The LDS (Mormon) Church, Same-Sex Marriage and Proposition 8
81 articles from a wide range of publications regarding same-sex marriage, California's Proposition 8 and the short- and long-term impacts of the LDS (Mormon) Church's involvement in its passage.
1. Mormon church, other faiths urge US Supreme Court to intervene in gay marriage issue
2. LDS Church files SCOTUS brief supporting Prop 8, DOMA
3. Mormon church is conspicuously absent in Md. same-sex marriage referendum
4. Prop 8 involvement a P.R. fiasco for LDS Church; The campaign offered fuel for critics
5. Gay marriage fight, 'kiss-ins' smack Mormon image
6. Mormon Church feels the heat over Proposition 8; The church, which has long sought to be seen as part of America's mainstream, joins with other religious organizations to back California's ban on gay marriage. But now it has become a political target
7. Film Focuses on Mormon Role in Gay Marriage Ban; Sundance documentary examines Mormon church's role in political fight over gay marriage
8. Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage
9. The Mormon Proposition
10. The Mormons Are Coming!'; Supporters of Same-Sex Marriage Trumpet the Church's Work Against It
11. Mormons Boost Antigay Marriage Effort; Group Has Given Millions in Support of California Fund
12. Utah money helped push Prop 8 spending to historic level
13. LDS elders showed seasoned political savvy on California's Prop. 8
14. LDS church push benefited Prop. 8, but Mormons say they've been unfairly targeted
15. Mormon church "regrets" Calif. gay marriage ruling
16. LDS apostle: Prop 8 backlash against Mormons like civil-rights-era persecution of blacks; Now Dallin H. Oaks faces his own backlash
17. Mormon-tied gay rights groups join in blasting LDS apostle's Prop 8 comments; Civil rights -- They argue the church overstepped its own policy of political neutrality.
18. LDS communications part of Prop 8 trial
19. How Far Will Mormons Go to Fight Gay Marriage?
20. Mormon church praises ruling on same-sex marriage
21. Utahns, LDS Church spent more on Prop. 8 than previously known
22. Prop 8 foes slow to pick up on Mormon involvement
23. LDS Church will have a tough time leaving the spotlight
24. The Church and Gay Marriage: Are Mormons Misunderstood?
25. Utah prime location for gay-rights movement
26. Gay-marriage debate roils, unites Mormons; Fallout over California vote
27. New charges made over LDS Church role in Prop 8; Group bases claims on leaked church memos
28. Mormon Church steps into the Prop. 8 battle
29. Mormon Church reveals deeper involvement in Prop. 8
30. The Mormon factor in marriage fight
31. Prop. 8 among costliest measures in history
32. California Releasing Donor List for $83 Million Marriage Vote
33. Gay marriage advocates bristle at religion's role in Prop. 8 win
34. The New Religious Right; Does the organizational and fund-raising prowess displayed by the LDS church during California's Proposition 8 campaign augur future political might?
35. Probe into LDS Church's Prop 8 donations going forward
36. Mormons face flak for backing Prop. 8
37. State officials to investigate Mormon Church's Prop. 8 campaign activities
38. Hurtful comments based on ignorance can run both ways
39. Too complicated to find common ground
40. Mormon church reports $190,000 Prop. 8 expenses
41. The Prop 8 Campaign Money
42. Calif. gay marriage ban backers target businesses
43. LDS Church urges pro-Proposition 8 calls
44. Mormons Outside California Recruited For Prop. 8
45. Gay-rights advocates' plan for LDS conference: Service, not protests; Activists opt for kinder, gentler approach than post-Prop. 8 rallies
46. Prop 8 inspires new army of Utah activists; Post-election push -- Groups enlist new soldiers in the battle for gay rights
47. Opponents file suit to annul gay marriages in California
48. California's Legal Tangle
49. Uncivil Union: Catholic Prelate Says He Wooed Mormons For California Marriage Battle
50. Prop. 8 divides Mormon family during the holidays
51. Mormons and Proposition 8; Of all people, Mormons should be sensitive to those seeking nontraditional unions
52. The Long March to the Mormon Temple
53. Prop. 8 backers splinter as court fight resumes
54. [LDS] Church Readies Members on Proposition 8
55. Judge rejects bid to keep names of anti-gay marriage initiative backers secret
56. Utahns march for gays rights, 'Common Ground'; Gay rights -- Capitol marchers seek legislative approval
57. FPPC gets new complaint over Prop. 8 campaign
58. Gay rights group filing complaint in Prop 8 battle
59. Santa Cruz Mormon family's quiet struggle illustrates complexity in Prop 8 fight
60. Mormon Leader: Religious Freedom at Risk
61. Walsh: Chris Buttars, George Wallace - brothers in arms?
62. New LDS ward email about gay civil unions attracts attention
63. Can social conservatives assimilate the LDS into their movement?
64. What's it like to be a Mormon progressive?
65. Booze, budget and Buttars highlight Utah session
66. Utah's Gay Rights Failure
67. Petitioners to Mormons: Soften gay marriage stance
68. A year of scrutiny for the LDS Church; Challenges -- A tumultuous year, from politics to polygamy
69. California Upholds Gay Marriage Ban; 18,000 Same-Sex Couples Who Married Before Prop 8 Can Retain Rights, According to Ruling
70. LDS Church releases statement on Proposition 8 decision
71. Mormon Church Applauds Gay Marriage Ruling; Church Supported Proposition 8
72. Utahns cheer, jeer California gay-marriage ruling; Gay marriage -- The LDS Church welcomes the decision as 300 protest it at the Capitol
73. Mormon leader likens anti-gay marriage backlash to intimidation of blacks during civil rights
74. Gay-marriage ruling brings split Utah reaction
75. '8: The Mormon Proposition': Audacious look at church's role in gay-marriage ban
76. Film documents Mormon role in gay marriage debate
77. Prop. 8: Gay-marriage ban unconstitutional, court rules
78. Supreme Court to Hear Gay-Marriage Cases
79. Prop 8 ruling explained: Why gay marriage will resume in California
80. Mormons join Hawaii’s gay-marriage fight, but with a new approach; After Prop 8, Mormon leaders urge members to lobby for religious exemptions
81. Federal judge backs same-sex marriages in Utah; state to appeal
Mormon church, other faiths urge US Supreme Court to intervene in gay marriage issue
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Mormon church and other faiths are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and settle the question of whether states can outlaw gay marriage once and for all.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in a statement Friday, said it joined a friend-of-the-court brief asking the high court to hear Utah's marriage case.
Also taking part in the filing were The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Ethics & Religious Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
Each teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Multiple organizations and governmental entities on both sides of the debate have filed similar briefs asking the court to take up the issue.
USA Today, September 6, 2014
LDS Church files SCOTUS brief supporting Prop 8, DOMA
by Ben Winslow
SALT LAKE CITY -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has filed a pair of briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to uphold California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
The briefs were drafted by lawyers for the LDS Church here in Utah and filed Jan. 29 before the nation's top court on behalf of the National Association of Evangelicals, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Romanian-American Evangelical Alliance of North America, Truth in Action Ministries, and the Mormon Church.
"Our theological perspectives, though often differing, converge to support the proposition that the traditional, opposite-sex definition of marriage in the civil law is not only constitutional but essential to the welfare of families, children, and society," Von Keetch of the Utah-based firm Kirton McConkie, wrote in the DOMA brief.
In the Proposition 8 briefing, the coalition argues that the Ninth Circuit Court should be reversed. The panel of judges ruled the measure, which banned same-sex marriage in 2008, is unconstitutional.
"The people of California violated no one's civil rights when they adopted Proposition 8. Their twice-expressed preference for the traditional definition of marriage over an untested rival conception was thoroughly rational. It is therefore thoroughly constitutional," Keetch wrote in the Prop. 8 brief.
The LDS Church has been the subject of controversy and protest over its involvement in the passage of Prop. 8. It encouraged members to donate time and money to ensure its passage. The backlash was felt nationwide, with protests around Temple Square.
While insisting that it believes marriage is between a man and a woman, the LDS Church has appeared to soften its tone toward the gay community. The church recently launched a website to encourage "greater compassion" toward the LGBT community, and acknowledged that sexuality is not a choice.
The LDS Church's amicus curiae brief is one of dozens being filed with the U.S. Supreme Court. A number of religious, civic and private organizations are filing "friend of the court" briefs, weighing in on whether same-sex marriage should be allowed.
Most recently, Utah Attorney General John Swallow joined other states in asking the court to uphold Prop. 8 and DOMA. The Utah Pride Center plans to file a brief in support of same-sex marriage.
Fox 13, Salt Lake City, February 3, 2013
Mormon church is conspicuously absent in Md. same-sex marriage referendum
By Michelle Boorstein
Maryland activists working to overturn same-sex marriage have had to get used to one surprising absence from their religious coalition: Mormons.
A huge amount of Mormon money and foot soldiers and the support of church leadership were credited with an epic win for traditional marriage in 2008 when California voters approved Proposition 8, which said that only marriage between a man and woman would be recognized in the state. And the D.C. region has one of the largest communities of Mormons outside the West.
But Mormon leaders in Maryland have been silent on the ballot measure to affirm or toss the state's new same-sex marriage law. Activists in other states voting next month on the issue (Maine, Minnesota and Washington) say they see the same thing. The dramatic turnaround from 2008 reflects the tightrope the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is walking as it tries to maintain a generally apolitical church culture while in the global spotlight of a presidential campaign.
"It's surprising they haven't been in the lead on this," said Mike McManus, head of the Potomac-based Marriage Savers marriage counseling and advocacy group and an organizer for Question 6, the November ballot measure that requires voter approval of the state's new same-sex marriage law.
Some Mormons are thrilled to see the church publicly stay out of politics, particularly on an issue that has such strong partisan overtones. Mormon scripture calls it "unjust" to mingle "religious influence with civil government," and politics is generally a taboo topic in church. Which is why Mormon leaders' decision to become involved in campaigns in California and, earlier, Hawaii, was deeply divisive.
Most Mormons can name measures on which church leaders have taken clear public positions: same-sex marriage in California in 2008, a missile defense system in the 1980s, the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s -- all against.
But experts and even church officials say Mormon officials are being especially cautious this year because of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's campaign and the danger of their strongly evangelical faith becoming too closely associated with one party.
This year, for the first time in decades, church officials didn't meet at the start of the legislative session with Utah state lawmakers.
"It's the political climate we're in. There was just too much over-interpreting, " said Michael Otterson, church spokesman.
Some experts say Mormonism is in a period of flux when it comes to mixing politics and faith. The community's identity was shaped by discrimination, including in the late 1800s, when measures aimed at Mormons were passed barring polygamists from voting or holding elected office. Mormonism is also very hierarchical, and ordinary Mormons and local church leaders are discouraged from speaking as individuals. Local clergy don't take public positions; only the church's headquarters in Salt Lake City does. Several Mormons contacted for this story for their personal view referred a reporter to spokespeople.
Mormonism is also spreading overseas, and leaders are concerned about taking positions on issues that may seem parochial.
"I think there has been a sense that the church needs to rise above this sort of thing," said Matthew Bowman, a Mormon and a historian of American religion at Hampden-Sydney College.
Sensitivities were clear right away in Maryland, when in March two Mormon women working to gather petition signatures sought volunteers on an unofficial church e-mail group list for a congregation in Chevy Chase. The posting was quickly taken down, and the congregation had a meeting about proper use of the e-mail group and not using it for political outreach.
Neither woman responded to requests for comment.
"A lot of people signed up with them, but a lot of people were taken aback," said David Baker, a gay member of the congregation who is working to oppose the measure.
Baker and other advocates for same-sex marriage are glad that the church in 2012 is taking such a different tack than it did the last year there were a slew of measures on the ballot.
California, Otterson said, was an exception because it is such a large "bellwether" state and because of its large Mormon population. But the cost to the church was real in terms of the controversy generated. Protesters set up camp outside Mormon temples. Some temples were sent fake anthrax. Lists of donors were made public, and Mormon businesses were picketed. Prominent Mormon and former Olympian Peter Vidmar had to step down from a prominent position with the 2012 Olympics after it came out that he had donated to the campaign for Proposition 8.
The silence is not true on the other side. This year has been a landmark one for gay and lesbian Mormons, in good part because of gay-rights initiatives in a number of states and several years of publicity about their faith that say encouraged them to be more open. For the first time, there were Mormon contingents in gay pride parades in cities across the country this year, and advocates in the states where there are same-sex ballot measures said they feel they can speak out without being sanctioned by local church leaders.
But even from supporters of same-sex marriage, there are some mixed feelings about the church's withdrawal from the public arena.
Spencer Clark, 29, of Takoma Park is head of his congregation's male auxiliary and leader of the national Mormons for Marriage Equality. He wonders how Mormons can claim to be led by a prophet who receives revelation from God and yet be wary of speaking up on policy issues.
"I think there is relief and disappointment in the Mormon community that we don't get involved politically in many issues of the day," he said.
Washington Post, October 28, 2012
Prop 8 involvement a P.R. fiasco for LDS Church
The campaign offered fuel for critics
By Peggy Fletcher Stack
Although they live a continent away from California, LDS Church members Gregory and JaLynn Prince, of Washington, D.C., still have felt the backlash from their church's involvement in the traditional marriage initiative known as Proposition 8.
Their daughter, Lauren, a Boston University student, has lost friends over the issue, while their son, an LDS missionary in San Bernardino, Calif., has had a disproportionate number of potential converts cancel appointments.
About two weeks ago, during a first-ever class on Mormonism at Wesley Theological Seminary, where the Princes have built bridges for years, students pointedly asked them: "What was your church thinking?"
"We are not taking sides on the issue, but the way this was done has hurt our people and the church's image," JaLynn Prince said. "It reminds me of the naive public relations strategy we had regarding the Equal Rights Amendment."
In some minds, the so-called "Mormon moment" heralded at the start of 2008 has stopped short.
Just 10 months after the death of LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley, who spent nearly 70 years burnishing his church's public image, goodwill toward Mormonism that culminated during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games seems to have faded in a haze of misunderstanding and outright hostility.
Mean-spirited critiques of Mormonism during Mitt Romney's unsuccessful presidential campaign were followed by persistent news-media reports linking Latter-day Saints to the FLDS polygamous sect raided by Texas authorities. Now, angry opponents of Proposition 8 are demonstrating at Mormon temples, accusing the church of being anti-gay.
New President Thomas S. Monson faces a daunting public-relations challenge. He follows the well-respected Hinckley, who observers say had an intuitive gift for balancing the church's need to speak out on moral issues with the need to avoid appearing too extreme.
"The Olympics had this nice afterglow for Mormons and, boy, is that gone," said Sarah Barringer Gordon of the University of Pennsylvania, who studies LDS history and culture.
LDS Church apostles declined to be interviewed for this story, but the public affairs office did respond to questions.
"All in all, 2008 has been a particularly good year for the church," LDS spokesman Scott Trotter said. "The church dedicated four temples and announced eight more. Membership topped 13 million worldwide with over 52,000 missionaries in the field. While some of the protest activity we have seen has been deplorable, there are others who have taken the time to fully understand the church's position on marriage and home to respect this principled stand."
Gary Lawrence added his own optimistic view.
"These protests will help us. It puts a spotlight on us," said Lawrence, a leader in the Proposition 8 campaign and author of How Americans View Mormonism: Seven Steps to Improve Our Image.
"Which is worse -- antagonism or apathy? I believe apathy is our bigger enemy."
Following the pattern --- In a 1997 memo about the LDS Church's involvement in the campaign against gay marriage in Hawaii, the late Loren C. Dunn, then a general authority, noted that Hinckley approved Mormon participation but said "the church should be in a coalition and not out front by itself."
In the case of the Proposition 8, which supported a constitutional amendment to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman, the LDS Church only joined the Coalition to Protect Marriage in June after being asked by Catholic Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco, who presided over Utah Catholics for 11 years. The LDS First Presidency in a letter urged all California Mormons to give their time and money to the effort.
Ostensibly just part of a broad-based coalition, the Mormon faithful soon led the drive. They donated nearly half of the $20 million raised by Yes on 8, canvassed neighborhoods and staffed phone banks. Because the LDS Church routinely asks its members to give time and money, Mormons are "uniquely situated to be mobilized into politics," said David Campbell, a political science professor at the University of Notre Dame. "But they only get mobilized when a match is lit, and that doesn't happen very often."
The Mormon push for Proposition 8 reinforces what people already think of Mormons, he said, "that they have a lot of money and are willing to work for a socially conservative cause."
That image may hurt the LDS Church with a wide swath of the American public.
Mark Silk, professor of religion in public life at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., thinks the visceral opposition to Proposition 8 is much more consequential for the LDS Church than either the Romney campaign or the perceived association with polygamy.
LDS officials decided to inject themselves in the fight to protect traditional marriage "in a big money way," Silk said. "That raises the specter not just of Mormon weirdness but also Mormon power as far as cash on the barrel."
Mormons could be forgiven for underestimating the opposition, he said. They likely thought they were on the winning side. After all, marriage initiatives have passed in about 30 states. But California is not an average state.
"People expect anti-gay referendums to pass -- and they do -- but it's California, for crying out loud," Silk said, ". . . not Zion."
Benefits of battle -- On the opposite side, are observers such as Kirk Jowers of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, who think the LDS Church actions may help it win friends among Evangelicals.
"Other members of this coalition may realize the significant role that LDS Church members played," and see that it took a disproportionate share of the opposition's arrows, he said.
The Rev. Jim Garlow is one of those evangelical allies.
Last week, Garlow, of Skyline Church in San Diego, was so outraged by the protests against Mormons that he e-mailed 7,200 California pastors urging them to "speak boldly" in defense of the LDS role in passing Proposition 8.
"We were not going to stand by and be silent while there was anti-Mormonism in the streets," Garlow said Friday. "Our theological differences with Mormonism are, frankly, unbridgeable, but these are our friends and neighbors and attacks on them are unacceptable."
The Proposition 8 campaign deepened his relationship with Mormons, he said, and the protests have solidified it.
It is not clear, however, whether the LDS Church will soon jump into another political fray.
"Politics is a tough game, especially at this visceral level where one side is talking about religion and the other about rights, " said Gordon, the Penn scholar. "I would be surprised to see them do this again. They really need to heal some wounds."
The Salt Lake Tribune, November 22, 2008
Gay marriage fight, 'kiss-ins' smack Mormon image
By Jennifer Dobner, Associated Press Writer
SALT LAKE CITY -- The Mormon church's vigorous, well-heeled support for Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California last year, has turned the Utah-based faith into a lightning rod for gay rights activism, including a nationwide "kiss-in" Saturday.
The event comes after gay couples here and in San Antonio and El Paso, Texas, were arrested, cited for trespassing or harassed by police for publicly kissing. In Utah, the July 9 trespassing incident occurred after a couple were observed by security guards on a downtown park-like plaza owned by the 13 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The court case was dismissed, but the kiss sparked a community backlash and criticism of the church.
"I don't think that kiss would have turned out to be the kiss heard round the world if it were not for Proposition 8," said Ash Johnsdottir, organizer of the Salt Lake City Kiss-In.
Atali Staffler, a Brigham Young University graduate student from Geneva, Switzerland, said she joined the 200 or so people who filled a downtown amphitheater for the event because she has watched her gay father and many gay friends struggle to find their place.
The 31-year-old, who was raised Mormon but is not active in the church, said the church shouldn't be involved in Prop. 8.
"I encourage them to promote the values they believe in and to defend their religious principles in advertisements, but civil rights have nothing to do with religious principles," she said.
Twenty-two people, many of them strangers to one another, gathered under the scorching sun on Washington's National Mall to participate in the national smooch. They were gay and straight, couples and singles of all ages, with placards that read "Equal Opportunity Kisser" and "A Kiss is a Not a Crime."
"This is America. A kiss on the cheek is OK," said Ian Thomas, 26, of Leesburg, Va., who organized the Washington Kiss-In. "It's got to be OK. If not, we're in serious trouble."
About 50 people, mostly gay and lesbian couples, gathered at Piedmont Park in downtown Atlanta and kissed for about five minutes.
"You think that America is evolving into a gay-friendly nation," said Randal Smith, 42, "but what happened in Texas and Utah show us it's still a long way off."
National organizers say Saturday's broadly held gay rights demonstrations were not aimed specifically at the Mormon church. But observers say the church's heavy-handed intervention into California politics will linger and has left the faith's image tarnished.
"What I hear from my community and from straight progressive individuals is that they now see the church as a force for evil and as an enemy of fairness and equality," said Kate Kendell, executive director of the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights. Kendell grew up Mormon in Utah. "To have the church's very deep and noble history telescoped down into this very nasty little image is as painful for me as for any faithful Mormon."
Troy Williams, who is gay and grew up Mormon, said ending the tension between gays and the church requires mutual acceptance and understanding.
"For both sides to peaceably coexist, we're all going to have to engage in some very deep soul searching," said Williams, a Salt Lake City-area activist and host of a liberal radio talk show.
Church insiders say Prop. 8 has bred dissent among members and left families divided. Some members have quit or stopped attending services, while others have appealed to leadership to stay out of the same-sex marriage fight.
But church spokeswoman Kim Farah said Friday that Mormon support for traditional marriage has nothing to do with public relations.
"It's too easy for those whose agenda is to change societal standards to claim there are great difficulties inside the Church because of its decision to support traditional marriage," Kim Farah said. "In reality the Church has received enormous support for its defense of marriage."
Mormonism teaches that homosexual sex is considered a sin, but gays are welcome in church and can maintain church callings and membership if they remain celibate.
The church has actively fought marriage equality legislation across the U.S. since the early 1990s and joined other faiths in asking Congress for a marriage amendment to the Constitution in 2006.
Last year at the urging of church leaders, Mormons donated tens of millions of dollars to the "Yes on 8" campaign and were among the most vigorous volunteers. The institutional church gave nearly $190,000 to the campaign - contributions now being investigated by California's Fair Political Practices Commission.
After the vote, many gay rights advocates turned their anger toward the church in protests and marches outside temples that singled out Mormons as the key culprits in restricting the rights of gay couples.
That constituted a setback for the faith, argued Jan Shipps, a professor of religious history and a Mormon expert from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Mormonism, Shipps said, has struggled with its image since its western New York founding in 1830 for a host of reasons, including polygamy.
Leading up to Salt Lake City's 2002 Olympic Winter Games, the faith worked hard to craft a modern, mainstream image, touting its unique American history, culture and worldwide humanitarian work to thousands of reporters.
"This really undercut the Mormon image that had been so carefully nurtured during the Olympics," Shipps said.
Church representatives don't discuss public relations strategies or challenges publicly, but at a semiannual conference in April, church President Thomas S. Monson seemed to be clearly feeling a post-Prop. 8 sting.
In an era of "shifting moral footings," Monson said, "those who attempt to safeguard those footings are often ridiculed, picketed and persecuted."
That argument doesn't wash for Linda Stay, whose ancestors were early Mormon converts. Stay said she was doubly transformed by Prop. 8. She and her husband, Steve, finally quit the church - along with 18 other family members and a few close friends - and became gay right activists.
The St. George woman's family, which includes two gay children, will play a central role in a documentary film, "8: The Mormon Proposition" currently in production. Stay's son, Tyler Barrick, married his boyfriend in San Francisco on June 17, 2008, the first day gay marriage was legal in California.
Miami-area filmmaker Reed Cowan said the Stays' story is a painful representative of many Latter-day Saint families, including his own, that needed to be told.
"It used to be that I could defend my church and my heritage, but what they did here, they crossed the line and they made it very hard to defend their actions," said Cowan, whose family has cut him off since he began work on the film.
With the gay rights fight far from over, some believe Prop. 8 could continue to frustrate the church's image for years to come, much like polygamy - the church's own one-time alternative form of marriage - and a policy on keeping black men out of the priesthood, issues that have lingered years after the practices were abandoned.
"The church is certainly going to survive and thrive, there's no question about that," said the National Center for Lesbian Rights' Kendell, who is raising three kids in California with her partner of 16 years. "The issue is, what will be its image in the average American mindset."
