A conservative religious family in western Michigan, whose vast fortunes derive from auto parts and government security contracts, is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to ban gay marriage in California.
Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, widow of industrialist Edgar Prince, has given $450,000 to an effort to pass California Proposition 8, which would forbid same-sex marriages.
Broekhuizen is the mother of Erik D. Prince, founder of Blackwater Worldwide, the controversial operation that provides security services to federal officials in Iraq and other countries. Her daughter, Betsy DeVos, is a former Michigan GOP chair and wife of failed gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos.
Broekhuizen’s first husband, Edgar, founded an auto parts company that was sold after his death for $1.4 billion. She later married her pastor, Ren Broekhuizen.
An assistant told the Grand Rapids Press that Broekhuizen gave to the campaign because the issue is “very important to her. It’s near and dear to her heart. She likes to give from her heart and not for public recognition.”
Broekhuizen heads the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, which had assets of more than $42 million in 2006 (the last year for which tax returns are publicly available). The foundation and Broekhuizen personally are longtime supporters of religious organizations and conservative political groups such as the Haggai Institute, Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.
Broekhuizen isn’t the only big-money contributor to the California proposition. John Templeton Jr., son of the late investor John Templeton, has given $900,000 to support the ban, while his mother Josephine Templeton gave $100,000. The Knights of Columbus gave $1 million.
Another Michigander, Stryker Corp. heir Jon L. Stryker, has donated $1.1 million to defeat the ban. Other opponents of the proposition include financier Robert W. Wilson of Brooklyn, who has given $1.2 million, and GeoCities founder David Bohnett, who has given $1.1 million.