Eckern's $1,000 contribution to the measure that would amend California's state constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to a union solely between a man and a woman was discovered through public record. Proposition 8, which was approved by a vote of 52.3 percent on Nov. 4, overturns the May 2008 California Supreme Court decision granting marriage equality.
Word spread quickly throughout the theatre community via e-mails sent by Tony Award-winning Hairspray composer Marc Shaiman and Tony-nominated actress Susan Egan (Triumph of Love, Beauty and the Beast), as well as a blog post from Tony-winning Avenue Q book writer Jeff Whitty, all of whom took issue with Eckern's support of a measure that was created to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry. The official title of Proposition 8 ballot reads: "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry."
Shaiman contacted Eckern and also issued a mass e-mail that stated, "The idea that money from his salary that was, in a small way, made from a production of Hairspray had now been put to use to pass this bigoted Proposition truly hurt and sickened me and that no future project of mine would ever play his theatre."
Egan's e-mail went on to call for a boycott of California Musical Theatre by "ticket-buyers, writers, musical directors, crew, designers and performers and more."
In response to the words of Shaiman, Egan, Whitty and numerous individuals who contacted the theatre company, Eckern released an apology and has donated $1,000 to the Human Rights Campaign, which works to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. "I understand that my choice of supporting Proposition 8 has been the cause of many hurt feelings maybe even betrayal. It was not my intent. I honestly had no idea that this would be the reaction. I chose to act upon my belief that the traditional definition of marriage should be preserved. I support each individual to have rights and access and I understood that in California domestic partnerships come with the same rights that come with marriage," Eckern said in a statement.
He continued, "I definitely do not support any message or treatment of others that is hateful or instills fear. This is a highly emotional issue. I have now had many conversations with friends and colleagues and I now have a better idea of what the discrimination issues are, how deeply felt these issues are and I am deeply saddened that my acting upon my religious convictions has been devastating to those I love and admire… I am deeply sorry for any harm or injury I have caused."