To see the church characterized, because of its own actions, as one in a group of anti-gay religions and as a religion that forces members to choose faith over family is "a tragedy of generational proportion," she said. "And it seems to me, that it was entirely unnecessary."
Seattle Post-Intelligence, August 15, 2009
Mormon Church feels the heat over Proposition 8
The church, which has long sought to be seen as part of America's mainstream, joins with other religious organizations to back California's ban on gay marriage. But now it has become a political target
By Nicholas Riccardi
In June, leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made a fateful decision. They called on California Mormons to donate their time and money to the campaign for Proposition 8, which would overturn a state Supreme Court ruling that permitted gay marriage.
That push helped the initiative win narrow passage on election day. And it has made the Mormon Church, which for years has striven to be seen as part of the American mainstream, a political target.
Protesters have massed outside Mormon temples nationwide. For every donation to a fund to overturn Proposition 8, a postcard is sent to the president of the Mormon Church. Supporters of gay marriage have proposed a boycott of Utah businesses, and someone burned a Book of Mormon outside a temple near Denver.
"It's disconcerting to Latter-day Saints that Mormonism is still the religious tradition that everybody loves to hate," said Melissa Proctor, who teaches at Harvard Divinity School.
As an indication of how seriously the Mormon leadership takes the recent criticism, the council that runs the church -- the First Presidency --- released a statement Friday decrying what it portrayed as a campaign not just against Mormons but all religious people who voted their conscience.
"People of faith have been intimidated for simply exercising their democratic rights," the statement said. "These are not actions that are worthy of the democratic ideals of our nation. The end of a free and fair election should not be the beginning of a hostile response in America."
Jim Key, a spokesman for the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, said barbs by gay marriage activists were directed at church leadership, not individual Mormons.
"We're making a statement that no one's religious beliefs should be used to deny fundamental rights to others," he said.
Proposition 8 opponents estimate that members of the Mormon Church gave more than $20 million to the effort to pass the measure, though that is difficult to confirm because records of campaign donations do not include religious affiliation.
For years, church leaders have tried to blunt the assertion that Mormonism is somehow out of the political and cultural mainstream. The backlash over gay marriage carries risks and rewards toward that goal.
To support Proposition 8, the Mormon Church entered into a coalition with other religious organizations, including evangelical groups that have tended to view Mormons warily. It was a Catholic bishop, Mormon officials said, who requested the Mormon Church bring its members into the fight. Now those groups are rallying behind the embattled church.
"Being against gay marriage puts the church right in the mainstream of American religious behavior," said Quin Monson, a political science professor at Brigham Young University.
But the outrage directed toward the church could hurt its efforts to expand.
"The backlash is going on all over the country," said Jan Shipps, a prominent scholar of modern Mormonism who is an emeritus professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. "There are people who had a lot of respect for the Mormons who now say, "Well, they're just like the Christian right." "
That's ironic, Shipps said, given that the Mormon Church has a more tolerant stance on homosexuality than some evangelical groups. The church has pointedly declined to state that homosexuality is a choice. And it has cautioned against programs that purport to "cure" same-sex attraction, even though Mormon theology holds that marriage is a divine relationship between men and women that continues into the afterlife.
Also, Shipps said, though the church had been riding high ever since the successful 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the gay marriage fight and other recent setbacks have forced the church to deal with skepticism over its faith and history.
First there was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's unsuccessful run for the Republican presidential nomination. Many in the church were shocked that Romney's Mormon faith was a source of discomfort for some voters.
"Latter-day Saints were just amazed to think there was such bigotry in the country," church spokesman Michael Otterson said.
And a raid on a polygamous breakaway sect in Texas last spring was a reminder of the church's practice of multiple marriages in the 19th century, even though the Mormon Church has long renounced polygamy.
"That whole story in Texas was probably much worse for the church's image than Proposition 8," Monson said.
Some have suggested that Mormons might have been eager to cement partnerships with other churches, especially because evangelical voters were particularly distrustful of Romney's faith.
But Otterson dismissed that possibility. "That kind of thinking would never even factor into the thinking of church leadership," he said. "The church couldn't remain silent on a pivotal issue like this."
Los Angeles Times, November 17, 2008
Film Focuses on Mormon Role in Gay Marriage Ban
Sundance documentary examines Mormon church's role in political fight over gay marriage
By Jennifer Dobner, Associated Press Writer
The Utah-based Mormon church plays a starring role in a new Sundance Film Festival documentary about the 2008 ballot initiative that successfully banned gay marriage in California.
Miami-area filmmaker Reed Cowan's "8: The Mormon Proposition," premieres Sunday at the Park City festival.
The film contends that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints built on decades of anti-gay teachings to justify its political activism and tried to hide its role as the driving force behind the coalition of conservatives that helped pass Proposition 8. The proposition reversed an earlier court ruling legalizing gay marriage.
The film debuts just as a California federal trial over the constitutionality of the ban enters its third week.
"Karma," said Cowan of the timing and the film's inaugural screening in a theater roughly 25 miles from the Mormon church's headquarters.
"There was no other place on the planet where this could premiere," he said. "This is where the lies came from, this is where the money came from. The sharpest karma that could be leveled on the Mormon church ... it has to be leveled in their own backyard."
Church officials have not seen the film but have reviewed a trailer and other materials posted online, a spokeswoman for the faith said.
"It appears that accuracy and truth are rare commodities in this film," Kim Farah said. "Clearly, anyone looking for balance and thoughtful discussion of a serious topic will need to look elsewhere."
Narrated by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black -- who like Cowan is gay and was raised Mormon -- the 81-minutes film opens with footage of gay couples saying, "I do," in San Francisco's City Hall on June 17, 2008, the first day gays could legally marry and then chronicles what some say was the most expensive initiative campaign in California's history through election day and angry postelection protest marches outside Mormon church temples nationwide.
The film makes its case for Mormon dominance by relying on the investigative work of California political activist Fred Karger, who claims Mormons turned out some 25,000 members weekly as campaign volunteers and made up 71 percent of individual campaign contributions.
The church also disputes allegations in the film by Karger of inaccurate or deceptive campaign finance reporting practices and has posted its contributions on its Web site.
Shot over 19 months for less than $250,000, the film uses statements of past church leaders and personal accounts of gay Mormons and their families in an attempt to explain what Cowan contends is a culture of obedience and an entrenched anti-gay sentiment that permeates Mormonism. Those attitudes, he says, contribute to a myriad of social problems including a suicide and homelessness among young gay Mormons.
Mormon church officials do appear in the film, but only in footage obtained through other filmmakers, media outlets or in church-produced videos that appeared on the Web.
Church officials declined requests for interviews, Cowan said. In one of the film's audio clips, Farah is heard saying the church does not want to be "front and center in a battle with the gay community."
Like many faiths, Mormonism teaches that traditional marriage is an institution ordained by God that is central to a healthy society. However, church has said it does not oppose civil unions or other limited rights, such as those related to hospitalization, employment or housing, as long as they don't infringe on the constitutional rights of churches.
Steven Greenstreet, the film's editor and a co-producer, said he hopes the movie will "pull back the curtain" on the power and influence the Mormon church has amassed in the gay marriage debate.
"Voters did not go to the ballot box knowing all the information," said Greenstreet, himself a former Mormon. "I hope for non-Mormons this film pulls back the curtain on a decades long strategic implementation of a war on gays so that they are able to see who was behind the curtain. We owe to the generations of people who have suffered."
Park City Utah -- January 23, 2010
Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage
By Jesse McKinley and Kirk Johnson
SACRAMENTO - Less than two weeks before Election Day, the chief strategist behind a ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriage in California called an emergency meeting here.
Frank Schubert was the chief strategist for Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman in California.
"We're going to lose this campaign if we don't get more money," the strategist, Frank Schubert, recalled telling leaders of Protect Marriage, the main group behind the ban.
The campaign issued an urgent appeal, and in a matter of days, it raised more than $5 million, including a $1 million donation from Alan C. Ashton, the grandson of a former president of the Mormon Church. The money allowed the drive to intensify a sharp-elbowed advertising campaign, and support for the measure was catapulted ahead; it ultimately won with 52 percent of the vote.
As proponents of same-sex marriage across the country planned protests on Saturday against the ban, interviews with the main forces behind the ballot measure showed how close its backers believe it came to defeat - and the extraordinary role Mormons played in helping to pass it with money, institutional support and dedicated volunteers.
"We've spoken out on other issues, we've spoken out on abortion, we've spoken out on those other kinds of things," said Michael R. Otterson, the managing director of public affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormons are formally called, in Salt Lake City. "But we don't get involved to the degree we did on this."
The California measure, Proposition 8, was to many Mormons a kind of firewall to be held at all costs.
"California is a huge state, often seen as a bellwether -- this was seen as a very, very important test," Mr. Otterson said.
First approached by the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco a few weeks after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in May, the Mormons were the last major religious group to join the campaign, and the final spice in an unusual stew that included Catholics, evangelical Christians, conservative black and Latino pastors, and myriad smaller ethnic groups with strong religious ties.
Shortly after receiving the invitation from the San Francisco Archdiocese, the Mormon leadership in Salt Lake City issued a four-paragraph decree to be read to congregations, saying "the formation of families is central to the Creator's plan," and urging members to become involved with the cause.
"And they sure did," Mr. Schubert said.
Jeff Flint, another strategist with Protect Marriage, estimated that Mormons made up 80 percent to 90 percent of the early volunteers who walked door-to-door in election precincts.
The canvass work could be exacting and highly detailed. Many Mormon wards in California, not unlike Roman Catholic parishes, were assigned two ZIP codes to cover. Volunteers in one ward, according to training documents written by a Protect Marriage volunteer, obtained by people opposed to Proposition 8 and shown to The New York Times, had tasks ranging from "walkers," assigned to knock on doors; to "sellers," who would work with undecided voters later on; and to "closers," who would get people to the polls on Election Day.
Suggested talking points were equally precise. If initial contact indicated a prospective voter believed God created marriage, the church volunteers were instructed to emphasize that Proposition 8 would restore the definition of marriage God intended.
But if a voter indicated human beings created marriage, Script B would roll instead, emphasizing that Proposition 8 was about marriage, not about attacking gay people, and about restoring into law an earlier ban struck down by the State Supreme Court in May.
"It is not our goal in this campaign to attack the homosexual lifestyle or to convince gays and lesbians that their behavior is wrong "the less we refer to homosexuality, the better," one of the ward training documents said. "We are pro-marriage, not anti-gay."
Leaders were also acutely conscious of not crossing the line from being a church-based volunteer effort to an actual political organization.
"No work will take place at the church, including no meeting there to hand out precinct walking assignments so as to not even give the appearance of politicking at the church," one of the documents said.
By mid-October, most independent polls showed support for the proposition was growing, but it was still trailing. Opponents had brought on new media consultants in the face of the slipping poll numbers, but they were still effectively raising money, including $3.9 million at a star-studded fund-raiser held at the Beverly Hills home of Ron Burkle, the supermarket billionaire and longtime Democratic fund-raiser.
It was then that Mr. Schubert called his meeting in Sacramento. "I said, `As good as our stuff is, it can't withstand that kind of funding,'" he recalled.
The response was a desperate e-mail message sent to 92,000 people who had registered at the group's Web site declaring a "code blue" - an urgent plea for money to save traditional marriage from "cardiac arrest." Mr. Schubert also sent an e-mail message to the three top religious members of his executive committee, representing Catholics, evangelicals and Mormons.
"I ask for your prayers that this e-mail will open the hearts and minds of the faithful to make a further sacrifice of their funds at this urgent moment so that God's precious gift of marriage is preserved," he wrote.
On Oct. 28, Mr. Ashton, the grandson of the former Mormon president David O. McKay, donated $1 million. Mr. Ashton, who made his fortune as co-founder of the WordPerfect Corporation, said he was following his personal beliefs and the direction of the church.
"I think it was just our realizing that we heard a number of stories about members of the church who had worked long hours and lobbied long and hard," he said in a telephone interview from Orem, Utah.
In the end, Protect Marriage estimates, as much as half of the nearly $40 million raised on behalf of the measure was contributed by Mormons.
Even with the Mormons' contributions and the strong support of other religious groups, Proposition 8 strategists said they had taken pains to distance themselves from what Mr. Flint called "more extreme elements" opposed to rights for gay men and lesbians.
To that end, the group that put the issue on the ballot rebuffed efforts by some groups to include a ban on domestic partnership rights, which are granted in California. Mr. Schubert cautioned his side not to stage protests and risk alienating voters when same-sex marriages began being performed in June.
"We could not have this as a battle between people of faith and the gays," Mr. Schubert said. "That was a losing formula."
But the "Yes" side also initially faced apathy from middle-of-the-road California voters who were largely unconcerned about same-sex marriage. The overall sense of the voters in the beginning of the campaign, Mr. Schubert said, was "Who cares? I'm not gay."
To counter that, advertisements for the "Yes" campaign also used hypothetical consequences of same-sex marriage, painting the specter of churches losing tax exempt status or people sued for personal beliefs or objections to same-sex marriage, claims that were made with little explanation.
Another of the advertisements used video of an elementary school field trip to a teacher's same-sex wedding in San Francisco to reinforce the idea that same-sex marriage would be taught to young children.
"We bet the campaign on education," Mr. Schubert said.
The "Yes" campaign was denounced by opponents as dishonest and divisive, but the passage of Proposition 8 has led to second-guessing about the "No" campaign, too, as well as talk about a possible ballot measure to repeal the ban. Several legal challenges have been filed, and the question of the legality of the same-sex marriages performed from June to Election Day could also be settled in court.
For his part, Mr. Schubert said he is neither anti-gay - his sister is a lesbian - nor happy that some same-sex couples' marriages are now in question. But, he said, he has no regrets about his campaign.
"They had a lot going for them," Mr. Schubert said of his opponents. "And they couldn't get it done."
Mr. Otterson said it was too early to tell what the long-term implications might be for the church, but in any case, he added, none of that factored into the decision by church leaders to order a march into battle. "They felt there was only one way we could stand on such a fundamental moral issue, and they took that stand," he said. "It was a matter of standing up for what the church believes is right."
That said, the extent of the protests has taken many Mormons by surprise. On Friday, the church's leadership took the unusual step of issuing a statement calling for "respect" and "civility" in the aftermath of the vote.
"Attacks on churches and intimidation of people of faith have no place in civil discourse over controversial issues," the statement said. "People of faith have a democratic right to express their views in the public square without fear of reprisal."
Mr. Ashton described the protests by same-sex marriage advocates as off-putting. "I think that shows colors," Mr. Ashton said. "By their fruit, ye shall know them."
New York Times, November 14, 2008
The Mormon Proposition
by Doe Daughtrey
On May 15, the California Supreme Court overturned Proposition 22, the ballot initiative that in 2000 banned same-sex marriage in the Golden State. On June 2, Proposition 8 qualified for the November 4 California ballot, and religious groups rallied around what they hoped would be the definitive constitutional end to gay marriage. And although Catholic bishops and evangelical groups were active in the effort, public attention focused on the involvement of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--the Mormons.
The Mormon effort drew wide attention after Peggy Fletcher Stack, the Salt Lake Tribune's longtime religion reporter, revealed in a June 24 article that the church had slated a pro-Proposition 8 letter to be read from California pulpits on June 30. Seeking to preserve "the sacred institution of marriage" as articulated by Mormon doctrine, the church would instruct its members to "do all you can" by donating "means and time" for the proposition�s passage, Stack reported.
Mormon political activism on hot-button social issues is hardly unprecedented. In 1978, for example, the LDS church helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment by asking church members to oppose it. While the church often stays out of the fray--as in the case of assisted suicide--it has actively opposed gay marriage from the beginning.
In 1998, it played a key role (and, according to Stack, spent $1.1 million) in defeating gay marriage initiatives in Hawaii and Alaska. The church went on to mobilize its California members on behalf of Proposition 22, and offered public support to the failed federal marriage amendment in 2006.
Although other religious bodies donated time and money to the Proposition 8 campaign, it was the LDS church's seemingly effortless and lightning-quick ability to mobilize its members that caught the public eye. Catholics make a practice of ignoring their bishops, and evangelicals are a disparate flock, but Mormons believe that the head of their church is a prophet of God--and tend to act accordingly.
The biggest story had to do with Mormon financial backing, especially what came from out of state. "One thing I learned as a Mormon was that preaching costs money," Bruce Bastian, former Mormon, gay Utah resident, and co-founder of WordPerfect, told the San Francisco Chronicle's John Wildermuth July 28. "The Mormons will raise a lot of money to support Proposition 8 in November. " (Bastian himself donated $1 million to the other side.)
On September 17 and 18, Rosemary Winters of the Salt Lake Tribune called attention to www.Mormonsfor8.com, a website dedicated to tracking Mormon contributions to the pro-Prop 8 website www.ProtectMarriage.com -- listed on the LDS Church�s website to facilitate its members� participation.
"If we could identify every Mormon, I think that probably 85 to 90 percent of the donors would be Mormon," said website proprietor Nadine Hansen, a 61-year-old, semi-retired lawyer (and non-practicing Mormon) from Cedar City, Utah. (In a subsequent story, Hansen told the AP's Eric Gorski that she had used campaign records, "tips from site visitors and church members," and search engines to track down LDS donors.)
On September 20, Mark Schoofs of the Wall Street Journal reported that, in an August conference call, church leaders solicited $25,000 donations from 40 to 60 California Mormons, an amount likely based on their tithing receipts. LDS officials maintained a separate post-office box to handle members' donations, which were tallied and sent to the campaign. As of mid-September, the Protect Marriage Coalition`s own figures indicated that Mormon donations would likely exceed 40 percent of total contributions to the initiative.
Scrutiny of Mormon activities increased in October, after the LDS church expanded its efforts through a special broadcast targeted at Brigham Young University students and "Californians living in Utah." On October 8, Peggy Fletcher Stack reported that church leaders called for "30 members from each California congregation to donate four hours a week to the campaign."
Institutional support for those efforts included the church website www.PreservingMarriage.org, with materials for "young married couples and single Latter-day Saints to use the Internet, text messaging, blogging and other forms of computer technology to help pass the initiative." By mid-October, virtually all reporting on Proposition 8 financing referred to the impact of Mormon money.
Then, on October 23, Stack reported that the LDS Church had "released" those who had been "called" by the church to help secure passage of the initiative. Utah County Democratic Party head Richard Davis implied that church efforts might be backfiring. "If a caller says, "Hi, I'm calling from Heber City, Utah," that might be a turn-off to a California voter," Davis said.
Indeed, before Election Day, there were picket lines at northern California LDS church buildings. And after Prop 8 passed, angry opponents made the church their prime target. Gay-rights advocates gathered outside LDS temples across the country and called for a boycott on Utah tourism. Envelopes containing white powder arrived at LDS temples in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City.
On November 15, designated as a day of protest against the LDS church nationwide, Mormon churches and seminary (religious education) buildings were vandalized and copies of the Book of Mormon burned. LDS church members Scott Eckern, a Sacramento artistic theater director, and Richard Raddon, a Los Angeles Film Festival director, resigned their positions after their donations were made public. An official complaint was filed with California's fair-elections commission charging that the LDS Church had broken election laws by failing to report "significant contributions," such as "commercials, out-of-state phone banks and a Web site sponsored by the church."
Even as it condemned the protests, the church cautioned members to treat those who disagree with "love and kindness." Saints were asked to be honest, respectful, and civil regarding each other's decisions on their chosen level of involvement.
The mainstream press, which prior to the election had steered clear of expressing an opinion on Mormon involvement in the initiative, was generally critical of the anti-Mormon protests. A November 18 editorial in the Spokane Spokesman-Review took protesters to task for their derogatory signs and blanket condemnation of Mormons simply for supporting the initiative. On November 23, San Francisco Chronicle editorial page editor John Diaz attacked "the ugly backlash over Proposition 8."
The widely viewed (via YouTube) anti-Proposition 8 video depicting two Mormon missionaries "invading" the home of two married lesbians provoked a distressed op-ed from religious liberty advocate Charles Haynes, who asserted that there were no winners in this "ugly debate." Excoriating the video in the Los Angeles Times, National Review editor Jonah Goldberg imagined comparable videos aimed at Jews and Muslims. Mormons, he claimed, were "vulnerable" victims and "easy targets" for liberal critics.
On the other side, Gabriel Winant of the Chicago Sun-Times argued that the large amount of money generated by Mormon activism did justify the protests outside the LDS temples. Acknowledging that the LDS church no longer practices plural marriage, Winant quoted one protestor as firmly insisting (in reference to the church's "own controversial history of nontraditional marriage"), "It's the pot calling the kettle black."
If more intense than usual, such contention over the LDS church's role was hardly new. What set the Proposition 8 campaign apart from earlier exercises of Mormon political muscle was dissent within the ranks of the faithful. For no sooner did the church call for members� support than some Mormons in California and other states began writing letters to editors and developing pro-gay marriage websites and blogs challenging its involvement.
On July 6, Rebecca Rosen Lum of the Oakland Tribune noted how things had changed since Proposition 22 in 2000: "Some Mormons are rejecting their prophet's call to campaign for a ban on same-sex marriage in California, suggesting the church leadership's sway over the issue of homosexuality may be weakening."
The most high-profile LDS opponent of Proposition 8 was Barbara Young, wife of former NFL 49ers quarterback Steve Young. Throughout his career in professional football, Young used his fame to promote the LDS church, and the church in turn held him up to young Mormon men as an example.
On October 31, the San Francisco Chronicle's John Wildermuth took note in his blog of "No on 8" signs in the Youngs' yard and quoted Barbara Young as saying, "We believe ALL families matter and we do not believe in discrimination, therefore, our family will vote against Prop. 8."
According to Wildermuth, Young quickly qualified her husband's involvement, telling the anti-Proposition 8 organization Equality California that evening, "I am very passionate about this issue and Steve is completely supportive of me and my work for equality. We both love our Church and are grateful that our Church encourages us to vote our conscience. Steve prefers not to get involved politically on any issue no matter what the cause and therefore makes no endorsement."
Barbara Young's citation of her church's encouragement to "vote our conscience" was, in this context, highly significant. In a tradition that has historically placed a very high value on following church teaching, it pointed to the other Mormon question of national significance during the 2008 election cycle: the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney.
As a candidate, Romney faced two main religion-related problems: Mormon theological distinctiveness and the Mormon culture of obedience, which raised the question of Romney�s subjection to the authority of the LDS church. And like John F. Kennedy before him, Romney was ultimately compelled to give a speech claiming political independence from his church.
For its part, the LDS church responded to the situation by issuing a statement on December 6, 2007, intended to clarify its institutional involvement in politics. The statement reiterated the church's commitment to political neutrality, denied it had officially supported Romney's candidacy, declared it would play no role in a "Mormon" presidency, and asserted respect for political diversity and "differences of opinion in partisan political matters" among its members.
The statement did not go unnoticed among the Saints. For example, in a February 2008 discussion of Romney's "faith speech" on the By Common Consent blog, one contributor quipped that it was now obligatory to take church authority with a grain of salt: "If he's a true Mormon, wouldn't he believe it when leaders promise not to require him to pay any attention to what they say?"
The sense was that Romney's candidacy had legitimated dissent within the church. Thus, in a private email conversation on the day he withdrew from the race, a group of LDS women commented on the impact of Romney's candidacy on their participation in gender-based activism, with one expressing the fear that now "the scrutiny will be off Mormons, perhaps making those who [dissented] a bit more vulnerable to church discipline." Countered another: "As long as the church is under a national/international microscope because of Romney, they won't even acknowledge our existence."
It's a safe guess that the church would not have pulled out all the stops for Proposition 8 had Romney been the Republican nominee. Yet inside the church, members did not forget the new opening for individual conscience.
In an article by Tom Quinn in the October 29 New Statesman, Robert Bennion, a California LDS bishop with a gay brother, discussed his ambivalence about participating in the initiative, saying he refused to "allow any campaigning during church time or on church property." After the election, Michael Paulson of the Boston Globe commented on the "unusual level of disagreement in the ordinarily harmonious Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" caused by "the church's outspoken support for Proposition 8."
