In a statement released Nov. 12, Eckern said, "I am leaving California Musical Theatre after prayerful consideration to protect the organization and to help the healing in the local theatre-going and creative community. California Musical Theatre will continue to welcome with open arms all staff, artists and audiences who collaborate in the experience that live theatre does best – to lift the human spirit. I will continue to be in the audience to cheer on all the good work. It has been an honor to serve alongside those I love and respect in this noble profession. I am disappointed that my personal convictions have cost me the opportunity to do what I love the most which is to continue enriching the Sacramento arts and theatre community."
In his letter of resignation, Eckern also said that while he helped fund Proposition 8, his sister is a lesbian in a committed domestic partnership, adding, "I am loving and supportive of her and her family, and she is loving and supportive of me and my family. I definitely do not support any message or treatment of others that is hateful or instills fear. This is a highly emotional issue and the accusations that have been made against me are simply not true. I have now had many conversations with friends and colleagues, and I am deeply saddened that my personal beliefs and convictions have offended others. My choice to support the Proposition was personal, and does not represent the views and opinions of California Musical Theatre or the many people associated with the organization. I was required by law to identify my employer and occupation at the time of my donation."
California Musical Theatre has not issued a statement on a replacement for Eckern.
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 Nov. 11 and 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."