Some right-wing pundits, including Glenn Beck, have read the writing on the wall and declared that anti-gay activists have lost the cultural war. But a handful of wealthy homophobes and transphobes still refuse to accept the inevitable, digging deep into their bottomless pockets to fund efforts to demonize and disparage LGBT Americans.
Meet hedge fund mogul Sean Fieler, a devout Roman Catholic from Princeton, N.J., with a wife and three children. He is a 1995 graduate of Williams College, a private liberal arts college in Massachusetts where he majored in political economy and may have been the only right-wing student. Fieler’s homophobia and transphobia are being very publicly expressed thanks to his substantial wealth acquired as head of Equinox Partners and the Kuroto Fund, both based in New York.
Fieler is the single largest donor meddling in California’s business, helping a small number of anti-gay foes trying to qualify a 2014 referendum to overturn a new state law, “The School Success and Opportunity Act.” The law, scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, protects transgender schoolchildren from discrimination.
So far this year, Fieler has contributed $80,000 in September, $70,000 in October and $50,000 in November, according to the latest figures. His total of $200,000 accounts for most of the nearly $500,000 raised by anti-gay forces to rustle up signatures across the state.
Fieler’s money is helping to foment fear among Californians about transgender students: Boys will pretend to be girls so they can be voyeurs in the girls locker rooms and the girls restrooms … or boys claiming to be girls will dominate girls teams. Trouble is, there is no evidence that this is an issue.
He joins the likes of the Pacific Justice Institute, Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills and Fieldstead & Co. of Irvine to create an anti-gay treasury fund. And if those names sound familiar, all are associated with the Proposition 8 campaign that took away marriage equality for California’s gay and lesbian couples from 2008 to 2013, until the U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn a federal court ruling that the law was unconstitutional.
As such, Fieler is closely affiliated with the anti-gay hate group, National Organization for Marriage (NOM), whose goal is to preserve marriage exclusively for heterosexuals.
Fieler has never clearly articulated why he is homophobic and transphobic, but in a 2013 New York Times article, he contends that same-gender marriage is a total falsehood:
“The problem with gay marriage … is it promotes a very harmful myth about the gay lifestyle. It suggests that gay relationships lend themselves to monogamy, stability, health and parenting in the same way heterosexual relationships do. That’s not true.”
The Times article also notes that Fieler’s average annual donation to anti-gay causes “ranged from $200,000 to $250,000.”
The Human Rights Campaign, through its NOM Exposed blog, took Fieler to task after seeing his quotes in the Times article.
HRC poured through IRS filings and said that Fieler had given at least six figures to NOM and pointed to a Reuters article that reported that Fieler has donated more than $1 million to anti-gay causes.
Fieler is cashing in on his notoriety and deep pockets by heading the so-called American Principles Project, another of those misnamed right-wing organizations that doesn’t live up to its moniker. The Project was started by NOM co-founder Robert George and employs NOM mouthpiece Maggie Gallagher. As chairman of the Project, Fieler has a bully pulpit for foist his views on America.
But bashing the queer community is not Fieler’s only goals. Not happy to earn millions as a hedge fund operator, Fieler is an advocate for returning to the gold standard, another right-wing cause. He is also a board member of the Catholic Finance Association, Witherspoon Institute, Manhattan Institute, Dominican Foundation, International Crisis Group AB, Institute for American Values, National Bible Association, and the Committee for Monetary and Research & Education. He is also on the Pro-Life Commission of the Archdiocese of New York. Last but not least, he is chairman of the Chiaroscuro Foundation. None of these groups has a history of inclusion or equality.
In addition to donating generously to fight California’s new law to protect transgender students, Fieler in 2013 has been battling against the Senate campaigns of Cory Booker in New Jersey and Liz Cheney in Wyoming. Fieler donated more than $54,000 to the Super PAC he operates through the American Principles Fund for the 2014 cycle, according to the Sunlight Foundation. His Super PAC spent almost $98,000 to oppose Booker, the former Democratic mayor of Newark who won his special election. And his Super PAC has doled out $75,000 in an effort to defeat Cheney, a Republican who trails badly in the GOP primary against incumbent Mike Enzi. Again, Fieler’s motives are unclear: Could it be that Liz Cheney has a lesbian sister who is legally married?
So far, Fieler is not winning the war against LGBT Americans. Booker is a friend of the gay community and brings a progressive view to the U.S. Senate. And Fieler may get zero return for his investment in the California campaign against transgender students: The spot check of petition signatures today shows that the validation rate is extremely close .
On Thursday, California Secretary of State Debra Brown released an update showing that 42 of the state’s 58 counties had completed spot checks, and the current validity rate of 78.51% is barely above the 78.06% rate needed to advance to a full check of every signature. San Diego County with 72,542 signers and Los Angeles County with 130,978, the two largest totals of signers, have not reported in yet. If this goes to round two, repeal opponents will need to hit 82.16604% validity to qualify the referendum.
But whether or not the referendum qualifies, don’t fear. Frank Schubert, one of the masterminds of the Prop 8 campaign who is heading the anti-trans group with the misnamed moniker of Privacy for All Students, already is scheming in case the referendum fails. Schubert and his buddies at the anti-gay hate group Pacific Justice Institute are trying to recruit students who will claim fear of having to share a locker room or restroom with transgender students so they can sue the state to stop the law.
And no doubt Fieler will be standing by, raiding his personal Fort Knox, to fund those frivolous lawsuits.
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Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 855-445-2866, ext. 713.