Mormons asserting LDS identity through their opposition to Proposition 8 created such websites as www.lds4gaymarriage.org, www.signingforsomething.org, and http://mormonsformarriage.com.
These presented dissenting viewpoints that drew on LDS sacred texts and statements from church leaders in an effort to show that Proposition 8 violated Mormon ideals and was contrary to scripture.
Not that this was an easy position to take publicly. On August 23, Laura Compton, co-creator of mormonsformarriage.com, told Jennifer Dobner of the San Francisco Chronicle, "If you think you are the only person in your [church community] that feels that way and the rhetoric is really loud, it's painful."
Millie Watts, a Salt Lake City LDS mother with two gay children mobilized other Mormon mothers with gay children in support of gay marriage. Reporting November 2 on a rally of theirs that drew 600, the Salt Lake Tribune's Rosemary Winters described the sense of "disappointment and betrayal" they felt over LDS Church support of Proposition 8.
Among the church's most strident critics was Andrew Callaghan of Hastings, Nebraska, founder of the website signingforsomething.org. Callaghan attracted attention in late September when Jeniffer Berry of KHAS-TV reported that he had been threatened with church discipline because of the website.
In a comprehensive review of Mormon dissent on Proposition 8 that appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune October 24, Peggy Fletcher Stack quoted one former California bishop as saying, "It will take considerable humility, charity and forgiveness to heal the wounds caused by this initiative." High-level church leader L. Whitney Clayton told her that Mormons who disagree with the church would not face sanctions. In the past, Mormons who publicly opposed the church have routinely been excommunicated or disfellowshipped.
On November 6, Carrie A. Moore of the church-owned Deseret News quoted Elder L. Whitney Clayton, the leader of the church's Proposition 8 initiative, as saying that local leaders would handle dissenters on a case-by-case basis.
As for Andrew Callaghan, his original church court was indefinitely postponed by church authorities until after the election. Though signingforsomething.org now provides space for disenchanted Mormons to post their letters of resignation from the church, as of early January, there were no reports of action taken by the LDS church against him or other Mormon opponents of Proposition 8.
Religion in the News, Spring 2009
'The Mormons Are Coming!'
Supporters of Same-Sex Marriage Trumpet the Church's Work Against It
By Karl Vick, Washington Post Staff Writer
LOS ANGELES -- As more states take up the debate on same-sex marriage, some advocates of legalization are taking a very specific lesson from California, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dominated both fundraising and door-knocking to pass a ballot initiative that barred such unions.
With the battle moving east, some advocates are shouting that fact in the streets, calculating that on an issue that eventually comes down to comfort levels, more people harbor apprehensions about Mormons than about homosexuality.
"The Mormons are coming! The Mormons are coming!" warned ads placed on newspaper Web sites in three Eastern states last month. The ad was rejected by sites in three other states, including Maine, where the Kennebec Journal informed Californians Against Hate that the copy "borders on insulting and denigrating a whole set of people based on their religion."
"I'm not intending it to harm the religion. I think they do wonderful things. Nicest people," said Fred Karger, a former Republican campaign consultant who established Californians Against Hate. "My single goal is to get them out of the same-sex marriage business and back to helping hurricane victims."
The strategy carries risks for a movement grounded in the concept of tolerance. But the demographics tempt proponents of same-sex marriage: Mormons account for just 2 percent of the U.S. population, and they are scarce outside the West. Nearly eight in 10 Americans personally know or work with a gay person, according to a recent Newsweek survey. Only 48 percent, meanwhile, know a Mormon, according to a Pew Research Center poll.
Many Mormons also acknowledge a problematic public profile that could make it difficult for them to lead the fight against same-sex marriage. A 2008 poll by Gary C. Lawrence, author of "How Americans View Mormonism: Seven Steps to Improve Our Image," found that for every American who expresses a strong liking for Mormons, four express a strong dislike. Among the traits widely ascribed to Mormons in the poll were "narrow-minded" and "controlling."
"We're upside down on our image," said Lawrence, who organized Mormon volunteers in California, where on a typical Saturday 25,000 turned out to knock on doors. "People have misperceptions of us because of ignorance, because of the history of polygamy, and because we organize quickly, which scares some people."
Mormon officials have tried to stay out of the controversy that followed the California vote, when the church's prominent role in the marriage fight became clear. A spokeswoman in Salt Lake City declined to say whether the church is involved in debates going on in states such as New Jersey and New York, except to say that leaders remain intent on preserving the "divine institution" of marriage between man and woman. The faith holds that traditional marriage "transcends this world" and is necessary for "the fullness of joy in the next life."
The church has a top-down hierarchy that answers to the First Presidency, who also holds the status of prophet. Last June, congregations were read his letter urging that "you do all you can" to pass the California initiative, known as Proposition 8. Lawrence, who like Karger worked as a Republican political consultant, professed no concern about the effort to shift the focus away from the definition of marriage.
"He is demonizing the opposition. It's Political Consulting 101," Lawrence said of Karger. "The average guy does not know the extent to which the Mormon Church was involved on Prop. 8."
The proponents' strategy is grounded in a stubborn reality: While the number of states legalizing same-sex marriage is slowly increasing -- Maine recently became the fifth -- in every case the agent of change was either a court or a legislature. Voters have rejected the idea wherever it has appeared on a ballot.
The election results track public opinion nationwide. Polls consistently show that while a majority of Americans support some legal recognition of gay unions, more want to keep marriage reserved for a man and a woman.
The disparity is narrow and shrinking, however, and in California, Mormons may well have made the difference on Proposition 8, which nullified a decision by the state Supreme Court that legalized same-sex marriage.
A torrent of last-minute contributions from church members across the country financed well-framed TV ads in the final weekend of the campaign. Opponents' analysis of campaign-contribution reports indicated that Mormons contributed more than half of the campaign's $40 million war chest.
"The church's position on the issue of same-sex marriage is well known and well documented," church spokeswoman Kim Farah said by e-mail. She declined to comment on estimates from individual Mormons but emphasized that the church itself made no cash contribution. It reported "in-kind" contributions of $190,000, mostly in the form of staff members' time.
Rick Jacobs, director of the Courage Campaign, an advocacy group that produced a TV ad drawing attention to the Mormons' role in the campaign, said, "We have zero interest in demonizing anybody who believes in any religion."
In the spot, a pair of Mormon missionaries knock on the door of a lesbian couple, rifle their drawers and shred their marriage certificate in front of them.
Mormons "exist and flourish in this country because of the concept of equal protection," Jacob said, noting the persecution that drove members of the church to Utah in the 19th century. "I find it just an irreconcilable hypocrisy that a group that rightly thrives within the essence of the American system would seek to repress and deny rights to another. And it's even a little worse, because I certainly didn't choose to be gay. People make choices to be Mormons, or any other religion."
Mormon officials issued statements calling for "civility" in the wake of Proposition 8. "The Church has refused to be goaded into a Mormons versus gays battle and has simply stated its position in tones that are reasonable and respectful," one statement said.
Suspicions that the church may be working behind the scenes in other states are encouraged by documents showing efforts by the church to cloak its participation in a late-1990s campaign that led to a ban on same-sex marriage in Hawaii.
"We have organized things so the Church contribution was used in an area of coalition activity that does not have to be reported," a senior Mormon official wrote in one document Karger posted on his Web site, and the church has not disputed.
Mormon headquarters contributed $400,000 in an effort to persuade Hawaiians against same-sex marriage but urged the Roman Catholics to take the lead in a group dubbed Hawaii's Future Today after polls showed that the other church had better public acceptance. A decade after the 1998 Hawaii vote against gay marriage, Lawrence wrote that the image problem remained: "The collection of negatives they are willing to apply to us suggests that they view us as a growing threat."
That works for Karger, whose specialty at his consulting group was opposition research. "People will vote for someone because they like so and so, or because they don't like the other guy," said Karger, who entered gay activism to preserve the Boom Boom Room, a gay bar in Newport Beach, Calif.
And favorability ratings declined for Mormons over the last year, Lawrence said, from 42 percent to 37.
"Is it fruitful to use the Mormon bogey?" said Mark Silk, a professor of religion and public life at Trinity College in Connecticut. "My sense is that there aren't great risks to it. Once a religious institution is going to inject itself into a public fight, which the LDS did in a straight-up way, then I think people are prepared to say, 'Well, okay, you're on that side and we're against you.' "
Washington Post, May 29, 2009
Mormons Boost Antigay Marriage Effort
Group Has Given Millions in Support of California Fund
By Mark Schoofs, Wall Street Journal
Mormons have emerged as a dominant fund-raising force in the hotly contested California ballot fight to ban same-sex marriage.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have contributed more than a third of the approximately $15.4 million raised since June 1 to support Proposition 8. The ballot initiative, if passed, would reverse the current right of same-sex couples to marry.
The tally of Mormon contributions was provided by Frank Schubert, campaign manager for ProtectMarriage.com -- Yes on 8, the initiative's primary backer. A finance-tracking group corroborated Mormon fund-raising dominance, saying it could exceed 40%.
The Mormon Church decision to enlist members on behalf of the same-sex marriage ban has given supporters of Proposition 8 a fund-raising lead. The campaign to defeat the initiative has collected around $13 million so far, said Steve Smith, a top campaign consultant for No on 8, Equality for All. Both sides raised roughly equal amounts in the early stages, said Mr. Smith, but "all of a sudden in the last few weeks they are out-raising us, and it appears to be Mormon money."
The top leadership of the Mormon Church, known as the First Presidency, issued a letter in June calling on Mormons to "do all you can" to support Proposition 8.
Mormon donors said they weren't coerced. "Nobody twisted my arm," said Richard Piquet, a Southern California accountant who gave $25,000 in support of Proposition 8. He said Mormon Church leaders called donating "a matter of personal conscience." Some Mormons who declined to donate said their local church leaders had made highly charged appeals, such as saying that their souls would be in jeopardy if they didn't give. Church spokesmen said any such incident wouldn't reflect Mormon Church policy.
Same-sex marriage was legalized in California after the State Supreme Court ruled in May that an existing ban, enacted by referendum in 2000, was unconstitutional. That prompted opponents to organize the current ballot initiative to amend the state constitution, banning same-sex marriage.
Since then, the fight over the initiative has come to be seen as a crucial battleground: If voters uphold the right of gay couples to marry in the nation's most populous state, it could give momentum to efforts to legalize same-sex marriage elsewhere.
Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is bucking the conservative wing of his party to campaign against the initiative. The latest statewide poll, taken at the end of August, shows that 54% of the state's likely voters oppose the initiative while 40% support it.
The battle has drawn in money from around the country. The Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic group, has given more than $1.25 million to support Proposition 8. Focus on the Family, a nonprofit organization composed mainly of evangelical Protestants, has given more than $400,000. The Yes on 8 campaign has received "more proportionally from the Latter-day Saints Church than from any other faith," said Mr. Schubert, 35% to 40% of the total.
The Mormon Church encouraged its members to send their donations to a separate post-office box set up by a church member, said Messrs. Schubert and L. Whitney Clayton, a senior Mormon Church official involved in the campaign. Mr. Clayton said the church didn't keep track of how much individual Mormons donated, just the cumulative total. He said members bundled the donations and forwarded them to the campaign.
A Web site run by individual Mormons, Mormonsfor8.com, has tracked all donations to the Yes on 8 campaign of $1,000 or more listed on the California secretary of state's Web site. The site's founder, Nadine Hansen, said they have identified more than $5.3 million given by Mormons but believe that donations from church members may account for far more than 40% of the total raised.
Robert Bolingbroke, a Mormon who lives near San Diego, said he and his wife decided on their own to donate $3,000 in August. Later, he was invited to participate in a conference call led by a high church official, known as a member of the Quorum of Seventy. Mr. Bolingbroke, a former president and chief operating officer of The Clorox Co., estimates that 40 to 60 Mormon potential donors were on that call, and he said it was suggested that they donate $25,000, which Mr. Bolingbroke did earlier this month. Mr. Bolingbroke said he doesn't know how he or the other participants on the call were selected. Church leaders keep tithing records of active members, who are typically asked to donate 10% of their income each year to the Mormon Church.
Same-sex marriage hits at the heart of Mormon theology, said Terryl Givens, a professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond. According to scholars and documents on the Mormon Church's official Web site, couples married in a Mormon temple remain wedded for eternity and can give birth to spirit children in the afterlife. Most importantly, Mormons must be married to achieve "exaltation," the ultimate state in the afterlife. Mormons also believe they retain their gender in the afterlife.
"This all explains the Mormon difficulty with homosexuality," said Mr. Givens. In a theology based on eternal gender, marriage and exaltation, "same-sex attraction doesn't find a place."
The church, which typically stays out of political issues, has occasionally entered the fray. In the 1970s, for example, it opposed the Equal Rights Amendment.
The prominence of Mormon donors in the Proposition 8 fight has also led to alliances with evangelical Protestant groups and other Christian religions, some of which have deep theological differences with Mormons.
Jim Garlow, pastor of the evangelical Protestant Skyline Church near San Diego and a leading supporter of Proposition 8, said, "I would not, in all candor, have been meeting them or talking with them had it not been for" the marriage campaign. Rev. Garlow said he had developed a "friendship" with the Mormons he met, although he feels the theological differences remain "unbridgeable."
But he noted how Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants have formed tight bonds through their joint work against abortion, and he said a similar process might occur with Mormons.
Asked if working on Proposition 8 might improve the standing of Mormons in the eyes of evangelicals, Mr. Whitney said, "That's just not been on our radar."
He said he would be happy to work with "anyone else who would be willing to roll up their sleeves and go to work to try to preserve marriage between a man and a woman. That's our interest."
Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2008
Utah money helped push Prop 8 spending to historic levels
Donations -- Utahns contributed heavily to both sides
By Tony Semerad
The torrent of money that poured into campaigns for and against California's Proposition 8 may make it the costliest state ballot measure ever.
Contributions to both sides of the successful ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage have already topped a total of $75.2 million, according to disclosures filed with the California secretary of state. And almost 5 cents of every dollar came from Utah.
The picture may change when full financial reports are filed in late January, but documents now show Proposition 8's unsuccessful opponents actually out-raised supporters by about $1.9 million, yet still lost by 504,853 votes, a 4 percent margin.
''It was the most expensive social issue on a ballot anywhere,'' said Fred Schubert, a spokesman for ProtectMarriage.com, by far the biggest official fundraising group in favor of Proposition 8.
''I believe it simply reflects the passions people have surrounding the issue of marriage, on both sides,'' he said.
Those passions ran deep for Utahns, judging from the $3.6 million state residents contributed to the California campaigns. Fully 70 percent of Utah donations, or $2.58 million, went in support of the same-sex marriage ban, while $1.1 million was given to oppose it.
Utah ranked second only to California itself for total donations in support, while it ranked sixth for opposing donations, behind California and such heavily populated states as New York, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan.
Utah's big-dollar involvement can be linked to the LDS Church, the state's dominant institution, which urged churchgoers in a variety of ways to support the measure with their time and money. While Catholic and Evangelical churches and affiliated groups gave cash directly to support Prop 8, official Mormon involvement centered on nonmonetary and organizational aid, in addition to rallying church members, documents show.
''Mormon members were instrumental in the campaign, there's no question,'' Schubert said from his Sacramento office. ''They donated far in excess of their representation in the population.''
Utah's numbers also were pushed dramatically skyward by a public-giving duel between former Word Perfect executives Bruce Bastian and Alan Ashton, estranged friends on opposite sides of the issue who each threw $1 million into the fray.
Bastian, of Orem, is gay and has given to similar causes in the past. Ashton, a Lindon resident, is an active member of the LDS Church, former mission president and grandson of the late LDS Church President David O. McKay. After initially giving $5,000 to the anti-Prop 8 Human Rights Campaign in May, Bastian gave $1 million in July. Ashton countered with a $1
million donation to ProtectMarriage.com in October.
''I gave my money because I was fearful, when the church stepped in, of what would happen, and it happened,'' Bastian said. ''And I think other people like me were trying to counter what they saw the church doing.''
Bastian said Prop 8 and the LDS Church's involvement had pitted family members, churchgoers and work colleagues against one another across the country. ''There is a lot of anger and hurt and it's not going away.''
Ashton did not return calls seeking comment.
At least 720 Utahns donated to the Prop 8 battle between Jan. 1 and Election Day, reports show, with about 78 percent of them supporting Prop 8. Utah donors on both sides work from a diverse range of jobs, from software millionaires, engineers and attorneys to ranchers, housewives, retirees and self-employed filmmakers.
While the majority of Utah donors did not list their employer on California financial disclosures, the top employers among those who did were Brigham Young University, the LDS Church and the University of Utah.
Donations came from residents in 80 different Utah cities and towns, spanning 16 of Utah's 29 counties. Opponents tended to live in Utah's 26 largest cities, while supporters were spread among 76 communities, large and small.
A majority of Utah contributors to the opposing side came from Salt Lake City. Supporters were more widely dispersed around the state, with concentrations in Provo, Salt Lake City, Orem, Bountiful, St. George and Sandy.
Excluding the Bastian-Ashton donations, the average donation by Utah supporters was $2,792, while opponents averaged $440 apiece.
Opponents of Prop 8 have been combing through donation reports since their defeat, seeking in some cases to publicize and target big-ticket supporters with calls of business boycotts. Several Utah donors contacted by The Salt Lake Tribune refused to comment, citing fear of retaliation. One rural Utah business owner who made a five-figure donation in supporting the measure said he had received harassing calls.
Another donor, Janna Morrell, a homemaker from Providence, gave $15,000 to ProtectMarriage.com in the closing days of the campaign. Later, when one California-based anti-Prop 8 group began posting names of large contributors on its Web site, instead of worrying, the 42-year-old mother of 12 called to insist they include her.
''I'm going to stand up even in the face of danger,'' said Morrell, who is LDS and learned about the measure from her brother, a California resident active in the campaign. ''I believe strongly that Proposition 8 is not meant to be anti-gay but it is meant to be in favor of marriage.''
Salt Lake Tribune, November 22, 2008
For searchable index of contributors, click here,
LDS elders showed seasoned political savvy on California's Prop. 8
Rebecca Walsh, The Salt Lake Tribune
At post-election rallies in California, protestors passed out IRS complaint forms.
The paperwork for reporting a tax violation by a nonprofit was already filled out -- with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' name and address. People simply had to sign the bottom.
The Internal Revenue Service ultimately will decide whether the Mormon church crossed a line in U.S. tax law when it funneled at least $190,000 of its own resources and directed individual members to give and give often in the $83 million campaign to ban gay marriage in California.
I doubt it. South Temple and their attorneys are too careful for that.
Documents leaked to Californians Against Hate show in fascinating detail the calculated way Mormon spiritual leaders spearheaded Hawaii's gay marriage fight 10 years ago. The handful of memos from then-Elder Loren C. Dunn to various members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reveal a political machine within a patriarchy of faith:
Richard Wirthlin, not yet a general authority, polled the relative popularity of Mormons versus Catholics. When results showed Catholics had a better image in Hawaii, Mormon leaders decided to stay in the background. They hired a Hawaiian advertising firm, McNeil Wilson, on a $250,000 retainer. They tacked on gambling and legalized prostitution to give the anti-marriage front group "room to maneuver in the legislature" and "broaden our base and appeal," Dunn wrote. They searched for an "articulate middle-age mother" who was neither Mormon nor Catholic to be the face of the campaign.
The documents are old -- mostly updates and memos dated between 1995 and 1998. And the church won't say they're real or acknowledge they were leaked.
"We are unconcerned about these documents," says spokesman Scott Trotter. "The Church's position on the importance of traditional marriage has been consistent over the years."
There's no reason to think the internal political organization built by Dunn and Wirthlin and others has been dismantled. If anything, the political fight to amend California's constitution shows LDS elders have learned from their mistakes and honed their campaign strategy. Rather than financing the crusade themselves as they did in Hawaii, giving $400,000 in church funds, leadership decided to call on members nationwide for financing.
Californians Against Hate Director Fred Karger is trying to make the case that the Mormon church violated California's Political Reform Act by obscuring the institutional money spent on advertising, phone banks and sending elders to the state to supervise and rally the faithful.
"They started this in 1988, putting together this plan to bring the church into a major role in opposing same-sex marriage," he says. "You kind of have a boilerplate."
Aside from financial disclosure discrepancies, the IRS is another matter. U.S. tax code prohibits churches and other nonprofits from spending "substantial" amounts of money on lobbying. Ultimately, IRS investigators will decide whether the Mormon role in Yes on 8 qualifies as substantial.
Watching from a distance, Salt Lake City tax attorney Bill Orton doesn't think so.
"I can't imagine that [church attorneys] Kirton & McConkie would miss something in tax law," says the faithful Mormon and former congressman. "I would not have injected the church into [the Proposition 8 fight] to the extent that they did. But I don't see that they've done anything unlawful. I don't think the church is in any trouble whatsoever."
Legal or not, the handful of documents Karger has posted at CaliforniansAgainstHate.com reveal the dual roles played by Mormon leaders. For faithful church members who still see the apostles as simple grandfatherly gurus of the spiritual, this is an awakening.
They're also canny political hands.
Salt Lake Tribune, March 26, 2009
LDS church push benefited Prop. 8, but Mormons say they've been unfairly targeted
By Michelle Beaver
Four months before California voters headed to the polls to decide the fate of Proposition 8, the Church of Latter-day Saints put out a call for help.
A letter from church President Thomas Monson was read at every ward in California. It told members to "do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time."
Organization meetings broke out across the state, but the leaders wanted more. Additional letters were sent to every church, with titles such as "Thirty People in Each Ward" and "More than Four Hours per Week."
Donations from individual Mormons poured in and Mormons hit the streets, going door to door, hanging up signs, campaigning against the measure through phone banks. Funding was used for everything from newspaper ads to television commercials.
That push from the Mormon church is widely credited as helping propel Proposition 8, which defined marriage only as a union between a man and a woman, to victory in November 2008.
The measure's fate remains tied in the courts: A federal judge has struck down the law, and an appeal is pending a state Supreme Court decision on whether proponents of the law have authority to defend it in court, since state officials have declined to do so.
Mormons dispute charges they were the main impetus behind Proposition 8's passage -- arguing that they were only part of a large coalition of churches and residents that favored the ban on same-sex marriage. Many
Mormons say they have been disproportionately targeted for their activism. In some cases, the backlash was violent, and, church members say, smacks of discrimination.
"We had protests outside of our temples, white powder delivered, vandalism of our church buildings and individuals targeted who gave only minor donations (to the proposition)," says Scott Gordon, president of the Redding-based Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, which defends Mormon theology.
"Some (Mormons who donated to Proposition 8) lost their jobs," Gordon says, "while others felt truly frightened, only because they participated in the democratic process."
Proposition 8 passed with 52 percent of the vote. Only about 2 percent of the state's population is Mormon, so Mormons alone did not pass the proposition, but they did donate a lot of time, money and organizational expertise.
Proposition 8 was the most expensive campaign on a social issue in the state's history, with both sides raising a combined $83 million.
Supporters raised $39 million, with the largest sum, $27 million, coming from California. The second-highest contributions to the Yes on 8 campaign -- $2.8 million -- came from the state of Utah, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis.
Mormons for Proposition 8, a website organized by opponents that claims to track contributions from individual Mormons, says LDS members donated more than $20 million in support of the measure. The state, however, does not track the religious affiliation of donors, so the site's claim is difficult to confirm. The site also has been controversial, with Mormons complaining it does not track the donations of members of other faiths.
LDS officials initially denied that the church contributed money, claiming that only members contributed. California's Fair Political Practices Commission in 2009 asked the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other groups to hand over financial records regarding Proposition 8 and learned that the church spent almost $200,000 on the campaign. One-third of that included money paid to church employees who were on the clock while organizing for the proposition. Other expenses included airline tickets, hotel rooms and car rentals.
Mormons are practiced at organization, says Richard Bushman, a professor of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University and author of "Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling."
"They combine two qualities that make it easy for them to work together. The first is that they are respectful of authority," Bushman says. " They believe the church organization derives its authority from God, and contributing to the congregation's work is an essential part of serving God."
