He wants limited government.”
Singer is closer politically to Dick Cheney, who Solomon quoted twice in an interview saying “Freedom means freedom for everyone,” than he is to Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council or other social conservatives.
Freedom to Marry and other gay groups have been making a concerted effort to recruit more Republicans and more conservatives to the marriage cause.
“We know that to win we can’t just have support from people on the left,” Solomon said.
But Singer has supported conservative causes and politicians that might cause confusion, or worse, in some in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
In its 2010 fiscal year, Singer’s foundation gave $500,000 to the American Enterprise Institute, $325,000 to the Manhattan Institute, and $25,000 to the Witherspoon Institute, all conservative groups. Witherspoon was a funder of a recent study by Mark Regnerus, a University of Texas sociology professor, that found that having gay parents led to ill effects in children. The study was attacked by the gay community. An audit done for Social Science Research, the journal that published the study, concluded that the study was flawed, and the auditor said it should not have been published.
The foundation also gave $500,000 to Military Families United, a group that lobbied on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal. That group never responded to calls or emails from Gay City News asking what position it took on repeal, and advocates for repeal did not recognize it as an ally. The three House members lobbied by the group voted against repeal.
Singer is a longtime supporter of the Republican Party and Republican candidates, including some who are anti-gay. Last year, Singer gave $1 million to Restore Our Future, a political action committee that is backing Mitt Romney with independent expenditures.
Singer is also as ardent a capitalist as he is a supporter of same-sex marriage. His hedge fund, Elliott Management, with assets in the billions of dollars, has established so-called vulture funds that bought the sovereign debt of the Congo and Peru for pennies on the dollars and then sued those countries in American and British courts to recoup the full value of the debt. Those suits came at a time when some activists, notably Bono, the singer, and economist Jeffrey Sachs, were seeking to have such debts forgiven by Western nations and lenders.
In 2008 published reports, the Elliott vulture funds were estimated to be worth no more than one or two percent of Elliott's total assets. Singer did not respond to an email seeking comment and it is not clear if Elliott is still in that business.
Gay groups, like many in the community, tend to be very pragmatic about working with those on the right and Freedom to Marry is no exception.
“In my work life, I’m focused on one thing and one thing only and that’s winning the freedom to marry,” Solomon said.