Further, he adds, the church has no paid clergy, and wards have no paid staff. Congregants willingly step forward to perform necessary tasks.
"It is a people's church," Bushman says. " The buildings now do not even have paid janitors. Even in the wealthiest congregations, the members take turns cleaning the building. This means there is high buy-in."
Still, the church didn't force anyone to vote for Proposition 8, says Charles Pope, 55, a Santa Cruz finance executive and member of the LDS Church. Pope says he acted from his own free will when he donated money, made and posted signs, and encouraged others to support Proposition 8.
"I think the church was very instrumental because we were willing to go out and speak about it and make certain a lot of people understand our point of view, but a lot of other people and religions had that point of view, too," Pope says. "But you never hear about those other religions being cast in the same light as the LDS."
Same-sex marriage supporters don't understand Mormons, Pope says.
"It's always been cast that everyone on our side was a hate monger," he says. "Is there any room for compromise in our position? No. We feel it's a doctrinal and a moral issue, but that's still a long way from being hate mongers and discriminators."
Proposition 8 pitted many people nationwide against Mormons, and also splintered Mormon congregations, says Clark Pingree, a 35-year-old wealth manager for Wells Fargo, and a longtime Walnut Creek resident. He is gay and was raised Mormon but is no longer with the church.
"I have seen so many families and friendships destroyed by Prop. 8," Pingree says. "I've seen my own family's relationship strained because of Prop. 8."
Pingree believes the proposition gave both sides excuses to "demean and judge." He doesn't like the LDS denouncement of same-sex marriage and no longer attends church, but still considers himself Mormon. It's common for disaffected members to identify with their Mormon culture -- after all, being LDS is for many a wonderful experience full of friends, purpose and community service.
"It's such a strong and concentrated religion that it's more of a way of life and an identity," Pingree says.
Former Mormon Kerry Rutz, 51, a landscape architect who moved to San Francisco in 1998 and recently relocated temporarily, says anger has not died down regarding Proposition 8.
"On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being angry, the gay population in the Bay Area is running an anger level of about 100 against the Mormon church," says Rutz, who is gay. "I don't think that anger is likely to change, and I certainly hope it doesn't."
Mormons don't hate homosexuals, Gordon said.
The church's only position on homosexuality is that marriage should exist between a man and a woman, and that homosexuals "are children of God and our brothers and sisters," Gordon says.
"This position is articulated in the pamphlet on homosexuality which starts with the line, 'You are a son or daughter of God, and our hearts reach out to you in warmth and affection,' " Gordon adds.
Retaliation against Mormons was troubling, says lawyer Jay Pimentel, of Alameda. Part of an LDS line that has lived in the Bay Area since 1850, Pimentel donated $1,500 toward Proposition 8, canvassed neighborhoods, assembled phone rosters and called people to remind them to vote.
After the proposition passed, according to Pimentel, a San Francisco group mailed a letter to every neighbor within a few blocks of his home informing them that he supported the proposition and suggesting he should have supported local charities instead. Ironically, Pimentel volunteers for and donates to several Bay Area charities, including some of those listed on the mailer.
"They were assuming I was homophobic or discriminatory or uncaring, and that would be incorrect," says Pimentel.
"Had Prop. 8 not passed, it would not have occurred to me to retaliate against those who had voted against it (or) funded the campaign against Prop. 8."
Pimentel says the fight against Prop. 8 was well under way before Monson sent his letter in June 2008. The Catholic Church was also instrumental in its anti-gay-marriage campaigning, yet Catholics haven't been vilified for their support, he says.
The Mormon church won't allow its leaders to be interviewed on same-sex marriage, but on its website, the church says it does not object to gay rights already established in California, including those regarding housing, employment and medical care, and that the church does not condone "any kind of hostility toward homosexual men and women."
Pimentel says he and many other Mormons support civil unions for gays, and that Mormons want gays to keep the rights California affords them.
Nonetheless, the church's stance on Proposition 8 created casualties.
One young Silicon Valley woman, who wanted her name withheld because she is critical of the church and doesn't want members to mistreat her, was hurt by her family's support of Proposition 8. She was raised Mormon and married a man who turned out to be gay. She says local church leaders and fellow Mormons blamed her for making him gay and don't support her ex in his new lifestyle.
"My parents, quick to obey the words of the prophet, donated $1,000 to the 'Yes on 8' cause," she says. "You can imagine my pain when I came home and visited them for the weekend and saw that yard sign poked in the grass."
Public balance on this topic is difficult, she says.
An important need for gay couples: the ability to have their unions recognized publicly, and to receive full legal rights that heterosexual couples have. An important need for Mormons: the assurance that they will never have to perform gay marriages.
Such protection for the church is vital, says Alyssa Johanson, a 29-year-old research scientist who lives in Union City. She is Mormon and supports Proposition 8.
"This is a tricky issue to deal with, because heterosexual marriage is a key doctrine of our faith and is the crowning ordinance performed in our temples, which are our most sacred houses of worship," Johanson says. "Because few states have tougher anti-discrimination policies than California, we worry about the impact that legalized gay marriage will have on our continued ability to worship according to our beliefs."
Mormons would indeed feel better if there were a guarantee they wouldn't have to perform same-sex marriages, says Robert Rees, of Boulder Creek, an educator at UC Santa Cruz and other California universities. Rees is Mormon and has been married for 50 years. He does not support Proposition 8, and says that viewpoint caused problems for him with some brethren.
"One of the unfortunate results of Proposition 8 is that it tended to divide some LDS congregations, in some cases pitting member against member," Rees says.
Proposition 8 has been hard for all sides involved, according to San Jose teacher Vanessa, 29. She requested her last name not be used because community members have already insulted her for her Proposition 8 views, she says, and she doesn't want to argue anymore or be discriminated against.
"I can understand why the gay community feels they've been discriminated against, because they have been," she says, "but I do feel there's a big misunderstanding on our views of homosexuals."
She says she has close relationships with gay family members and colleagues, but doesn't want the definition of marriage expanded.
She's proud of the work her fellow Mormons did to support Proposition 8, but she knows her church wasn't alone in its activism -- it was just especially good at it.
Contra Costa Times, March 13, 2011
Mormon church "regrets" Calif. gay marriage ruling
Brock Vergakis, Associated Press Writer
SALT LAKE CITY -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says it regrets a federal judge's ruling overturning a ban on gay marriage in California.
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker made his ruling Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by two gay couples who claimed the voter-approved ban violated their civil rights.
In 2008, church leaders urged Mormons to give their time and money to support Proposition 8, which passed with 52 percent of the vote.
Church members were among the campaign's most vigorous volunteers and by some estimates contributed tens of millions of dollars to the effort.
That involvement frequently made the church a target for much of the anger gay rights supporters felt after California voters approved the ballot measure. Some people also decided to boycott Utah - home to church headquarters - as a result of its involvement, although the impact was minimal.
The church said the decision reopens a vigorous debate over the right of the people to define marriage.
"There is no doubt that today's ruling will add to the marriage debate in this country and we urge people on all sides of this issue to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different opinion," church spokeswoman Kim Farah wrote in a statement.
Like many faiths, Mormons believe traditional marriage is an institution established by God. The church has consistently fought gay marriage legislation across the U.S. since the 1990s.
"California voters have twice been given the opportunity to vote on the definition of marriage in their state and both times have determined that marriage should be recognized as only between a man and a woman. We agree. Marriage between a man and woman is the bedrock of society," Farah wrote.
The church has no official position on civil unions but has said it does not object to limited rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, as long as those rights don't infringe on religious liberties.
Sacramento Bee, August 4, 2010
LDS apostle: Prop 8 backlash against Mormons like civil-rights-era persecution of blacks
Now Dallin H. Oaks faces his own backlash
By Rosemary Winters and Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune
LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks on Tuesday likened the post-Proposition 8 backlash against Mormons to the persecution blacks endured during the civil-rights struggle.
Now Oaks faces a backlash himself.
"Were four little Mormon girls blown up in the church at Sunday school? Were there burning crosses planted on local bishops' lawns? Were people lynched and their genitals stuffed in their mouths?" asked University of Utah historian Colleen McDannell. "By comparing these two things, it diminishes the real violence that African-Americans experienced in the '60s, when they were struggling for equal rights. There is no equivalence between the two."
Oaks, in a strongly worded defense of the church's efforts opposing same-sex marriage, told students at Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg that Latter-day Saints "must not be deterred or coerced into silence" by advocates for "alleged civil rights."
Last year, the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints urged its followers to donate money and time to pass Prop 8, the successful ballot measure that eliminated the right of same-sex couples to wed in California. Afterward, protests, including several near LDS temples, erupted along with boycotts of business owners who donated to Prop 8 and even some vandalism of LDS meetinghouses.
"In their effect," Oaks said, "they are like the well-known and widely condemned voter-intimidation of blacks in the South that produced corrective federal civil-rights legislation."
Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP's Salt Lake branch, said there is "no comparison."
"I don't see where the LDS Church has been denied any of their rights," she said. "What the gay and lesbian communities are fighting for, that is a civil-rights issue."
In an interview posted on the LDS Church's Web site after the speech, Oaks called his analogy a "good one," but acknowledged that intimidation of Mormons in the wake of Prop 8 has not been "as serious as what happened in the South."
In his speech, the LDS apostle, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, cast the anti-Mormon furor as an attack on religious freedom.
"During my lifetime I have seen a significant deterioration in the respect accorded to religion in our public life, and I believe that the vitality of religious freedom is in danger of being weakened accordingly," Oaks said. "Atheists and others would intimidate persons with religious-based points of view from influencing or making the laws of their state or nation."
Judeo-Christian scriptures established the marriage of a man and a woman thousands of years ago, he said, and those who would change this ancient order "should not be allowed to pretend that those who defend the ancient order are trampling on civil rights."
Religious-freedom advocates said the speech contained sound points, but gay-rights supporters criticized Oaks for dismissing their cause.
Will Carlson, public-policy manager for Equality Utah, called legal protections for gay and transgender people, including anti-discrimination and hate-crime laws, "human rights."
"The right to earn a living, the right to stay in your home, the right to be free from violence, these are the priorities of the equal-rights movement," he said. "Even in the pursuit of marriage equality, it's about the legal protections that come with a marriage license. Just as the LDS faithful have a fundamental right to get married according to the dictates of their conscience, all Americans should have that right."
Carlson said his gay-rights group supports "religious liberty" and condemns "any vandalism or violence against any people."
Peter Danzig, a former Mormon and a spokesman for Foundation for Reconciliation, which aims to foster understanding between Latter-day Saints and the gay community, said he agrees on the importance of religious freedom. But he found it "astonishing" that Oaks failed to mention faiths that "honor" gay marriage. He also disagreed with Oaks' characterization of gay-rights advocates as largely atheists.
"Many activists are deeply religious people," he said.
The Salt Lake Tribune, October 14, 2009
Mormon-tied gay rights groups join in blasting LDS apostle's Prop 8 comments
Civil rights �They argue the church overstepped its own policy of political neutrality.
By Jeremiah Stettler
LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks called on Mormon faithful last week not to be silenced by post-Proposition 8 intimidation, urging members to insist on the free exercise of religion.
What really is threatening religious liberty, four gay-rights groups countered Friday in a joint statement, is the church's meddling in a political campaign to deny rights to same-sex couples.
"We have always been taught that it is not 'just to mingle religious influence with civil government,' " wrote Cheryl Nunn, executive director of the Foundation for Reconciliation, quoting Mormon scripture. "How can I face my friends in other faiths if I stand by and do nothing?"
The four gay-rights advocacy groups -- Mormons for Marriage; Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons; the LDS Safe Space Coalition; and Foundation for Reconciliation -- include Mormons and former church members.
Their statement comes after Oaks' strongly worded defense in a speech at Brigham Young University-Idaho of the church's political push for Prop 8, last year's successful ballot measure eliminating the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.
The LDS leader, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, said students "must not be deterred or coerced into silence" by advocates for "alleged civil rights."
Oaks then condemned the protests, business boycotts, firings of church members and vandalism of LDS meetinghouses that followed the election, comparing them to voter intimidation employed against blacks in the South during the civil rights movement.
Those offenses, he urged, must not stifle the church's right to religious expression.
"We must insist on our constitutional right and duty to exercise our religion, to vote our consciences on public issues and to participate in elections and debates in the public square and the halls of justice," he said. "These are the rights of all citizens and they are also the rights of religious leaders."
But gay-rights groups argue the LDS Church overstepped its own policy of political neutrality and designated resources "we thought had been consecrated for the work of God."
"Support of policies that seek to force the morality of our belief system on others who believe differently and strip existing rights from individuals and religions," the groups' statement reads, "is contrary to core doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
The LDS Church declined to comment Saturday on the statement.
Gay-rights groups now are calling on Oaks to accept their statement in person on Nov. 4, when they mark the anniversary of Prop 8's passage.
The Salt Lake Tribune, October 18, 2009
LDS communications part of Prop 8 trial
The LDS Church's role in passing Proposition 8, California's 2008 ballot measure that banned gay marriage in the Golden State, took center stage during Day 7 of a federal court case in San Francisco.
Two same-sex couples -- represented by Ted Olson and David Boies, famously known for defending opposite sides in the U.S. Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore -- are suing to overturn Prop 8. If the case makes it to the nation's high court, it could have national implications for gay marriage.
On Wednesday, an attorney for the plaintiffs called on witness Gary Segura, a political science professor at Stanford University, to articulate the relative powerlessness of gays and lesbians in the Prop 8 fight. Segura read aloud documents that revealed the extent to which powerful, religious organizations -- including the LDS Church, Roman Catholic Church and evangelical group Focus on the Family -- worked together to pass Prop 8.
Here are some tidbits from the Day 7 court transcript about the extent of LDS participation in the Prop 8 campaign led by ProtectMarriage.com:
* The LDS Church organized "grass-roots leaders" of the Prop 8 campaign by calling on members to be "area directors" over 17 regions, coinciding with the church�s mission boundaries, and by designating �prop coordinators� for every ZIP code in California.
* About 20,000 Mormons volunteered to walk neighborhoods on two Saturdays.
* Latter-day Saints were encouraged to donate to ProtectMarriage.com -- $30 was the suggested amount -- with a fundraising goal of $5 million.
* "This campaign owes an enormous debt to the LDS Church. I will comment specifically at a later time, under separate cover, about their financial, organizational and management contribution to the success of the effort." -- Ned Dolejsi, executive-committee member of ProtectMarriage.com, in an e-mail to Catholic leaders.
* "As you know from the [LDS Church] First Presidency letter [sent to California congregations in summer 2008], this campaign is entirely under priesthood direction -- in concert with leaders of many other faiths and community groups forming part of the ProtectMarriage.com coalition. " -- Mark Jansson, a member of LDS Church public affairs, in an internal e-ail.
* "Salt Lake City conducted a teleconference with 159 of 161 stake presidents in the state of California and told the presidents LDS are involved in this issue but are not to take the lead. " -- minutes of a meeting of LDS officials in California.
Salt Lake Tribune, January 21, 2010
How Far Will Mormons Go to Fight Gay Marriage?
John Aloysius Farrell
If a gay marriage question is put on the California ballot in 2010, it will put the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at a seriously interesting crossroads.
It has been three or four decades since the Mormon Church chose a low profile in American politics, after its opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, and theological hostility to black Americans, spurred an anti-Mormon backlash. The Mormons are among the most persecuted of American sects, and highly sensitive to criticism.
The church's low-key strategy seemed to work. There are still some Mormon-haters in evangelical Christian circles, but for the most part the Mormons are accepted and admired, and church membership has soared. Mormon politicians like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman are regarded by mainstream America as legitimate presidential timber.
Mormon watchers were surprised, then, when the church hierarchy took such an active role in the passage of Proposition 8 in California, limiting marriage to a man and a woman. Gay Americans were surprised as well. They didn't expect the church to embrace gay marriage, but neither did they predict that the Mormon Church would emerge as a resolute and politically-active foe, whose support for Prop 8 was perhaps determinative. Some of the resultant anti-Mormon rhetoric has been vicious.
Now that Prop 8 has been upheld by the California Supreme Court, gay rights groups say they will put gay marriage on the ballot in California again, and mount a full scale effort to win public approval, perhaps as soon as 2010.
That will put the ball back in the church's court. The family is at the center of Mormon theology. But the national political trends are running against the church. Younger Americans--even young evangelicals--are more than willing to see their gay friends get married.
Opposing gay marriage in Utah (as the church did in 2004) is one thing, but taking a lead public role in a national campaign to deprive a persecuted minority of a right shared by all other Americans is another. It would be seen as a sign that the days of low-key tactics are over, and that the current Mormon leaders are prepared to give, and get, the political bruising that occurs when religion mixes with politics in America.
U.S. News and World Report, May 29, 2009
Mormon church praises ruling on same-sex marriage
By Jennifer Dobner, Associated Press Writer
SALT LAKE CITY--Mormons who disagree with their church on gay marriage don't want a California court ruling that upholds a ban on the unions to shut down opportunities to discuss the issue.
"As much as people have tried to reach out during Proposition 8, we need to reach out even more now," said Laura Compton, a Mormon from Cupertino, Calif., who help create the Web site mormonsformarriage.com.
"I think there will be a lot of Mormons who are going to feel like they've been righteously upheld, that the court decision is a sign that God is on their side," Compton said. "I hope it doesn't lead to a rash of 'I told you so's.'"
On Tuesday, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints praised the decision by the California Supreme Court to uphold a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. The church backed Prop. 8 last fall and its members vigorously gave their time and money to support the initiative.
In a statement, the church said it "recognizes there are deeply held feelings on both sides, but strongly affirms its belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman."
The church said it believes marriage has profound implications for society that range from "what our children are taught in schools to individual and collective freedom of religious expression and practice."
That position has placed the church at odds with increasing acceptance in society for gay rights and, in some states, marriage. After the November vote, the church became a target for protests, vandalism and hate speech.
The faith has called for civility and said it believes discussion of the issue isn't helped when people on both sides of the debate demonize each other.
Compton echoed that sentiment on her Web site Tuesday, asking marriage equality supporters to speak their minds "respectfully, faithfully, honestly and charitably."
"Mormons for Marriage will continue to teach and provide a forum to discuss the importance of marriage equality," she wrote on the site.
Affirmation, an international support group for gay, lesbian and transgender Mormons, expressed regret over the ruling and the role that church played in Prop. 8.
"The church which preaches that family is to be valued above all else has squandered millions of dollars to tear our families apart," said David Melson of Silver Spring, Md., the organization's executive director.
Like many religions, Mormonism teaches that traditional marriage is an institution ordained by God and that homosexual sex is a sin. Gays are welcome to attend church but must remain celibate to retain service callings.
The church has been consistent in its position and has actively worked against marriage equality legislation since the 1990s.
Linda Stay of St. George quit the church last fall over the gay marriage issue. Tuesday's ruling was bittersweet for her family, who have been Mormons for several generations. Two of her nine children are gay. Both live in California, but only one was married during the window when gay marriage was legal last summer.
The court ruling did not invalidate those marriages.
"We're grateful that my son and his returned (Mormon) missionary husband's marriage gets to stand, but for my daughter, who didn't have someone she was ready to marry at that time, it's heartbreaking," she said.
San Francisco graphic designer and lifetime Mormon Lisa Fahey said she hopes that her church services on Sunday will be free of righteous messaging. For now, she said she won't let the differences of opinion keep her from church and she'll keep fighting for equality.
"I'm an active faithful member of the church. Just because we have different views on gay marriage doesn't mean I'm any less a member," Fahey said. "I like to say I'm a missionary for the church. A missionary showing that not all Mormons are against gay marriage."
Mercury News, May 26, 2009
Utahns, LDS Church spent more on Prop. 8 than previously known
Reports -- More than half the donations for and against poured in during the final three weeks, about $2.5M
By Tony Semerad, The Salt Lake Tribune
Utahns and the LDS Church spent significantly more than previously reported on last-minute efforts to push passage of California's ban of same-sex marriage, newly filed financial disclosures show.
Donations from as many as 1,025 individual and businesses in Utah to both sides of the Proposition 8 campaign totaled about $3.8 million, according to new filings with California's secretary of state, with more than 70 percent going to groups supporting the successful measure.
Only Californians donated more in the $83.1 million ballot campaign, which ranks among the most expensive state initiatives in U.S. history. More than half the Utah donations poured in during the final three weeks before the Nov. 4 election, totaling about $2.5 million.
Officials with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also have filed new disclosures detailing at least $134,774 in previously unreported nonmonetary expenditures to help Prop. 8 proponents, much of it in staff time by church employees. Only $55,000 in LDS Church donations had been reported before, by California-based ProtectMarriage.com, the main pro-Prop. 8 group.
Between them, the filings add new dimensions to Utah's heavy involvement in California's same-sex-marriage ban, which carried 52 percent of the vote and now is being challenged in state courts. Encouraged by church leaders, Mormons across the country gave money to the campaign, along with members from a spectrum of other religious denominations, business representatives and tens of thousands of individuals.
The 11th-hour gush of money from Utah is inflated by a donation for $1 million by former WordPerfect executive Alan Ashton, of Lindon. The Ashton gift to ProtectMarriage.com came eight days before the election in apparent response to the $1 million donated by Ashton's ex-colleague, Bruce Bastian, in July to the anti-Prop. 8 group Human Rights Campaign.
Without the Ashton-Bastian donations, Utahns kicked in $1.7 million to back Prop 8 and nearly $87,000 to buck it.
The LDS Church's Jan. 30 financial disclosure lists $117,424 in compensated staff time and use of church facilities and equipment devoted to Prop. 8 passage. While the church's report lists the expenditure for Election Day, church spokesman Scott Trotter said the staff time included work between August and November.
The filings caught even the recipient of the church's help, ProtectMarriage.com, by surprise, according to Frank Schubert, the group's spokesman. The Sacramento-based group has since filed an amended campaign report to match what the church disclosed, Schubert said.
"We knew they were supporting our efforts, but we didn't know all the details," said Schubert. For example, he said, the church did not share information about how it was accounting for the time of its employees or its share of costs for a Utah-based phone bank.
The LDS reports also detail nearly $20,550 in Southwest Airlines tickets, car rentals, hotel expenses and other travel-related costs in the final months of the campaign, including $4,471 in travel reimbursements for L. Whitney Clayton, a member of the church's Presidency of the Seventy, and $2,273 for William S. Evans, the church's political lobbyist.
These costs were incurred, Trotter explained, as church leaders and employees traveled to and from California to attend Yes on 8 coalition meetings and to produce videos.
The report tallies $29,269 in audiovisual-production services and equipment costs for pro-Prop. 8 clips posted on the LDS.org Web site and elsewhere.
The LDS Church is under investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission because of a complaint about the church's campaign tactics filed by the anti-Prop. 8 group Californians Against Hate.
Roman Porter, executive director of the five-member bipartisan commission, said the inquiry remained "open and ongoing," but declined to provide details.
LDS officials reiterated the church's position that "it has fully complied with all relevant requirements of California law, including the Political Reform Act," which demands timely and full disclosure of campaign spending. They described the complaint as "replete with errors, misstatements and irrelevancies."
But Californians Against Hate spokesman Fred Karger said the latest spending report was evidence the church had violated California campaign-reporting laws by hiding the full extent of church activities and failing to report expenditures within state-mandated deadlines.
"The whole point is to find out who is giving money before the election, not up to three months afterward,'' Karger said. "Clearly there was a cover-up here.''
Church officials disclosed this latest round of expenditures a day after U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. rejected a federal lawsuit filed by Prop. 8 backers that sought to block requirements for disclosure of late campaign donations.
The lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of California rules requiring that campaign donor names be made public, claiming that disclosure violated the rights of Prop. 8 supporters by subjecting them to harassing e-mails and phone calls. Several Utah donors reported such harassment.
Despite the LDS Church's organizational role in Yes on 8, church officials said they "did not know about the filing of this complaint nor were we consulted on its filing."
The judge ruled Jan. 29 to uphold the reporting rules, saying the state was "not facilitating retaliation by compelling disclosure." Along with the LDS Church, at least six of the major California political committees formed in connection with Prop. 8 filed their lists of late-stage donors the next day.
Salt Lake Tribune, February 10, 2009
Prop 8 foes slow to pick up on Mormon involvement
by Dan Aiello
In the weeks just before the November election, No on Prop 8 campaign officials say they had only just begun to know the extent of Mormon involvement in support of Proposition 8, and claim that, at the time, the issue of the Utah-based church's involvement in the California initiative "was not vote-determinative," according to internal polling conducted in the midst of the campaign.
In the months since the election, however, the extent of Mormon involvement in the same-sex marriage issue has emerged, leading some marriage equality activists to ask why the No on 8 campaign wasn't better prepared for what even church officials admit has been a focused 20-year strategy to thwart same-sex marriage.
Kim Farah, LDS spokeswoman, contends that a 1997 memo describing the Mormons' political same-sex marriage strategy for California and Hawaii, reported on by the Bay Area Reporter late last year, reflects a church position on homosexuality and same-sex marriage that has remained "highly consistent."
The involvement by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the passage of Proposition 8, which eliminated same-sex marriage in California, was unprecedented, said No on 8 officials.
The record amount of money contributed by Mormon Church members as a result of a directive issued by LDS leaders was "unprecedented in any anti-LGBT campaign -- not just here in California, but in the history of our entire nation," Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California and an executive committee member of the No on 8 campaign, told the Bay Area Reporter in an e-mail.
No on 8 campaign manager Steve Smith agreed.
"I am not aware of any church that has engaged in that kind of political action ever before. Churches all the time go to their membership and ask them to vote one way or another, but never to ask for this level of involvement or contribution," said Smith.
Smith, a veteran of California politics and a principal with Dewey Square, a political consulting firm, warned, "I think it bodes incredibly ill for the future of politics for any church to involve itself in an issue like this, the way the Mormons did."
"The Mormon Church's involvement in California politics is not altogether new, but this degree of involvement of any church in a constitutional amendment in this state is unprecedented, especially in the mobilization of a grassroots army," Marriage Equality USA media director Molly McKay told the B.A.R. "I think it's fair to say that the Mormon Church pulled out all the stops this time and was not going to be content until its religious doctrine was enshrined in our state constitution."
Recent campaign finance records released by the Yes on 8 campaign show that the church spent about $190,000 in fighting same-sex marriage. Hundreds of Mormon Church members from California and elsewhere also contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the campaign after being asked to do so in a letter sent from high-ranking LDS officials last summer.
But the Yes on 8 campaign noted that lots of donors to No on 8 were also from outside California. Campaign manager Frank Schubert was asked why the campaign felt the need to raise money from people in Utah and elsewhere.
"Are you kidding me? The No [on 8] campaign raised tens of millions outside of California," Schubert wrote in an e-mail. "This was a national campaign on both sides. We raised money wherever we could find it, as did the other side."
Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of the religious watchdog group Freedom from Religion Foundation, believes Smith's concern about religious involvement in political campaigns is justified.
"Churches do not have to fill out a 990 form like we do as a 501(c)3, nonprofit organization," Gaylor told the B.A.R. Gaylor said that lack of transparency in reporting allows religious organizations to disguise or hide the level of their contributions to a campaign or candidate, keeping the public in the dark about just who's backing the issue.
Last week's B.A.R. article examined the Mormon Church's role in Hawaii in the 1990s during that state's same-sex marriage battle; a new push for civil unions is now making its way through the legislature in that state. In the 1990s, the church established a front group, Hawaii's Future Today, that to the public appeared to be a "grassroots" effort to protect the definition of marriage.
Gaylor believes the LDS involvement in Proposition 8 "crossed the line," and is the best example of why increasingly politicized church organizations should lose their tax-exempt, non-reporting status.
"Every single news story has pointed out that [the marriage equality battle] is a religious, not a secular fight, so every time it's an unequal battle," Gaylor said.
A complaint over the Mormon Church's involvement with the Prop 8 fight, filed by Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate, is currently under review by the state's Fair Political Practices Commission.
Schubert was critical of the FPPC complaint and Karger's group.
"This is a hate group whose purpose is to harass supporters of traditional marriage," Schubert said. "Their complaint is without merit. The LDS church has filed all appropriate information with the FPPC. They spent approximately $190,000 in in-kind contributions. They made no cash contributions."
Blast from the past
Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a member of the No on 8 executive committee, grew up Mormon in Utah and was the first female staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah. Her history has led some in the LGBT community to ask why the No on 8 campaign didn't better anticipate her former church's actions.
"I knew the church would be involved and told Steve that they would be a significant force -- especially after the [LDS] president's letter in June that made it clear they were going to pull out all the stops," Kendell said. "They put in likely 70 percent of the Prop 22 money and very likely the same percentage with Prop 8."
While Kendell's comments appear to indicate the LDS involvement in Prop 8 was proportionately comparable to its support of Prop 22, she claimed church members' overall financial contribution to Prop 8 surprised the campaign.
"I think we all were stunned at just how muscular the church's role was," Kendell said. "I would not have imagined that they could have raised $20-$25 million." Kendell qualified her comment, referring to the recent unearthing of documents detailing nearly two decades of Mormon involvement in the issue. "Keep in mind we did not know at the time just how deep and strategic and all-encompassing they had been on this issue for over a decade. If we had known that, it would have had some impact perhaps � but most of the yes votes were from folks who were all too happy to have the church take the lead."
What was and wasn't known
No on 8's Smith admits that he became aware of the Mormon factor late.
"We began only to understand in mid-summer how heavily involved the Mormons were -- not until the October 5 financial report � and that was very late," he said.
Smith said he discovered the Mormons were involved after asking an old friend for help. "I have a good friend who grew up Mormon and he, when I started to get suspicious, I asked him if he could recognize the names of other Mormon families [from his ward] and he said yes. So I pulled the donor list from the Zip code he grew up in southern California, and he confirmed that most of it came from Mormons."
Smith was suspicious both of the donation amounts and the timing.
"The way they did it, and I'm not sure if they planned it this way, but it certainly worked out this way, was that in late July, early August at the latest, [the Yes on 8 campaign] started buying media at a rate that showed they had to be out-fundraising us," he said. But Smith claimed that up until then, the financial reports did not reflect that level of fundraising for Yes on 8.
What Smith said the No on 8 campaign learned October 5 was that the vast majority of Mormon contributions were in the amount of "$750 to just under $1,000, so a lot of these contributions weren't being reported, because they didn't have to, and it wasn't until October 5 that we learned the extent" of the influx of money from Mormons.
"We were expecting to be behind by $2 to $3 million, but we found out we were behind by over $10 million," Smith said.
The B.A.R. found that two Mormon elders directly involved in promoting the LDS position, Richard "Dick" Wirthlin and Whitney Clayton, made individual contributions from California addresses totaling $901 and $500, respectively.
Smith noticed differences between the Prop 8 campaign and the Proposition 22 campaign in 2000 in California. In that election, voters overwhelmingly approved the initiative that defined marriage as between one man and one woman in the state's family code.
"With Prop 22 they bussed in thousands and thousands and thousands of volunteers," he noted. "In this case the Mormons chose to hide their involvement. What you can attribute that to is either they thought it would be more effective, or they were embarrassed about what they were doing."
Even before Smith became aware of the number of Mormon donations coming in, he said he knew of some involvement, enough that the No on 8 campaign began asking voters if Mormon involvement in the issue mattered to them. "We were polling in late August � certainly late summer � and again in early October," asking Californians how they felt about the Mormon involvement, he said.
"There were a significant number of people who were bothered by it, a percentage � I don't recall the exact number right now � that were very much so, but it was never determinative and, to be frank, we felt we had much stronger arguments," Smith said.
Smith later declined to provide the questions asked and the percentages of respondents that found the issue troubling.
Smith made the point, however, that the extent of Mormon involvement was not fully understood at the time by either the campaign or the voters, something that is only now coming to light.
"Had we known to what extent they were involved, there may have been some sort of a cumulative effect that may have actually helped make the issue vote-determinative," Smith said.
Kendell confirmed the No on 8 campaign did poll on the Mormon issue.
"I do remember we asked that question and the results were pretty underwhelming in terms of the percentage of voters for whom it was an issue," Kendell wrote in an e-mail. "I do not remember the figure, however, and I would need full executive committee authorization to permit Steve to release the data."
Evidence of the Mormon Church's tactics was hiding in plain sight. In addition to the homosexual legalized marriage strategy memo and the Richley Crapo documents that the B.A.R. previously reported on, the B.A.R. has uncovered the transcript of the PBS religion and ethics documentary, episode 326, produced by the late Art Lord, who was NBC News' Burbank bureau chief, in which San Francisco reporter Vic Lee states that, "To gather the 700,000 signatures to get Prop 22 before the voters, [Pete] Knight's organization reportedly received $5 million from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and $350,000 from the Catholic Bishops of California."
The late state Senator William "Pete" Knight (R-Palmdale) was the driving force behind Prop 22 nine years ago.
Lee, who was a contributing correspondent for the show, said in an interview last month that he was not responsible for gathering the information used in the documentary.
"The research was his research," Lee said, adding that Lord "had an absolutely sterling reputation."
In the episode, LDS Elder Douglas Callister states, "We were not the institution or organization that caused this to be placed on the ballot, but once it was placed there, it became apparent that Californians would need to vote one way or the other ..."
In the Ballard memo, its author Elder Loren C. Dunn stated that the HLM strategy was to use the "referendum route" in California as passing legislation through the Statehouse would be "virtually impossible."
Farah, the LDS spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail to the B.A.R. that the PBS claim was "false," but did not respond to a request for any evidence that the Mormon Church disputed the charge when it aired in 2000.
Kendell, who was on the No on 22 executive committee, said "the Knight folks had raised around $6 million total." Regarding Lord's claim that $5 million had come from the LDS, Kendell said, "I had not heard this information, but it would not surprise me."
No on 8 campaign manager Smith, however, doubted the figure. "It wouldn't have taken that much to qualify the initiative. If that's true it's a huge surprise because it was not known at the time." The B.A.R. could not find corroborating evidence in reports filed with the secretary of state's office, but, according to an archives official, California does not require such reporting before an initiative qualifies for the ballot.
Susan Lord, Art's widow, told of the $5 million figure mentioned in her husband's program, said, "he was always about accuracy."
Lessons for the future
No on 8 campaign officials said some of the tactics employed by the Mormon Church in its fight to block same-sex marriage were not that different from what for-profit businesses sometimes do.
"Whether we like it or not it's not uncommon to create these kinds of organizations," No on 8's Smith said about the Mormon's creation of the front organization Hawaii's Future Today, which was described in the B.A.R. 's February 5 article. "Even corporations like Microsoft will create one to promote one idea and then Google will create one to promote the opposite. But it is not very often that a church feels it necessary to hide behind what is essentially a front group. That is uncommon. In fact, I've never seen it before."
"Teacher's unions, activists, and religious groups just don't find it necessary to hide who they are or why they're supporting a cause," Smith added.
"Wow," said Kendell. "This just goes deeper and deeper. It certainly wouldn't have hurt the campaign to have information which confirmed that the Mormon Church [had a history of engaging] in activities that were deceptive and intended to mask the extent of the church's anti-marriage activities. Given that many of those who voted for Prop 8 don't like the Mormon Church anyway, I don't know if it would have made any difference in the outcome. But certainly the public at large needs to know this."
Those fighting for marriage equality said the community needs to learn from Prop 8's passage.
"My hope is to really be urging our campaign and our community to learn from this experience so that we aren't continually reinventing the wheel so that we aren't getting blindsided by the arguments, strategies, and people that keep appearing from the same group of people," said McKay. "There's absolutely no reason that a strategy can't be made that recognizes this is what they do and this is who they are."
McKay believes more should have been done during the campaign to address the Mormon factor.
"We should have been much stronger in pointing out the LDS positions: barring women from positions of power, opposing stem cell research, opposing reproductive choice, contraception, their historic exclusion of black people from their church until 1978," said McKay, who believes the campaign should have asked California's voters, "When your constitutional rights are at stake, would you rather have the Mormon Church or the California Supreme Court decide what the law requires?"
Joseph "Robb" Wirthlin and his wife Robin Wirthlin were among the LDS members the church recruited to aide the Prop 8 campaign in California, including a weeklong bus tour through the state to drive home the misleading claim that children would be taught about same-sex marriage in public schools if Prop 8 was defeated.
The story of the Wirthlins became suspect at the end of the campaign when it was learned that Robb was the grandson of LDS Apostle Joseph B. Wirthlin and the nephew of LDS elder and Prop 22 internal pollster Richard "Dick" Wirthlin.
Both Robb and Robin Wirthlin had moved into a Massachusetts school district already embroiled in a fight over same-sex marriage curriculum and, and along with another prominent LDS family, the Gals, who had moved into the district as well, joined the district's anti-bias committee. Then within a matter of weeks the Wirthlins brought a lawsuit against the school district. The federal suit was thrown out, but the Wirthlins became stars within the conservative religious communities opposed to marriage equality.
Schubert, the Yes on 8 campaign manager, told the B.A.R., that like other Mormon volunteers, "The Wirthlins were not compensated for their time." Only their airfare and hotel expenses were covered by the campaign. The new finance reports from the secretary of state's office showed the Wirthlins were paid $768 for "staff/spouse travel, lodging and meals" by the Yes on 8 campaign.
In a previous B.A.R. article on the Wirthlins, Schubert said the decision to involve the Wirthlins in the campaign was his, and his alone, though he did not say whether or not the LDS leadership offered the Wirthlins to him.
In fact, in November Schubert told the B.A.R. he wasn't certain if Elder Dick Wirthlin was retired or even still living, a comment that seems strange since Wirthlin was not only involved in polling for Mitt Romney's presidential bid, he contributed to the Yes on 8 campaign and Schubert was working intimately with Robb Wirthlin, Dick Wirthlin's great-nephew.
Same team, same playbook
Future campaigns should anticipate the involvement of the Mormon Church, whether its support is out in the open or behind a stealth organization, as well as the issues and tactics that emerged during the Prop 8 campaign, believes McKay.
"They're just watching us more closely than we're watching them and that's a mistake," she said.
The discovery of Crapo's documents confirm Farah's statement that the LDS position is a "highly consistent" and persistent Mormon strategy that has been present in every same-sex marriage battle, judicial, legislative, or political, since 1988.
"It's like we've been showing up on the field and not knowing the team we're going to be playing against," said McKay, who said people now know "it's been the same team. It's a strategic disadvantage. They have the same playbook and they keep using it."
No future campaign can justify surprise by the tenacity of the Mormon leaders in their quest to deny marriage equality to same-sex couples, or underestimate their level of commitment to the issue, believes McKay.
It is notable that the Mormon Church no longer holds to Brigham Young's "eternal edict" that homosexuals should be put to death, anymore than it still massacres settlers traveling through Utah. But the evolution of Mormon sentiment toward same-sex couples still contains the discrimination present in the words of its former leader.
Bay Area Reporter, February 12, 2009
The Church and Gay Marriage: Are Mormons Misunderstood?
By David Van Biema, Time Magazine
Last November, Jay Pimentel began hearing that people in his neighborhood were receiving letters about him. Pimentel lives in Alameda, Calif., a small, liberal-leaning community hanging off Oakland into the San Francisco Bay. Pimentel, who is a Mormon, had supported Proposition 8, the ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage. And that made him a target. "Dear Neighbor," the letter began, "Our neighbors, Colleen and Jay Pimentel"--and it gave their address--"contributed $1,500.00 to the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign. NEIGHBORS SHOULD BE AWARE OF THEIR NEIGHBORS' CHOICES." The note accused the Pimentels of "obsessing about same-sex marriage." It listed a variety of local causes that recipients should support--"unlike the Pimentels."
Pimentel, a lawyer and a lay leader in the small Mormon congregation in Alameda, is markedly even-keeled. Yet the poison-pen note still steams him, even though in May the California Supreme Court validated Prop 8 as constitutional. He is bothered less by the revelation of his monetary contribution, which he stands by, than the fact that the letter's author didn't bother to find out that every other Saturday for 15 years, he or someone else from Alameda's 184-member Mormon ward has delivered a truckload of hot meals to the Midway Shelter for Abused and Homeless Women and Children--one of the organizations the Pimentels allegedly wouldn't support. "The church does a lot of things in the community we don't issue press releases about," he says. "And when people criticize us, we often just take it on the chin. I guess you could say I'm not satisfied with the way we're seen."
Across the country, that's the dilemma facing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With 13 million members worldwide (by its own count), the LDS is the fourth largest church in the country, the richest per capita and one of the fastest-growing abroad. The body has become a mainstream force, counting among its flock political heavyweights like former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid, businesspeople like the Marriotts and entertainers like Glenn Beck and Twilight novelist Stephenie Meyer. The passage of Prop 8 was the church's latest display of its power: individual Mormons contributed half of the proposition's $40 million war chest despite constituting only 2% of California's population. LDS spokesman Michael Otterson says, "This is a moment of emergence."
But that emergence has its costs. Even as Mormons have become more prominent, they have struggled to overcome lingering prejudices and misrepresentations about the sources of their beliefs. Polls suggest that up to half of Americans would be uncomfortable with a Mormon President. And though the Prop 8 victory was a high-water mark for Mormon political advocacy, it also sparked a vicious backlash from gay-rights activists, some of whom accused Mormons of bigotry and blind religious obedience.
The LDS regards such charges as the product of ignorance. It sees itself as primarily apolitical; on issues on which it has taken a stand, the church's positions have been roughly consistent with other conservative faiths. But Mormon activism, when it occurs, does differ from the American norm in significant ways, because of both the dominating role played by LDS President and Prophet Thomas Monson and the church's remarkable electoral cohesion. After the California Supreme Court's ruling to uphold Prop 8, gay-rights groups announced their intent to return same-sex marriage to the California ballot in 2010, almost challenging the Mormons to respond. By championing the California traditional-marriage initiative so forcefully and successfully the first time, the Mormon church has stepped onto America's next big cultural battleground. But in figuring out if it should pick up the gauntlet again, the Mormons, who feel they have so much else to offer, must consider whether the issue is becoming a referendum on Mormonism itself.
What Mormons Believe
"Our Message for the World," says M. Russell Ballard Jr., one of the 14 apostles just under Monson, "is that we are His children, we lived with Him before we came here ... we're striving to keep His commandments so that when we die we can be entitled to receive all the blessings that the Heavenly Father has for His children." Ballard adds emphatically, "People like to make it complex. But it's really pretty simple."
Actually, it's pretty complex. Beyond some (extremely) colorful details, there are two radical Mormon theological deviations from conventional Christianity, both of which have at least some bearing on the gay-marriage battle. The first is an expansion of the drama of salvation. In creedal Christianity, Jesus' divinity, incarnation, teachings, death and resurrection are the entire point. Mormons, too, believe in Christ as Saviour and model and are as committed as any other Christians to his emulation. But they also believe we existed prenatally as God's "spirit children," that our earthly life is an interlude for learning and testing and that we continue developing after death. The best Mormons may become in the afterlife parents to their own batch of spirit children. "As Man is, God once was; as God is, Man may become," goes the couplet by the fifth Mormon President, Lorenzo Snow. This unusual scheme underlies Mormon sunniness, industriousness and charity. Says Jana Riess, a comparative-religions expert who converted to Mormonism and is a co-author of Mormonism for Dummies: "There's no other Christian theology as beautifully open to human beings' eternal potential."
Gays constitute a notable exception. Some Mormons have a conventional view of homosexuality as sin. But their marriage preference has an additional aspect. The return to God is accomplished by heterosexually founded families, not individuals, and only as a partner in a procreative relationship can a soul eventually create spirit children. "I've had personal experience with gay people, and I weep with them," says official LDS historian Marlin Jensen, but the "context for our being so dogged about preserving the family is that Mormons believe that God is their father and that they have a heavenly mother and that eventually their destiny is to become like that." The alienation felt by gay Mormons was highlighted in 2000, when one of them, 32-year-old Stuart Matis, committed suicide on the steps of the Los Altos, Calif., church headquarters.
The second politically controversial Mormon teaching is the belief in a living, breathing Prophet--in Salt Lake City. Prophets have even more authority than Popes do in Catholicism; among other things, they are able to add to Scripture. Because they make key decisions with their apostles, the model is oligarchic rather than absolute, but it still vests extraordinary influence in Monson, his two counselors and his apostles, who transmit orders downward through the Salt Lake City--based general authorities, regional stake presidents and local pastors called bishops.
Mormons bristle at the notion of "blind obedience" to the Prophet. The faith makes much of free will, and each believer divines his path privately with the help of reason, prayer and the Holy Spirit. But most often, the outcome of that process affirms the Prophet's instructions. The combination of free-will rhetoric and de facto obedience produces what Stephen Carter, editor of the independent Mormon magazine Sunstone, calls "people who are psychologically healthy, have a good sense of direction and who are for the most part ready to follow orders."
The Organized Mormon
Richard and Joan Ostling, authors of Mormon America, calculated that pious Mormons devote an astonishing 20 hours a week to church-related activities, an expectation Richard Ostling says exists in "no other big denomination." Constant interaction through Bible study, family home evenings, Mormon scout troops and other community-building activities yield a practiced, seamless unity more common to much smaller insular groups like the Amish and ultra-Orthodox Jews.
The biggest manifestation of that unity is one of America's largest private welfare networks, a charitable wonder called the Bishop's Storehouse system that kept thousands of LDS members off the dole during the Great Depression (and is humming again). In the past, the only knock against the church's largesse was that it aided mostly Mormons: the Ostlings write that in the 14 years ending in 1997, the LDS spent a paltry $30.7 million in cash on non-Mormon humanitarian aid. But that changed in the late '90s, and humanitarian expenditures in 2008 alone topped $110 million (including noncash donations). "We're there when the tornadoes hit and hurricanes hit and the volcanoes explode," says Ballard. Notes Marian Sylvestre of the Bay Area Red Cross, which developed a fruitful cooperation with Pimentel: "They're quiet soldiers with plenty of resources."
It's precisely those resources, though, that have drawn the LDS into the eye of the country's biggest cultural tempest. The church embraced church-state separation in the 1800s and explicitly recognizes the right of independent-minded officeholders like Romney and Reid to make their own calls. Retail politics, however, is different. Although Salt Lake City officially rejects wading in on most issues, it makes a large exception: matters of morals, with an emphasis on gender debates. Mormon activists helped halt the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and '80s and gay marriage in Hawaii (1998) and California (2000).
Prop 8 constituted a kind of perfect political storm of theology, demographics and organization. At the Alameda Meeting House last June (as at other Mormon churches statewide), a letter from Monson and his counselors advised believers to "do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time." A string of Protect Marriage coalition meetings followed. They never occurred on LDS property, but they were overwhelmingly Mormon in attendance and sought Mormon support. Alaina Stewart, a church member, was asked to employ a list of "who in the ward we thought could contribute. We'd call and say, 'We're asking you to give such and such an amount,'" she says.
Some declined. A senior church official had promised Mormons who disagreed on Prop 8 that "we love them and bear them no ill will." This played well in Alameda, where many LDS members ferry their children to classmates' birthday parties thrown by same-sex parents. Stewart says she intended from the start to vote yes. But she adds, "I can certainly understand why members of the gay community wanted to receive this rite. I think there were ward members on the fence, thinking, Why not give them marriage?"
But the general authorities in Salt Lake City increased the pressure. A broadcast to all churches outlined the pro-8 ground campaign, with titles like "Thirty People in Each Ward" and "More than Four Hours per Week." Craig Teuscher, the Alameda ward's regional stake president, reiterated in church the seriousness of Monson's request to congregants.
The new push for the proposition had a rational side: the church claimed that the legalization of gay marriage would threaten its tax-exempt status if it refused to perform gay nuptials. (Most legal scholars disagree.) But belief in Monson's supernatural connection also played a big role. Says Stewart: "The Prophet's telling us to stand up. When he speaks, you're realizing that there may be things that I don't see." Asks Gayle Teuscher, the stake president's wife: "If I believe that the Prophet is a true prophet of God and disregard his counsel, what does that say about my belief in God?" Sunstone's Carter says most Mormons who explained their stance for his publication "said, 'The Prophet has a longer view than we do' or 'It was revealed to me.'" Clark Pingree, a Bay Area Mormon gay activist, says that of the various Mormon pro-8 rationales, the Prophet-made-me-do-it line was "the most infuriating, because people say, 'I'm showing my faith by voting against what I know in my heart.' It's a force field you will never penetrate."
Proposition 8 won by less than 5% of the vote. Individual Mormons contributed $20 million of its $40 million war chest. Asked whether the belief in prophecy, transmuted into funding and activism, could have been decisive, David Campbell, a University of Notre Dame political scientist (and a Mormon) who has studied LDS political activity, says, "I think that's arguable, in the positive sense of the word." Many Alameda congregants who had initially refused Stewart's fundraising efforts changed their mind; she exceeded her goals. Mormons made calls, placed flyers and planted lawn signs. They thought they were being good citizens.
That has made the aftermath of Prop 8 all the more disturbing to them. Furious gay-rights activists targeted the church, picketing temples in several states. A prominent Mormon Sacramento musical-theater director was hounded from his job. Tom Hanks declared the Mormons "un-American." (He later apologized.) Alameda Mormons like Pimentel read fire-breathing quotes in the San Francisco Chronicle and fielded "Dear Neighbor" notes.
Says Stewart: "I hear they threw bags of urine at a temple. If we had lost, it never would have occurred to me to react that way." Three months after the election, she says, "I don't feel quite the same way about our community." She felt frozen out of conversations among other parents. "You think, This will go away. But it doesn't seem to. I think about my kids in school," she says. "I want them to be accepted, to feel it's O.K. to be different." Of course, this is precisely the sentiment motivating the gay-marriage movement.
But as a Mormon concern, it long predates Prop 8. For a century, the Mormon church had a rocky and sometimes bloody relationship with American culture at large; persecution by "gentiles" became key to LDS self-understanding. But thanks to their industry, optimism and civic-mindedness, many Mormons have found their place in the American fabric. Ballard says, "We'd like to be seen as mainstream--if that means being part of the national conversation about issues of morality and having our members respected as contributing members of society. But we have to hang on to what's true, regardless of where society goes." He adds, "We've never felt that we were being more understood or more appreciated, at least in my 30 years as a general authority." Ballard helped supervise an outreach program during the heightened "Mormon Moment" of the Romney campaign as apostles fanned out to visit media editorial boards. However, he contends that the "real power" determining public perception of his faith is "when a member of the church meets his neighbor, and the neighbor sees that he has objectives to his life and is finding happiness in his field. That's starting to happen all over."
Not everyone is as upbeat. Christopher Bigelow, a publisher and satirist (he edited the Sugar Beet, a kind of LDS Onion), says, "In the 20th century, we were allowed to grow and even gain a measure of respect." But Bigelow sees that as a mere "doughnut hole" in a darker dynamic. Gay marriage, he says, belongs to a class of behaviors increasingly tolerated in the broader society that the church must nonetheless oppose. He dips into an old but potent vocabulary: "As civilization keeps moving from standards we think God wants people to hold, it's inevitable that we expect persecution." Back in Alameda, Stewart's husband Brad says about Prop 8, "I hope I never have to do it again," but adds grimly, "I expect that I will."
The Dilemma of Deployment
The Church has not decided on its future role in the gay-marriage debate. The heat surrounding Prop 8 may die down by next year. "Talking about what may or may not happen in 2010 would be speculation, and I wouldn't want to do that," says Apostle Quentin Cook. The LDS abstained from same-sex-marriage battles in Iowa and New England. But avoiding a California rematch may be tougher. Notre Dame's Campbell says, "If it appeared that the church sat out next time because it was criticized this time, there might be a credibility question." But given a national trend toward supporting gay marriage, he asks, "Does the church want the public to identify it primarily as a political body opposing an issue that comes back again and again?"
Jay Pimentel, for one, will be spared that profoundly tricky question--for now. Shortly after the "Dear Neighbor" letter, Salt Lake City tapped him to lead all missionary activity in eastern Germany. The move entails sacrifices; he'll be leaving his job and uprooting an adult son with special needs. But it will put him in a field where the LDS has concerns--its spectacular international growth has begun to plateau--and incidentally remove him from any 2010 proposition battle.
Is he relieved? "I might feel relief," he says finally. "Or I might feel a kind of longing, a desire to be there." Then Pimentel expresses an archetypal LDS sentiment: "I like to help where I can be helpful."
Time Magazine, Monday, Jun. 22, 2009
LDS Church will have a tough time leaving the spotlight
By Stephen Stromberg
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is becoming a potent political force. Last year's story was that Mormons had risen to some of the highest offices in America - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid belongs to the church, as does former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
This year's headline is that, with the encouragement of their religious leaders, Mormons gave loads of money and man-hours to pass Proposition 8 in California, which banned same-sex marriage in the state. Indeed, they were probably the most organized and consequential force behind the measure's passage. But in the face of post-election protests outside its temples, the church doesn't seem to want to take much credit.
Michael Otterson, a church spokesman, recently said he was "puzzled" by the protesters' targeting of Mormons. "This was a very broad-based coalition that defended traditional marriage in a free and democratic election," he said. "It's a little disturbing to see these protesters singling out the Mormon church."
There are Mormons who fought hard against the measure, drawing attention to the extent of Mormon involvement by outing fellow members on donor lists. There are Mormons so upset they're thinking of renouncing their church membership, as well as Mormons who wholeheartedly supported the initiative. And then there are those who gave money out of obedience, without much thought to the policy it was being used to support. Regardless of where they fall on this spectrum, many probably feel a bit like Otterson: uneasy with all the attention.
It's unusual for an institution to shrink from responsibility for a victory at the ballot box. But being Mormon isn't quite like being, say, Southern Baptist.
The highly centralized LDS Church makes a lot of Americans nervous. Where some see an efficient religious organization that requires unusual devotion from its members, others see conspiracy, even cult.
It's an impression that has its roots in, among other things, the church's practice of polygamy in the 19th century, and it has been self-reinforcing since. Non-Mormons see the church as outside the mainstream; Mormons feel under attack, which fosters a tight communalism within their congregations, and they try to avoid confrontation.
Hence Otterson doing his best to play down the role church members had in the victory of Proposition 8 in the face of throngs demonstrating in front of temples.
This is new and awkward territory for many Mormons. Members of a virulent anti-Mormon fringe have protested at LDS churches and temples for years. The church, meanwhile, has always had a difficult relationship with gay men and lesbians. But now it has drawn the focused attention of that large, vocal and organized segment of America, with which huge swaths of the country sympathize.
Boycotts of some Mormon-owned businesses are under way. One Californian spelled out an obscene insult to Mormons in large, block letters on his balcony.
This attention presents the church and its members with some big decisions. They have gotten a taste, sweet and bitter, of what this remarkable organization of souls can do - and the reactions it can provoke - in the rough world of American politics. After Proposition 8's passage, the church's reputation will likely be on the upswing among religious conservatives, some of whom have been the most ardent anti-Mormons.
The church, which can easily mobilize its members with a word from Salt Lake City, can now become a prominent player in the culture wars. There will no doubt be more battles over gay marriage in the states. Will the church ask Mormons to send in more checks? And will they respond as enthusiastically the next time? One thing is clear: If the church decides to continue flexing its political muscle, it cannot expect to escape criticism.
Even if it chooses the other course - shrinking away from the political scene, as it has after other forays into politics - the anger over Proposition 8 will probably smolder for some time. If Mitt Romney runs for president again, Americans will address, with renewed passion, the question of whether he would be a puppet of Salt Lake City. And with all the old narratives about Mormons floating around - that they are secretive, rich, excessively traditional and theologically odd - it will be hard for the church to stay comfortably out of the political spotlight.
Stephen Stromberg writes for The Economist
The Salt Lake Tribune, November 28, 2008
Utah prime location for gay-rights movement
By Jennifer Dobner, Associated Press Writer
Salt Lake City--Valerie Larabee is a lesbian, out and living in Salt Lake City, where the shadow of the Mormon church can feel long and cold for people who are gay.
"My friends who don't live here think I'm nuts," said Larabee, a former Air Force officer and financial planner, who moved to Utah in 1997 and now runs the Gay Pride Center on Salt Lake City's west side.
While much of the country moves in fits and starts toward greater acceptance of gay people and endorsement of equal rights, the politically active Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the often ultra-conservative Mormon-dominated Utah Legislature have found themselves squarely on the opposite side of that trend.
In the U.S., gay marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Utah has made it illegal twice: Once in statute and again when voters banned the practice in the state constitution.
Undaunted, activists say the current political and social climate in many ways make this "the best time" to be gay in Utah. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community -- especially along the population-dense Wasatch Front -- is growing and energized.
"I think we are the frontline of the culture war," said Troy Williams, a former Mormon and the gay host of "Radioactive," a talk show on public radio. "This is where the fight is and this is where the really exciting stuff is happening."
At the urging of their church leaders, Latter-day Saints were vigorous proponents of Proposition 8, the California campaign to outlaw gay marriage. Members in California and Utah gave about $16 million and the church itself, nearly $300,000. A backlash of protests, which were directed in part at Utah, seemed to baffle the church.
And while Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman, who is Mormon, this year endorsed civil unions and related rights, his position was very nearly drowned out by the inflammatory remarks of a state legislator.
In an interview with documentary filmmaker Reed Cowan, state Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, compared gay activists to Muslim terrorists and said they were "probably the greatest threat to America going down."
"What is the morals of a gay person? You can't answer that, because anything goes. So now you're moving toward a society that has no morals," Buttars said in the interview aired in February by ABC affiliate KTVX in Salt Lake City.
The remarks outraged members of the LGBT community in Utah and elsewhere. Even the Mormon church issued a statement that Buttars, who is Mormon, was not speaking on its behalf.
On Utah's Capitol Hill, however, Buttars' right to free speech was defended. Senate President Mike Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, removed Buttars from a committee chairmanship, but said many in the Legislature agreed with some of Buttars' remarks. He declined to be specific.
If the intent has been to send a message that Utah is not the place for the gay rights movement, the result has been just the opposite.
"I do believe he's (Buttars) helping our cause because he's irrational," said Larabee, who was deeply offended by the suggestion that gays have no morals. "To some people what he's saying is gospel, but to fair-minded folk, it's crazy-making."
Utah "is the perfect place in the country" to have the gay rights conversation, said Larabee, noting the church's own history. The Mormon church has struggled for mainstream acceptance and once fought for an alternative to traditional marriage -- polygamy.
The Mormon church disavowed plural marriage in 1890 to pave the way for Utah's statehood. Church leaders have often tried to dismiss the theology and distance themselves from the past. But Utah and other parts of the Intermountain West have tens of thousands of polygamists, whose beliefs are mostly rooted in early church teachings.
Mormons believe traditional marriage is a pillar of society that was ordained by God. Gays are welcome in the church, but can only retain service callings if they remain celibate. Some gays have been excommunicated for acting on what the church calls same-gender attraction.
Ernest "Coop" Cooper, 25, a gay ex-communicated Mormon studying at Utah State University in Logan, said that Buttars' slurs were like pouring salt on an open wound. He said he feared for his safety after his name was published in the local newspaper on a letter from students opposed to Prop. 8. Online comments from readers rudely bashed Cooper's sexuality and said he was trying to "promote the work of the devil."
"One said I should be treated just like a dog who needed to have his face sprayed with water, so I would stop humping everybody's leg," said Cooper, who is making plans to leave Utah after graduation.
Michael Thompson, executive director of Equality Utah, sees the movement gaining ground. Each action by the Mormon church against same-sex marriage and each maligning statement from a lawmaker only serves to strengthen the cause, he said.
More people -- of all sexual orientations -- are turning out for community organizing meetings, want training as citizen lobbyists and showing up for events like the post-Prop. 8 election protest march around the Salt Lake City Mormon temple that drew an estimated 3,000.
Activists from other states are keeping a close eye on what's happening here, Larabee said.
The Mormon church has worked to defeat same-sex marriage laws around the country since the mid-1990s and, in 2006, joined other religious groups in seeking a marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In the midst of the Prop. 8 debate, however, the church also quietly posted a statement on its Web site saying it did not object to civil unions or basic legal protections for same-sex couples involving hospitalization, medical care, housing, employment and probate rights as long as they do not infringe on the "integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches." The statement went unnoticed until after the November election.
Equality Utah drafted a package of bills around those rights for the 2009 legislative session. Polling showed more than two-thirds of Utahns supported such protections. But all of the bills failed.
"The majority of Utahns get it," Thompson said. "But the folks in the people's house somehow feel that providing these legal protections is an endorsement of something they fundamentally disagree with."
Salt Lake Tribune, May 3, 2009
Gay-marriage debate roils, unites Mormons
Fallout over California vote
By Michael Paulson
This has been a stormy year for Mormons in the United States. First, there was the candidacy of Mitt Romney for president, which brought to the surface a deep strain of anti-Mormonism in American culture. Then, there was the raid on a group of schismatic polygamists in Texas, which reminded America of Mormonism's uncomfortable history. And now, there is a wave of protest, rolling across the country from west to east, in which some gay rights advocates have targeted Mormons because of their church's support for a successful California referendum to overturn same-sex marriage.
Ironically, the protests appear to be helping repair a rift within Mormonism caused by the election. The church's outspoken support for Proposition 8 exposed an unusual level of disagreement in the ordinarily harmonious Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Internet facilitated grass-roots organizing by the minority of Mormons who support same-sex marriage. But a smattering of anti-Mormon acts since Election Day - the burning of a Book of Mormon, a mailing of packets of white powder to Mormon sites, and some anti-Mormon invective expressed on signs and in sloganeering - has helped rally a denomination with a long history of persecution.
"I would not have voted in support of Prop. 8, but it does grieve me to see anybody being called bigoted for voting in an election and expressing their viewpoints," said Julie Berry, 34, of Maynard. "I support the right to protest, but vandalism and damage to church buildings - that hurts . . . and I wish we could see a little more defense of Mormons' right to exist as citizens and vote how they wish to vote. I'm sad to think that some of the social and political good will we've gained in the last 15 years may be set back."
Mormons in Massachusetts say they feel simultaneously distant from and connected to the goings-on in California. Some say the Mormon community here is more politically diverse than the church nationwide, influenced by the state's overwhelming liberalism and by the fact that same-sex marriage has been legal for five years. But Mormonism is a tight-knit faith group with extraordinary communication among members, and many are monitoring the backlash closely.
"It's been heartbreaking," said Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a history professor at Harvard University. "A lot of people have felt really torn, because they were upset that the church had taken the role that it did, but then it does seem like Mormons were an easy target because people don't like us anyway."
Scholars and church members say this is an extraordinarily complicated moment for Mormonism in the United States and, in this history-minded faith, many are reaching to the 1970s, to the church's role as a vocal opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment, for comparison.
"Church leaders are more than surprised - they are flabbergasted by the extent of this," said Philip L. Barlow, a religious studies professor at Utah State University. "With Romney, followed by the fundamentalist Texas thing, and now Prop. 8, there's a real constellation of consternation."
Several websites have been created by Mormons supporting same-sex marriage, and some Mormons have resigned from the church over its advocacy on this issue. Among them are several people from Massachusetts, like 37-year-old Ray Jones of Arlington, who had been inactive in the church since he left Utah at age 20, but who formally asked the church to remove his name from its rolls because of its support of Proposition 8.
"This is an attack on people that are in love with one another that are trying to build a life together, and if that's not something worth speaking out about, I don't know what is," Jones said. Adam Garriga, 32, of Boston also resigned after years as an inactive Mormon; Garriga is gay, and said, "For me this was the final straw. I would love to get married, and I'm happy that I live in a state where I'm able to do that, but it's easy for me to put myself in someone's shoes in California."
Doe Daughtrey, who teaches religious studies at Arizona State University, said that the emergence of Mormons opposed to Proposition 8 marks "the most concentrated example of Mormon dissent in the last 20 years."
But some Mormon officials have questioned the scope of internal disagreement.
"All the reports we have received indicate that the vast majority of members solidly support the church position," said church spokesman Michael Otterson. "A few may not, and that's their choice. But you could never describe it as a movement. You can only describe it as a ripple."
Otterson said the protests as counterproductive. "If gay activists want serious discussion, they have to reach out to religious people, and right now all they're doing is alienating them. Nobody likes to see protesters, their buildings vandalized, their members intimidated or forced from their jobs," he said. "But there's no sense of second thoughts on the part of church members. We can't take any other position and be consistent with our deeply held beliefs."
The concept of family is at the heart of Mormon theology and culture, and Mormon images of family are highly gendered, with a heavy emphasis on children.
"The importance of marriage to the LDS church can not be overstated," said Melissa Proctor, a visiting instructor at the College of the Holy Cross.
Top Mormon leaders in June urged their California members to "do all you can" to support Proposition 8, and individual Mormons contributed millions of dollars and significant volunteer hours. The measure, which was also supported by Catholic, evangelical, and other conservative religious denominations, was approved by 52 percent of California voters, and is now being challenged in the California courts.
By contrast, in Massachusetts five years ago, Mormon officials did not ask church members to get involved in the fight against same-sex marriage, although it is not clear what would have happened if the issue had appeared on the ballot.
"The church was not involved in Massachusetts," said Grant Bennett, a longtime leader in the church's Cambridge stake and, like most local Mormons interviewed, an opponent of same-sex marriage. "The local church leadership did not elect to take any action, and there was absolutely no instruction from Salt Lake City directly to church members or to the leadership."
Local Mormons, even those who oppose same-sex marriage, say they see diversity of opinion on the subject here. But many say they are frustrated about the reaction to their faith's role in the California election.
"This has seemed like a natural step of escalation from the Romney campaign, when I think it became OK to dis Mormons and make pretty blanket statements," said Jennifer Thomas, 40, of Belmont. "You're either a nitwit bigot, or you're for gay marriage - no one has left people of faith an alternative place to stand - and if you reduce people to bigots, you give yourself license to treat them vilely."
Boston Globe, November 24, 2008
New charges made over LDS Church role in Prop 8
Gay rights -- Group bases claims on leaked church memos
By Tony Semerad, The Salt Lake Tribune
A California group is urging election authorities to widen an ongoing probe into whether the LDS Church failed to report the full extent of its financial involvement last year in supporting a successful ban on same-sex marriage.
In new charges filed Thursday with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the Los Angeles-based Californians Against Hate accuses the church of creating the National Organization for Marriage in California as early as summer 2007 as a front group for its agenda, while failing to report the costs as required by California law.
The amended complaint also adds six other charges that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints delayed disclosure or vastly under-reported other nonmonetary contributions to the campaign, including the costs of compensated staff time for senior church officials and production of 23 sophisticated TV and Web commercials.
What the church has disclosed "seems just to be the tip of the iceberg as far as what they spent in support of Prop 8,'' Californians Against Hate spokesman Fred Karger said.
The amended charges are the latest development in a backlash over Utah's heavy role in California's Proposition 8 campaign.
As many as 1,025 individuals and businesses in Utah donated $3.8 million to Proposition 8 efforts, with 70 percent going to campaigns supporting the measure. The proposition banning same-sex marriage passed narrowly in the Nov. 4 election and is now being challenged before the California Supreme Court.
A church spokesman on Thursday said the new charges "have no basis in fact.''
''The church did not establish the National Organization for Marriage,'' LDS spokesman Scott Trotter said, adding that the church has disclosed its entire contribution to the pro-Proposition 8 effort. Karger, said Trotter, ''is entitled to his opinion but not to his own version of the facts.''
The head of the National Organization for Marriage bristled at the new charges, describing the group as a multifaith coalition and calling the allegation it was a LDS Church front group "outlandish.''
''There was no interaction between me and Salt Lake City with regard to us going to California at all,'' executive director Brian Brown said.
In a campaign disclosure filed Jan. 30, the LDS Church claimed at least $134,774 in previously unreported nonmonetary expenditures in support of Proposition 8, for activities it said it conducted between August and November. The disclosure, which brought the church's total reported spending to $189,904, also itemized $20,550 in travel costs to send church officials to California and $29,269 in audiovisual production services and equipment costs.
The Fair Political Practice Commission, which enforces California election laws, is already investigating the church's activities in the Proposition 8 campaign. Roman Porter, the commission's executive director, confirmed Wednesday the probe "remains active,'' but declined further comment.
Karger's initial complaint, filed Nov. 13, alleged that the LDS Church's unreported costs included the operation of phone banks in Utah and Idaho; direct mail efforts; volunteers walking precincts; lawn signs; a speakers bureau; and production of high-quality audiovisual materials.
The new allegations are based, in part, on what Karger in his sworn affidavit to the commission says are leaked internal LDS Church documents showing similarities between church efforts in California and an anti-same sex marriage campaign conducted in Hawaii 12 years ago. The group has released the 11 documents, dated between Oct. 31, 1995, and Jan. 8, 1998, on the Web site mormongate.com
Church officials declined to discuss the documents or confirm their authenticity.
The memos -- 10 of which appear to have been written by the late Loren C. Dunn, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy at the time -- reveal key aspects of the LDS Church's strategy in fighting same-sex marriage in Hawaii. Karger contends they also reveal a kind of electoral blueprint that the church modified for use in California.
Whether the documents bear any relevance to the Prop 8 efforts, they offer a glimpse into what appears to have been a major effort by senior church leaders at the time to battle same-sex marriage in a number of states, including Hawaii.
The memos focus on formation and operation of Hawaii's Future Today, the main group championing Hawaii's constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, and the church's desire that the group's members be drawn from diverse religious faiths.
''One reason I wanted us organized in Hawaii the way we are is because President [Gordan B.] Hinckley wanted it that way,'' Dunn supposedly wrote to the late Neal A. Maxwell, then a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, in a March 6, 1996, memo. ''A coalition is hard to attack ...''
The same memo refers to a desire to publicly distance the LDS Church from the group while maintaining direct influence. "The ideas are introduced but the Church is not visible,'' the memo says.
The documents also outline efforts to keep church financial support secret. "... We have shielded previous donors from recognition because of how the funds were used in the preparation of this project,'' said a Dunn memo to Maxwell on March 21, 1996, ''but in the worst case scenario, current donors might be ferreted out.''
On June 5, 1996, Dunn supposedly wrote to Maxwell again, reassuring him that "[w]e have organized things so the Church contribution was used in an area of coalition activity that does not have to be reported.''
Salt Lake Tribune, March 20, 2009
Mormon Church steps into the Prop. 8 battle
Everyone's got an opinion about Proposition 8, the proposed amendment to the state Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage. Plenty of people and organizations are voting with their pocketbooks, both from within and from outside California.
Now comes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which grabbed some TV time in Utah to urge the 770,000 Mormon church members in California to weigh in on the matter. Here's the story from the Associated Press:
Two members of the church's second-highest governing body, the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, quoted from Mormon scripture on the sanctity of marriage as they laid out a week-by-week strategy for boosting Mormon involvement before the Nov. 4 election in voter registration efforts, phone banks and distributing campaign materials.
"What we're about is the work of the Lord, and He will bless you for your involvement," apostle M. Russell Ballard said during the hour-long meeting, which was broadcast to church buildings in California, Utah, Hawaii and Idaho.
So far, Proposition 8 supporters have poured $19,778,208 to outlaw same-sex marriage, about $1.6 million more than opponents of the measure. Add the two sides together and that's about $38 million. Imagine the good it could be doing elsewhere....
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is part of a coalition of conservative groups backing Proposition 8, which would overturn the California Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in the nation's most populous state by amending the state constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman.
Mormons have been active participants in the campaign both as volunteers and financial contributors, giving an estimated 43 percent � some $8.4 million � to the Proposition 8 campaign, according to the Web site mormonsfor8.com. There are about 770,000 Mormon church members in California, but Mormons from outside the state have been encouraged to give money and time to help pass the measure.
During Wednesday's taped satellite broadcast, church leaders asked for 30 members from each California congregation to donate four hours a week to the campaign. They also called on young married couples and single Mormons to use the Internet, text messaging, blogging and other forms of computer technology to help pass the initiative, saying the church has created a new Web site -- PreservingMarriage.org -- with materials they can download and post on their own social networking sites.
Church elder L. Whitney Clayton, who has been working as a liaison between the LDS leaders and the Proposition 8 campaign, said before the event that it was meant to energize Mormons for the weeks remaining before Election Day.
"It's a political campaign, and time is short and there's a lot to do."
Along with recruiting Mormons to work in California, church members from outside the state have been asked to call friends and family at home in California to encourage support for the measure, according to Clayton. He said many students attending church-owned universities have asked how they might help and could be enlisted to make calls.
"In California, the phone trees are up and running. We just want to be able to help, and one of the things we can do is we can organize," Clayton said in an interview Wednesday.
Officially, the Mormon church is politically neutral and does not endorse individual candidates or political parties. The church does, however, weigh in on issues it considers morally important. The church holds traditional marriage as a sacred institution ordained by God and has actively fought efforts to legalize same-sex marriage across the United States since the 1990s.
Its involvement in the California same-sex marriage debate this year began with a letter from church President Thomas S. Monson asking California Mormons to give their time and money to pass Proposition 8. Monson's letter has been read repeatedly in Mormon churches, and opponents of the forthcoming initiative have credited LDS members with giving the Yes on 8 camp an edge in donations and volunteers.
Some Mormons have criticized the church for wading so heavily into the political realm.
"We know that it is not without controversy, yet let me be clear that at the heart of this issue is the central doctrine of eternal marriage and it's place in our Father's plan," Ballard said.
Besides Clayton and Ballard, the broadcast featured Quentin L. Cook, another member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
Los Angeles Times, October 9, 2008
Mormon church reveals deeper involvement in Proposition 8
By Shane Goldmacher
The Mormon church has revealed in a campaign filing that the church spent nearly $190,000 to help pass Proposition 8, the November ballot measure that banned gay marriage in California.
The disclosure comes amid an investigation by the state's campaign watchdog agency into whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints violated state laws by not fully disclosing its involvement during the campaign.
While many church members had donated directly to the Yes on 8 campaign � some estimates of Mormon giving range as high as $20 million � the church itself had previously reported little direct campaign activity.
But in the filing made Friday, the Mormon church reported thousands in travel expenses, such as airline tickets, hotel rooms and car rentals for the campaign. The church also reported $96,849.31 worth of "compensated staff time" � hours that church employees spent working to pass the same-sex marriage ban.
"As I read this report, it seems to raise more questions than it answers," said Fred Karger, who filed the initial complaint against the church with the Fair Political Practices Commission in November.
Karger, the founder of Californians Against Hate, a group that opposed the measure, said he believes the church was involved financially long before the first expenditure it listed in September.
"I think there is still a lot of missing parts of the report because we know they've been active since June," Karger said.
Mormon church officials could not be reached Saturday for comment.
Roman Porter, executive director of the FPPC, confirmed that the agency was investigating the complaint against the church but declined comment on specifics.
The Yes on 8 campaign filed its own expenditure reports over the weekend revealing that the main arm of the campaign spent more than $39.2 million. Total spending among the various proponents topped $41 million.
Opponents of the measure had not filed their disclosure statement as of Saturday. The deadline for year-end statements is midnight Monday.
The Mormon church's involvement in Proposition 8 touched off controversy both during and after the campaign.
Many gay marriage advocates saw the church and its membership's efforts as crucial to the passage of Proposition 8. The measure won with 52 percent of the vote, a margin of 600,000 votes.
Following the election, church leaders in the Sacramento region hired extra security to guard a Mormon temple in Folsom. Ten local church buildings were vandalized in the two weeks following the Nov. 4 vote.
Some individual Mormons were targeted for their support of Proposition 8, as well. Scott Eckern, an LDS member, resigned as artistic director of the California Musical Theatre in Sacramento in November after a $1,000 donation he made to the Yes on 8 campaign was made public. There were similar cases elsewhere in the state.
The Yes on 8 campaign petitioned a federal court to withhold disclosure of late donors, citing such harassment. But the judge ruled last week the donors must be disclosed.
"The court finds the state is not facilitating retaliation by compelling disclosure," U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr. said in his decision Thursday.
Jeff Flint, a strategist for the Yes on 8 campaign, downplayed the latest financial filing that details the Mormon church's efforts to ban gay marriage.
"I don't think anybody beyond rabid opponents of Proposition 8 will consider it newsworthy to find out that leaders of the Mormon church spent time on the campaign," Flint said.
He noted that the church was both public and vocal about its support for the same-sex marriage ban.
Flint said the Mormon church's reported direct spending amounted to "half of 1 percent of all campaign expenditures."
All told, Proposition 8 was the most expensive ballot fight last November. It is considered the most expensive campaign over a social issue in history.
And it could all be repeated as early as next year, as some gay marriage advocates are pressing efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in a 2010 ballot campaign if court efforts to overturn Proposition 8 are unsuccessful.
Sacramento Bee, February 1, 2009
See article here.
The Mormon factor in marriage fight
by Dan Aiello
Ever since Proposition 8 passed last November, leaders involved with the No on 8 campaign have insisted they were unaware of the role of the Mormon Church in trying to eliminate same-sex marriage rights. No on 8 officials were also caught unaware until after campaign finance reports released last October showed that proponents of Prop 8 received a windfall of contributions from members of the Mormon Church.
But documents unearthed by the Bay Area Reporter show that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has had a consistent strategy to fight same-sex marriage that dates back more than two decades.
A not-so-secret history
Along with the 1997 LDS internal memo describing the Mormon's political same-sex marriage strategy for California and Hawaii, reported on by the B.A.R. late last year, the B.A.R. has discovered two 11-year-old documents authored by Utah State University professor Richley Crapo, Ph.D., which describe the genesis of the church's HLM (defined by Crapo as "Homosexual Lesbian Marriage") strategy.
While the Mormon leadership had no difficulty passing the nation's first state defense of marriage act in Utah in 1995, they found their earlier efforts in Hawaii more difficult, according to Crapo's document, "Chronology of Mormon/LDS Involvement In Same-Sex Marriage Politics."
Crapo's timeline begins in 1988 when the LDS, under then-President Gordon B. Hinckley, hired the marketing firm Hill and Knowlton to "monitor and promote the church's stance on gay issues in state legislatures and the U.S. Congress."
Crapo, who is straight and Mormon, explained that when three same-sex couples sued the state of Hawaii for the right to marry in December 1990, in a case known as Baehr v. Miike , the Mormons already had Hill and Knowlton on payroll for two years helping to develop the HLM strategy.
On May 5, 1993, the same day that the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in favor of the same-sex couples' right to marry, LDS Apostle Boyd K. Packer gave an address at a meeting of the All-Church Coordinating Council that called homosexuality one of the three major social problems that represent a danger to members, according to Crapo. Packer said the other two perceived "dangers" to the Mormon Church were "feminism and intellectuals," according to Will Carlson, Equality Utah's chief lobbyist.
Following the ruling, Hawaii's legislature became embroiled in competing measures, and the LDS leadership expanded the role of Hill and Knowlton, a firm known for legislative lobbying and consulting, before eventually changing to another firm, Edelman Worldwide, for its external public relations work.
Crapo also described how the LDS first reached out to Catholics at the genesis of its HLM strategy in Hawaii, inviting then-Honolulu Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo to vacation with Hinckley at the palatial LDS estate on the island. This was the beginning of a dialogue that eventually recruited the U.S. Catholic bishops to the LDS cause, according to Crapo, whose chronology calls into question the recent assertion by San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer that he invited the Mormons to become involved in the Yes on 8 fight.
In fact, the 1997 LDS memo from Elder Loren C. Dunn to M. Russell Ballard noted the church, under direction of LDS elder and political pollster Richard Wirthlin, polled California voters and determined that the Mormon Church didn't have the social stature necessary to win an initiative in the Golden State, but the Catholic Church did.
Catholic involvement has increased over the years. One East Coast Catholic university continues to provide facilities to house LDS attorneys who have worked as volunteers on amicus briefs for organizations opposing same-sex marriage, according to one LDS church member, who asked not to be named.
Lots of 'volunteers'
What also stands out in Crapo's chronology is the LDS church's ability to recruit its members to "volunteer," almost at the leaders' whim, and the willingness of the LDS leadership to deceive voters through misinformation and front organizations. Crapo even describes how the LDS used its own newspapers to disassociate itself from an organization it created as a front for its strategy in Hawaii. Crapo implies this was a purposeful, strategic effort by LDS leaders to avoid discovery by Hawaiian media.
Specifically, Hill and Utah State University professor Richley Crapo, Ph.D. compiled a chronology of Mormon work against same-sex marriage.
and Knowlton advised the church to create an organization that would appear to the public to be a "grassroots" effort to protect the definition of marriage. While evangelical groups in California would make such a front organization unnecessary in the Golden State, there existed no similar sentiment at the time among Hawaiians, according to Crapo's timeline. The LDS subsequently created Hawaii's Future Today, funding it with two donations, one for $29,000 and one for $1,000, staffing it with LDS members. Hinckley placed Jack Hoag, the president of the church-owned First Hawaiian Bank, as president of the organization. The church also called upon political consultants from Utah to spend several "volunteer" months providing political support for the organization.
Those familiar with California's Yes on 22 (2000) and Yes on 8 campaigns noted the disproportionate number of Mormon staff members in both campaigns.
"After Hawaii, there was more of an attempt from the top to not be in the newspaper as much. There was more of an effort to create organizations that are structurally independent," said Crapo in a recent interview. These organizations are designed to "function independently, but with a loyal leadership."
"They [Mormons] certainly weren't talking about their involvement [in Prop 8] formally for a very long time," said Steve Smith, a principal in Dewey Square that managed the No on 8 campaign.
Kim Farah, LDS spokeswoman, does not dispute the claims of the Crapo timeline. Farah contends that the 1997 memo reflects a church position on homosexuality and same-sex marriage that has remained "highly consistent," referring the B.A.R. to the 1995 document on the issue by Elders Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B. Wickman described in the Crapo timeline.
The Oaks/Wickman discussion of same-sex attraction details the church's belief that homosexual inclinations are "an affliction" that may or may not be curable through counseling. Wickman describes his handicapped daughter looking forlornly through his office window at the new brides in Temple Square knowing "that will not be her experience. Courtney didn't ask for the circumstances into which she was born in this life, any more than somebody with same-gender attraction did. So there are lots of kinds of anguish people can have, even associated with just this matter of marriage."
In November 2008, Elder Whitney Clayton, one of the Mormon's veteran same-sex marriage strategists, was quoted in the LDS-owned Deseret News , the Boston Globe, as well as California newspapers, claiming the LDS "does not oppose civil unions or domestic partnerships." Yet, when the B.A.R. asked Farah to confirm Clayton's assertion during an inquiry of the LDS position on civil unions in Utah, she declined comment.
Crapo, who spent years chronicling his church's same-sex marriage strategy, described Clayton's comment as "a notable inconsistency." Equality Utah's Carlson believed another LDS representative in Washington, D.C. said Clayton's comment applied only to certain states where the church was forced to accept political compromise, including Hawaii and California. LGBT activists and bloggers claim Clayton's comments allowed his church to appear more reasonable during the Prop 8 campaign than reflected by either its strategy or its long-held beliefs, as outlined by Elders Wickman and Oaks.
In fact, in a Mormon-produced interview, Wickman's description of the LDS position on homosexuality and same-sex marriage almost wholly contradict Clayton's more recent statement on the LDS civil unions position.
"There is no such thing in the Lord's eyes as something called same-gender marriage," Wickman said. "Homosexual behavior is and will always remain before the Lord an abominable sin. Calling it something else by virtue of some political definition does not change that reality."
Oaks's subsequent comments ironically mirror the Mormon's defense of polygamist marriage: "Another way to say that same thing is that the Parliament in Canada and the Congress in Washington do not have the authority to revoke the commandments of God, or to modify or amend them in any way."
In his 2003 book on Mormon fundamentalism, Under the Banner of Heaven , Jon Krakauer repeated the 1880 words of then-Mormon President John Taylor, who defied the United States government over the Book of Mormon's well-known Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants: "Polygamy is a divine institution. It has been handed down direct from God. The United States cannot abolish it. No nation on earth can prevent it, nor all the nations of the earth combined."
Ten years later, on October 6, 1890, under the growing threat that the U.S. government would confiscate church property, the leadership renounced polygamy, according to a story that appeared in the New York Times the following day. The irony of the contemporary church's role in denying marriage equality to same-sex couples has not been lost on LGBT bloggers.
The blog site Joe.My.God pointed out during the campaign that on the Web site http://www.protectmarriage.com, proponents claimed Prop 8 "... simply restores the meaning of marriage and protects it as an essential institution that has benefited mankind since the beginning of time."
The Web site statement may have been carefully worded to accommodate the inconsistent history of the Mormon definition of marriage. It describes the "meaning" of marriage, rather than the "definition," and it did not refer to a definition of one man, one woman. Mormons clearly did not believe in such a definition before 1890, when they were forced to renounce their own pluralistic definition of marriage. Fundamentalist Mormons, in fact, still hold to Joseph Smith's definition, with one man having multiple, subjugated, often minor, wives.
Last month Blair Suffredine, the attorney for Canadian polygamist defendants Winston Blackmore and James Oler, made headlines when he used Canada's marriage equality law as part of his client's defense. "If (homosexuals) can marry, what is the reason that public policy says one person can't marry more than one person?" said Suffredine, according to Associated Press reporter Jeremy Hainsworth. Canada's Parliament extended full marriage rights to same-sex couples in 2005.
When asked what the LDS position was on this story, Farah wrote in an e-mail to the B.A.R. , "Polygamist organizations that occasionally make the news are not dissident wings of the church or fundamentalist Mormons. They have no affiliation whatsoever with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Most of their members have never had any association with the church."
In his book, Krakauer describes polygamy as ritualized subjugation and slavery of women and the compelling reason for age of consent laws, not comparable to consensual adult marriage.
Crapo told the B.A.R. that he stands by the accuracy of his decade-old work. "I did my best to be accurate," said Crapo, who added he had not learned of any errors in his chronology since its first publication in 1997. When asked if he felt the LDS strategy outlined in his paper indicated purposeful deception, particularly regarding Hawaii's Future Today as a front organization, Crapo was reluctant to answer.
"I value my membership in the church and I wouldn't want to be quoted as saying it was deceptive," he said. "Whether it was or not was not clear to me. Nothing appeared to be a clear violation of law."
From his experience, Crapo believes the LDS leadership is sincerely concerned about the effect marriage equality will have on the church � a church that has a history of government imposing its laws upon it.
"They really believe that there is some danger to the church," Crapo said.
Crapo, whose academic work focuses on religious anthropology, explained that the LDS is structured differently than other religions. "What is the church? If you ask Catholics, for example, they'll tell you it's the members, and the church hierarchy is there to serve them. If you ask a Mormon what is the church, they'll say, 'it's the organization.' There's a structure to the church that is from top to bottom," he said.
Bay Area Reporter, February 5, 2009
Prop. 8 among costliest measures in history
John Wildermuth, Chronicle Staff Writer
Opponents and supporters of Proposition 8 pumped a total of $85 million
into November's measure to ban same-sex marriage in California, the most
money ever raised for a social-issue campaign in the nation.
The money was split relatively evenly, according to campaign financial
reports filed Monday with the secretary of state's office. Backers of
Prop. 8 collected nearly $40 million for their successful campaign, while
opponents of the measure brought in more than $45 million for their losing
"In this case, people really knew what they were voting for," said Bob
Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles.
"They were interested in this issue, it was important to them, and they
More than 155,000 people and organizations gave contributions ranging from
$5 or $10 to well over $1 million as the California initiative campaign
became the focus of the raucous and deeply felt debate over whether
marriage should be between only a man and a woman.
"Outside of a presidential election, you never see those numbers of
contributors," said Frank Schubert, who ran ProtectMarriage.com, the
umbrella group for the same-sex marriage opponents. "This became a
Millions of dollars in out-of-state money flowed into both campaigns, with
wealthy gay men and liberal donors across the nation writing big checks
for the No on 8 effort, while supporters of traditional marriage,
conservatives and members of the Mormon church backed Prop. 8.
Each side had plenty of large donors.
Thirty-three groups and individuals gave $100,000 or more to
ProtectMarriage.com, with the National Organization for Marriage giving
$1.5 million; conservative philanthropist Howard Ahmanson's group,
Fieldstead and Co., contributing nearly $1.4 million; the Knights of
Columbus, a Catholic service organization, adding $1.1 million; and Alan
Ashton, a high-tech businessman from Utah, providing $1 million.
Large donations to the effort to stop Prop. 8 included $1.1 million from
David Bohnett of Beverly Hills, $1 million from Jon Stryker of Kalamazoo,
Mich., and $1 million from Bruce Bastian of Orem, Utah.
The flood of cash shocked campaign leaders on both sides, who had each
expected to raise about $15 million to $20 million. But when the
anti-Prop. 8 campaign found itself down in the polls and more than $10
million behind in fundraising, an urgent national appeal opened the
"There was just a huge influx of support after that," said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California and one of the leaders of the No on 8 effort. "People were very responsive at the end of the campaign, and we've seen that continue."
The election wasn't the most expensive ballot campaign ever in California, a distinction held by Proposition 87 in 2006, in which the two sides spent more than $150 million in the unsuccessful effort to put a tax on oil pumped in California.
"But Prop. 8 wasn't about things like Indian gaming, oil or cigarette
taxes," said Stern. "It was a huge amount of money spent on an issue with few economic consequences."
Opponents of the same-sex marriage ban, outraged by the 52 percent to 48 percent victory for Prop. 8, took to the streets for post-election
protests in California and elsewhere. They have gone to court to block the ban and have promised to go back to the ballot for their own same-sex marriage initiative if the state Supreme Court lets the election result stand.
After all the bills are paid, ProtectMarriage.com will have more than
$700,000 in the bank. That money will go toward the costs of defending the marriage ban in court and "put aside for the likely political battles in the future," Schubert said.
San Francisco Chronicle, February 3, 2009
See article here.
California Releasing Donor List for $83 Million Marriage Vote
By Jesse McKinley
SAN FRANCISCO -- Nearly 14,000 donors -- including homemakers, priests and a former member of the Los Angeles Dodgers -- poured millions of dollars into the last two weeks of the campaign to pass Proposition 8, which outlawed same-sex marriage in California. According to a campaign finance report made public on Monday, in all, both sides spent more than $83 million.
The report came just days after supporters of the ballot measure lost a suit in Federal District Court in Sacramento that sought to prevent the names of donors from being revealed. The suit argued that past disclosures had led to donors' receiving harassing e-mail, death threats and boycotts of businesses. The court said the release of the names was particularly important in such expensive campaigns.
Frank Schubert, campaign manager for Protect Marriage, the leading group behind Proposition 8, said he had received no reports of harassment on Monday.
A summary report of opponents' donations, meanwhile, showed the losing side spent $43.1 million. A more detailed report of those names -- which ran some 7,600 pages -- was still being formatted by the office of the California secretary of state.
The report on the ban's supporters, which covered the closing days of the campaign, shows a wide variety of backers. They include Jeff Kent, the recently retired second baseman who donated $15,000, and a janitor from Cupertino, Calif., who donated $99.
Jeff Klein, a lawyer for Mr. Kent, said he had no comment on his client's donation.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is under investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission on accusation of underreporting its contributions, also released a final accounting of some $190,000 in nonmonetary contributions, up from a total of about $50,000 reported in previous filings. In a statement, the church defended its contributions saying they represented less than one-half of 1 percent of the total used to pass Proposition 8.
The Protect Marriage campaign, which spent nearly $40 million, also received last-minute donations of $150,000 from the Knights of Columbus and $400,000 from Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., a backer of conservative causes, both of whom donated more than $1 million in total.
Proposition 8, which passed with 52 percent of the vote, is under review by the State Supreme Court, which had legalized same-sex marriage in May. The court, which could hear oral arguments in March, is also expected to rule on the legitimacy of some 18,000 same-sex ceremonies that were held in California between the court's initial decision and the passage of Proposition 8.
New York Times, February 2, 2009
Gay marriage advocates bristle at religion's role in Prop. 8 win
Religious activists fueled campaign and while they were within their rights, foes are complaining.
By Martin Wisckol
Mormons, Catholics and evangelicals were responsible for last month's passage of Proposition 8 - and many opponents of the gay-marriage ban are denouncing that participation as inappropriate religious intrusion into government.
"There is no religious freedom in America when any religious group can impose their dogma on any person that disagrees with that dogma," said Newport Beach's Paul Fitz-Gibbon.
He acknowledges that efforts by Prop. 8's religious activists are allowed by law.
"But I believe it shouldn't be," said Fitz-Gibbon, a retiree whose ex-wives include a Mormon. "Religious zealotry by well-intentioned persons is the greatest unnatural threat to well being in the world today."
However, John Eastman, dean of the Chapman University School of Law and a supporter of Prop. 8, said it's a fundamental right for people to apply their religious beliefs to political campaigns.
Tax codes prohibit churches from endorsing or contributing to candidates, but not issues or ballot measures. And the First Amendment's protection of religious freedom is widely interpreted as protecting religions from government interference - but not banning religious activists from the electoral process.
"It would be wrong and discriminatory to prohibit them from being involved," Eastman said. He also pointed out that the phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear in the U.S. Constitution itself.
The religious campaign
Jeff Flint, a principal political consultant for the Yes on 8 campaign, says virtually all its volunteers and donors had religious ties, and were involved "either because they were encouraged by religious leaders or because of their own beliefs."
He estimates that members of the Mormon church - from California and elsewhere - contributed "at least 40 percent" of the $40 million raised by the campaign.
The volunteer effort also got off to a strong start because of the rapid mobilization of Mormons. The first statewide precinct walk was Aug. 16 and included about 30,000 volunteers. Flint estimated 25,000 of those were Mormons, although he said the ratio shifted as the campaign picked up non-Mormon volunteers.
The rallying of Mormons was due, in part, to a June 29 letter sent by the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, and read to local congregations.
"We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donation of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman," the letter read in part.
Additionally, the church filmed professional-quality videos advocating Prop. 8, and posted them on a Web site available to church members and the general public.
Catholics also made substantial contributions to the campaign, while evangelical Christians rallied to the polls and were key to the measure winning 52 percent of the vote. A study by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 85 percent of "evangelical or born-again Christians" voted for the measure, while just 42 percent of non-evangelical voters favored it.
Flint said the initial campaign strategy projected the need for a $22-million budget. But opponents' fundraising soared past that amount, and faith-based backers came through with more money each time it was requested.
"It was always forthcoming," Flint said. "To see so many people motivated for a reason other than financial self-interest was extraordinary and exciting."
The 'separation' issue
Political activism by religious leaders has a rich history throughout the last half century. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. famously blended religion and politics in the civil rights movement. Other religious leaders have rallied followers in opposition of the Vietnam War, nuclear arms, and abortion, among other issues. Pastor Rick Warren of Lake Forest's Saddleback Church has made combating AIDS a major mission, and has engaged dozens of political leaders in the effort.
But the magnitude of religious involvement in the Prop. 8 campaign and the emotional intensity of the gay marriage issue have brought that religious involvement to the forefront.
There have been no formal legal claims that religious activists violated the law with their campaign tactics. The legal challenges now before the state Supreme Court question the constitutionality of the gay-marriage ban, not the legality of church involvement with the campaign.
A complaint against the Mormon church's involvement is being investigated by the state Fair Political Practices Commission. However, the complaint does not allege that the church's involvement was illegal. Rather, it argues that the church activity went beyond permissible "member communication" and was actual campaigning, requiring campaign finance reports that were not filed by the church.
Many proponents of Prop. 8 have said that it was their freedom of religion that was impinged by the gay marriage ban, expressing worries that all churches would be forced by the state to perform gay marriages whether they liked it or not.
"There is no constitutional basis for states to do that," said Kareem Crayton, who teaches law at the University of Southern California. Churches and pastors have been given latitude by government to marry - or refuse to marry - whoever they choose.
Irvine's Mitch Goldstone, for instance, was married to his longtime partner in 1996 by his rabbi. The nuptials were not legally recognized, but the couple fixed that with a civil union following the May court ruling that said gays could legally marry in the state. They and other gay spouses remain legally married at least until the state Supreme Court decides on whether Prop. 8 legally overrides the earlier ruling.
Goldstone is among those miffed at the religious aspect of the Prop. 8 campaign.
"Churches and religious institutions should not be involved in politics for the same reason people left England and founded our nation - freedom from state religion," he said. "Gay marriage is nothing more than a legal contract."
The Orange County Register, December 5, 2008
The New Religious Right
Does the organizational and fund-raising prowess displayed by the LDS church during California's Proposition 8 campaign augur future political might?
By James Kirchick
In June the governing body of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent a letter to every Mormon congregation in California asking that a message be read to members at Sunday services stating that "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God," and "local church leaders will provide information about how you may become involved in this important cause." The cause was Proposition 8, and church members were implored to "do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time."
Mormons heeded the call. Not only did they donate what appears to be a majority of the funds raised by the Yes on 8 campaign -- an estimated $20 million, according to Prop. 8 opponents, much of it from out of state -- but church members also volunteered thousands of man-hours in support of the amendment. Though the Mormon Church avoided a visible public role in the campaign, it did formally join the coalition of religious groups supporting the amendment, and a prominent member, Mark Jansson, served on the Yes on 8 executive committee. (Jansson was one of four signatories to a public letter threatening a boycott of businesses whose owners contributed to No on 8.)
Mormons make up only 2% of California's population, so the fact that they played such an outsize role in the Yes on 8 campaign testifies to their rigid and efficient organization as a religious community. Because the church requests that members tithe 10% of their annual income, LDS leaders are able to gain an accurate picture p of how much their congregants earn. With this information in hand, bishops in local communities went from house to house in California asking for specific amounts of money for the Yes on 8 campaign -- an incredibly effective fund-raising tactic. Mormons boast high rates of involvement in church-related activities, including commitments that can be quite demanding, such as missionary work, whereby members spend up to two years proselyting, often in far-flung overseas locations.
This individual discipline, obedience to hierarchical authority, and experience in exhorting people to join the faith comes in mighty handy for mass political organizing. Indeed, Mormons campaigned heavily for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid, especially in the key first primary state of New Hampshire. And it's Romney's potential future presidential aspirations, as well as Mormonism's tortured history in America, that has led some to speculate that the church wasn't just advocating for "traditional" marriage in the Prop. 8 fight. Perhaps it was also deliberately flaunting its power as a force to be reckoned with --showing both the broader religious right and the Washington political scene what it can do.
Ever since its inception in the early 19th century, Mormonism has been derided as a cult by other Christians, especially evangelicals. "They're very insecure people," says Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. And the reaction to Romney's campaign showed why this anxiety might be justified. From the start, Romney had difficulty attracting the much-needed support of evangelicals and was shocked at the level of anti-Mormon sentiment he experienced campaigning in heavily Protestant areas. "There's a lot of resentment amongst members of the church," says Clayton Christensen, a Mormon and professor at Harvard Business School, about the level of hostility that materialized during Romney's candidacy. "Christ actually said you should love your enemies and do good to people who spitefully use you. And yet, with the evangelicals in the presidential campaign, those guys really showed that they are the ones that aren't Christian."
Mormons have expressed similar disbelief at the level of anger voiced by the gay community in the wake of Prop. 8's success. In response to nationwide protests staged outside Mormon temples, the church released a statement bemoaning that it had been "singled out for speaking up as part of its democratic right in a free election." Church members feel "genuine alarm" at the hubbub created by their efforts, according to Damon Linker, a former editor of the conservative Christian public policy journal First Things and the author of The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege. And that's not surprising, considering that Mormons have long been involved in the movement to ban same-sex marriage -- and yet are only now facing massive scrutiny for it.
Ascribing cynical motivations to the LDS church's behavior is intriguing, but the contention that it became involved in the fight over Prop. 8 as a way to impress is belied by Mormon history. First, Mormonism has never been particularly welcoming of gays and its doctrine proscribes homosexuality as a sin. Nor is it the case that the church ignored same-sex marriage until this past summer. The day before Prop. 8's passage, a seven-page internal LDS memo was posted online showing just how prescient the church was on the issue. Addressed to M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (men regarded as living prophets by LDS members), the memo presents a thorough argument for why and how the church should become involved in the movement to prevent same-sex couples from marrying.
The memo, dated March 1997, was written in response to continuing developments in Hawaii, where in 1993, the state's supreme court ruled that the denial of marriage to same-sex couples was discriminatory. Anticipating a national legal and electoral fight over the issue, its author supported the involvement of the church in fighting back attempts to legalize marriage equality. The memo not only stressed the importance of working with other religious groups but also cautioned that more mainstream Christian denominations ought to be the public face of the campaign due to concerns that Mormonism was still viewed with suspicion by the general public. Describing a meeting that then-LDS president Gordon Hinckley attended, the memo states that Hinckley "said the church should be in a coalition and not out by itself," and cites a poll conducted by Richard Wirthlin, a former senior adviser and pollster for Ronald Reagan and a leading LDS figure, which found that "the public image of the Catholic Church [is] higher than our church." The conclusion of the memo's author: "If we get into this, they are the ones with which to join." The church had been nominally involved in the marriage debate prior to the writing of this memo; in 1994 it issued a formal statement against gay marriage, and in 1996 local congregations across Texas urged members to join an antigay organization called the Coalition for Traditional Marriage.
A great deal of the intellectual work of the traditional marriage movement was done at Brigham Young University, which is owned by the Mormon Church. James Ord, a gay Mormon living in California who describes his status with the church as "inactive," graduated in 2004 from BYU's law school, where he worked alongside professors Richard Wilkins and Lynn Wardle. The two have been prominent players in the anti-gay marriage movement and, according to Ord, began crafting the legal strategy to oppose same-sex marriage almost immediately after Canadian courts in Ontario issued a series of rulings in 2002 that laid the groundwork for marriage equality in the province and, eventually, the country. For the next two years Ord "attended meetings, forums, and academic discussions where the language for these amendments was floated and debated."
A rapprochement between mormons and the religious right at large does not appear to be in the offing, despite the LDS Church's hard work on Prop. 8. With marriage, there is "far more at stake for Mormons than there is for a Catholic or evangelical," Linker says. Ironically, in light of Mormonism's polygamist history, he points to its contemporary emphasis on the heterosexual family structure as the primary reason for its involvement. "Mormons are different than other factions on the religious right because their theology emphasizes a traditional male/female family with kids in a way that goes far beyond most other groups, whether they be evangelical or Catholic," Linker says. According to Mormon dogma, marriage extends into the afterlife and couples continue to have "spirit children" who populate extraterrestrial worlds.
The church is also selective in the battles it fights. For instance, Christensen says, the church stayed out of the dispute over same-sex marriage in Massachusetts because it didn't think it could defeat the measure in one of the country's most liberal states, even though then-governor Romney was leading the effort to do just that. Contrast the church's judicious decision in the Bay State with its 2000 campaign in support of California's Proposition 22, a statute defining marriage as between a man and a woman. That measure passed with 61% of the vote, its success was never in doubt, and it occurred a full three years before Massachusetts ruled in favor of marriage equality. Given the uphill environment activists faced then, their outcry was understandably muted compared to the devastating sense of loss felt in November's bruising. And since the church didn't face any backlash in 2000, according to Ord, its leaders felt confident about rejoining the fight this time around.
But while Mormons may be bewildered at the outrage directed their way now, it would be wrong to conclude that the church has been so chastened by the reaction that it will stay out of future political battles. For one thing, Mormon doctrine remains steadfastly opposed to same-sex marriage. "To allow gay marriage is to fundamentally misconstrue what [they] are ordained by God to become," Linker says. And Mormons have suffered far worse in their history than mere protests or the occasional anthrax scare. "I think we attempted to work in the process to do what we think is right in society and in the eyes of the Lord," Christensen says. "I don't feel any kind of sense that we made a mistake."
The Advocate, December 3, 2008
Probe into LDS Church's Prop 8 donations going forward
California commission; Panel looks into nonmonetary contributions
By Jessica Ravitz
California's Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) confirmed Monday that it will investigate allegations that the LDS Church failed to report nonmonetary contributions to the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign.
An independent nonprofit organization, Californians Against Hate, called for the investigation after the measure passed earlier this month, effectively ending same-sex marriages in that state.
"They read my letter and I guess came to the conclusion that there's something worth looking into," said Fred Karger, who heads Californians Against Hate, which was formed to track donations in support of the ballot initiative. "I'm hopeful that the LDS Church will cooperate and share all the records and all the information they have about their activities in the Proposition 8 campaign."
Karger, a retired political consultant, alleged in his complaint that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints failed to report money invested to organize phone banks, send out direct mailers, provide transportation to California, mobilize a speakers bureau, send out satellite simulcasts and develop Web sites as well as numerous commercials and video broadcasts.
In the aftermath of Proposition 8's passage, outcry over the LDS Church's active role has included demonstrations outside temples in California, Utah and New York protesting what critics see as Mormons' contribution of a disproportionate amount of the measure's financial backing. By some measures,
Latter-day Saints are believed to have contributed as much as $22 million to the cause.
The LDS Church did not comment on Monday's latest development but said earlier that Karger's complaint had "many errors and misstatements," that the church had "fully complied with the reporting requirements of the California Political Reform Act" and that "any investigation would confirm the church's full compliance with applicable law."
Karger, however, sees the fact that FPPC is moving forward as a good sign. He said his political attorney told him the commission looks into fewer than 5 percent of complaints, an indication in his mind that "when they do it, it's pretty serious."
But Roman Porter, executive director of FPPC, urges against jumping to conclusions. He wouldn't say how often investigations unfold and insisted that comparing complaints, which all have unique characteristics, would be inappropriate. He also said an investigation is nothing more than an investigation.
"We haven't made any determination about wrongdoing," Porter said, and he encouraged people to "reserve judgment."
Porter said no time line has been set for the investigation and he would not speculate on when the public will know more. But he did say if the FPPC determines fault, the commission could fine "up to $5,000 per violation," and in some cases might also file a civil lawsuit, which could lead to remedies amounting to "three times the amount of unreported or misreported contributions."
Salt Lake City Tribune, November 25, 2008
Mormons face flak for backing Prop. 8
Matthai Kuruvila, Chronicle Religion Writer
OAKLAND -- Christine Alonso's body trembled and her lips quivered as she walked up and spoke to a few of the 50 protesters in front of the Mormon Temple in Oakland on Sunday.
"Don't think they're all against you," said Alonso, 27, explaining that she was Mormon and that despite her religious leaders' support of a ballot measure banning same-sex marriage, she was actively opposed.
As she walked away, she said, "I'm afraid that a gay or lesbian friend might hear that I'm Mormon and think that I want to tear their marriage apart."
Alonso's solitary act came as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members are increasingly under fire for their support of Proposition 8, which would take away the right of gays and lesbians to marry. In addition to increased protests, online campaigns seek to identify and embarrass Mormons who support the ballot measure.
The church largely stays out of politics. But in this case, the Salt Lake City-based church has sent letters, held video conferences and in church meetings asked for volunteers to support the campaign. In response, some church members have poured in their savings and undertaken what may be an unprecedented grassroots mobilization for the effort.
Prop. 8 is on pace to be the costliest race in the nation, except for the billion-dollar presidential election. The Yes on 8 campaign estimates that up to 40 percent of its donations come from Mormons. Some others estimate that Mormons account for over 70 percent of donations from individuals.
All of California's Catholic bishops have all come out in favor of the measure. So have many evangelical Christians and Orthodox Jews. Yet it is Mormons, who account for 2 percent of the state population, who are catching the most heat.
"We seem to be the symbol of the Yes on 8 campaign," said Rand King, 60, a Walnut Creek resident who is Mormon and who was watching Sunday's protest from inside the temple's gates.
Prop. 8 opponents are increasingly narrowing their focus on Mormons, harnessing technology and open-records laws in their efforts. One Web site run by a Prop. 8 opponent, Mormonsfor8.com, identifies the name and hometown of every Mormon donor. On the Daily Kos, the nation's most popular liberal blog, there is a campaign to use that information to look into the lives of Mormons who financially support Prop. 8.
It has led some Mormons to question why other religious groups in the coalition aren't being targeted.
"I don't think it's politically expedient to point the finger at the Catholic Church," said Dave Christensen, 52, a Mormon and an Alamo resident who donated $30,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign. "You don't get the mileage criticizing a church that has more clout."
Nadine Hansen, who runs Mormonsfor8.com, said the church decided to enter politics and can't excuse itself for the ramifications.
"Any group that gets involved in the political arena has to be treated like a political action committee," said Hansen, 61, a Mormon who lives in Cedar City, Utah, and has stopped going to church. "You can't get involved in politics and say, 'Treat me as a church.' "Hansen said she focused on Mormons because she is one. She said Mormons have contacted her to shut the site, saying it was being used by the Daily Kos campaign in a "witch hunt."
"I didn't think there were any witches on the list, so I wasn't worried," said Hansen, whose site is "neutral" on its views, though she is opposed because she views it as "divisive."
The person who initiated the Daily Kos campaign to look into the lives of Mormon donors is Dante Atkins, an elected delegate to the state Democratic convention who said he's the vice president of the Los Angeles County Young Democrats.
Atkins said his goal was to "embarrass the opposition by pointing out and publicizing any contributors they may have." He said focusing on Mormons made sense. "If one religious group is putting close to the majority of the money and the effort into passing this proposition, it is fair to single them out."
The Mormon church hasn't taken the same level of interest in Arizona or Florida, which also have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.
But California is a bellwether, said LDS spokesman Mike Otterson. "If same-gender marriage is approved in California... other states will follow suit."
Several Bay Area Mormons said they would support the right of gay and lesbian unions to have all the rights of married couples. But the word marriage was sacred, pivotal to their concept of families, who can be "eternally united" in the afterlife. A key church document - "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" - says that "marriage between man and a woman is essential to His eternal plan." They also believe that children are entitled to be raised by a father and a mother.
Those words speak for Michele Sundstrom, 47, of San Jose, who has been married for 18 years and has five children.
She and her husband gave $30,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign and put a sign on their home. But in response, two women parked an SUV in front of their home, with the words "Bigots live here" painted on the windshield.
Sundstrom believes such responses must come from deep places of pain - and that gays and lesbians are entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals, just not the word marriage. Any animosity toward gays or lesbians is wrong, she said.
"There must be such deep, deep, deep hurt; otherwise there couldn't be so much opposition," she said. "They've lived with this. I guess we're getting a taste of where they live."
San Francisco Chronicle, November 16, 2008
State officials to investigate Mormon Church's Prop. 8 campaign activities
By Mike Swift
The chief of a state commission that enforces election law says that it will launch an investigation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding alleged violations in the Proposition 8 campaign.
The Fair Political Practices Commission has notified the Mormon Church that it will investigate a claim that the church did not disclose the value of non-monetary campaign activities, including alleged phone bank operations from Utah and Idaho that targeted California voters. The complaint was filed Nov. 13 by Fred Karger, an activist who opposed the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage approved by 52 percent of voters on Election Day.
There is no timetable for the investigation, and the commission has made no determination about the validity of Karger's sworn complaint, filed with the commission under penalty of perjury.
"We'll be looking into the allegations," Roman Porter, the commission's executive director, said Tuesday. He said the timetable for the investigation would depend on a host of factors, including whether or not the commission would have to subpoena records and the cooperation of the complainant and those named in the complaint.
A spokeswoman said the LDS Church would cooperate fully and that the church is confident it had not violated state elections law.
"We will be sending information to the FPPC and believe that any investigation will confirm the church's compliance with applicable law," the spokeswoman, Kim Farah, said in a statement.
If violations are found, the commission has the ability to assess penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, and in certain cases to file civil lawsuits for up to three times the amount of unreported or inaccurately reported contributions. Porter declined to say whether the commission is investigating any other alleged violations in the Prop. 8 campaign.
The LDS church made only a relatively small donation to the Yes on 8 campaign -- $2,864 on Nov. 1, according to reports filed to date with the California Secretary of State. However, church members contributed up to 40 percent of the more than $40 million raised to back the same-sex marriage ban, including individual donations as large as $1 million, Yes on 8 campaign officials have said, and a surge of large donations late in the campaign may well boost that percentage when final reports are filed.
The latest filings with the state show that the two sides raised more than $82 million for the battle over Prop. 8. Over the last two and half weeks before Election Day, the Yes on 8 campaign pulled in $10.5 million in out of state donations from large donors alone, with $5 million coming from the state of Utah, according to state records.
Those donations are not part of the allegations being investigated by the commission. But the role of the Mormon Church and other religious organizations, including large monetary contributions by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus, a Connecticut-based Catholic fraternal organization, have sparked a debate about whether the principle of the separation of church and state was eroded during the Prop. 8 campaign. Some churches also made donations to the No on 8 campaign.
At issue in Karger's complaint is the disclosure of non-monetary contributions, including telephone bank operations allegedly organized by the LDS Church in Rexburg, Idaho, where Brigham Young University has a campus, and in Utah. Karger, a former political consultant who helped organize boycotts against Yes on 8 donors, said Tuesday that he learned about those operations by reports in local newspapers in those areas.
Karger said he was pleased the commission would investigate.
"Once you go out of the church membership and contact voters, that becomes a non-monetary contribution" that must be reported to the state, Karger said.
The Mercury News, November 26, 2008
Hurtful comments based on ignorance can run both ways
When Mitt Romney ran for president last year, his Mormon religion became a lightning rod for critics from both the left and the right who characterized the LDS Church as an anti-Christian cult and a threat to the fabric of America.
Florida evangelist Bill Keller claimed a vote for Romney "is a vote for Satan." Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, told journalists at the Religion Newswriters Association annual meeting that Romney was not a Christian, but a member of a cult. "I believe we should always support a Christian over a non-Christian," he said.
Jacob Weisberg of the online magazine Slate wrote that he "wouldn't vote for someone who truly believed in the founding whoppers of Mormonism."
Religion writer Ken Woodward, in a New York Times op-ed piece, said that Romney had to publicly explain why Mormons are so clannish and secretive, and why The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has "the soul of a corporation."
Mike Huckabee, a Romney opponent for the Republican nomination, had the press scrambling to explain arcane theological differences when, with a smirk, he asked a New York Times reporter if Mormons believed that Jesus and Satan were brothers.
To Mormons, Huckabee, a Southern Baptist pastor whose church has labeled Mormonism a non-Christian cult, was taking an element of the church's theology out of context to mislead the public into thinking Mormons are devil worshippers.
Huckabee's remarks prompted several of my Republican acquaintances to tell me that if Huckabee ended up on the GOP ticket, for president or vice president, they would vote for the Democrat. They said they were hurt by anti-Mormon rhetoric that betrayed an ignorance of what their religion is all about. Throughout the campaign, Republican Mormons in Utah complained about vicious remarks from people who knew nothing about the LDS community.
All of the above illustrates why it's a shame that many of these same acquaintances who complained of being victimized by ignorant zealots are saying now that they agree with many of the hateful comments that state Sen. Chris Buttars made the other day about gays and lesbians.
Like the anti-Mormons, Buttars, in his ignorance, was condemning a community he knows little about with the invective of a political and religious zealot. The gay-rights movement, he said, is "probably the greatest threat to America," gay activists are akin to Muslim radicals and same-sex relationships are "abominations."
The LDS Church permits gay members full fellowship if they remain celibate. The church and its members strongly supported California's Proposition 8 banning gay marriage, but the church said its "position has always been to engage in civil and respectful dialogue on this issue. Senator Buttars does not speak for the church."
Gays and Mormons, then, have this in common: Both have been demonized by a large swath of folks who have no understanding of who and what they are. Unfortunately, many Mormons who were hurt by the cruel rhetoric aimed at their church last year apparently don't get that they are doing the same to a community of people that far outnumbers Mormons in this country.
I wrote last week about Evan Twede and Gary Watts, who once shared the beliefs that Buttars espouses but since have broken with the LDS Church and the Republican Party over gay rights.
Twede and Watts both have children who are gay and that, they said, is what opened their eyes to the humanity of the people they formerly thought were inhuman.
The Salt Lake Tribune, March 1, 2009
Too complicated to find common ground
By Rebecca Walsh, Tribune Columnist
In October, Sutherland Institute President Paul Mero clapped gay attorney Stephen Clark on the back.
"This at times might sound like a little lovefest here," Mero said as the men discussed "Out of the Closet," a collection of their e-mails debating gay rights.
Four months later, Mero warned the crowd at his debate with Equality Utah members at the University of Utah Law School that he might be offensive, or, as he put it, "intentionally provocative."
And he was. He said gay and transgendered people come from a "very immature emotional frame of reference," pick from a menu of "umpteen" gender options, "play house," live an "illusion."
"The gloves must come off," he said.
The question is: Why?
Proposition 8, apparently.
Angry about the gay community's protests, boycotts and "extortion" of the LDS Church, Mero turned condescending and nasty, steaming with the emotion he so despises in the other side. Still, the next day, he sent an e-mail to his opponents inviting them to "continue to talk."
Mero insists his behavior is consistent. He's a self-styled compassionate conservative who thrives on heady debate with the other side. Certainly not a homophobe or a "gay-hater."
But you'll understand if gay-rights activists feel burned.
"The anti-church stuff after Prop 8 really set him off," says Sen. Scott McCoy, a Salt Lake City Democrat. "He is like a totally different person."
As the president of Utah's most powerful right-wing think tank, Mero wields unusual influence on Capitol Hill and throughout the state. He's the mastermind of Kanab's "natural family" manifesto and wrote an infamous op-ed in support of private school vouchers comparing "inflexible" public schools to slavery.
Still, he seems conflicted. Every so often he veers from the conventional conservative canon. He supports immigration -- illegal or otherwise. He believes polygamists should be allowed to "live and let live."
Marriage Law Foundation Director Bill Duncan says Mero is a traditional conservative, not a partisan.
"Paul's conservatism is more reflective, less talking-pointy." he says
Mero's theory turns on the question: Does it benefit society? As in: Gay sex doesn't benefit society, so there's no point in debating gay rights.
A little biography might be helpful here:
As a kid, his family trekked from Chicago to California to northern Virginia, following his father's jobs as his parents struggled to reconcile and finally divorced. He married at 18. Two years later, Mero converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He studied at BYU and then worked for two conservative California congressmen. Mero took the job at Sutherland eight years ago.
Mero's wife Sally home-schooled their six children. His mentally disabled sister lived with them for 20 years. There were no Boy Scouts, girls' camps or "Simpsons" in the household. "We wanted to raise good children," he says. But years later, they watch "Family Guy" together. He has five grandchildren. Through that prism, he sees Sutherland as the guardian of Amendment 3, Utah's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Its author, former legislator LaVar Christensen, sits on the board.
The cause is not personal, Mero says.
"I run an organization that tries to affect public policy," he says. "I see this in public policy terms. They take it in very personal terms."
For gay rights advocates, it is personal. They say Mero is cloaking theology in pseudo-intellectual language. Equality Utah Public Policy Manager Will Carlson says Mero uses his encounters with them to grandstand. Sutherland taped that debate last month and Mero offered Equality Utah a copy he hasn't delivered yet. But while his opening comments are posted on YouTube, Equality Utah's are not.
Even Clark, Mero's gay "friend," is fed up with Sutherland's Sacred Ground Initiative. Mero criticizes Equality Utah for quoting LDS Church statements and then co-opts religion for his own cause, says Clark, legal director of Utah's ACLU. "It's a "profound betrayal of the tenor, tone and spirit" of their e-mail exchange.
"At least Equality Utah has intellectual honesty," he says.
At that debate, where Mero acknowledged he was posturing, he said: "We really do live in separate realities. And in our separate realities, there is no common ground."
A moment of real honesty.
Salt Lake Tribune, March 1, 2009
Mormon church reports $190,000 Prop. 8 expenses
John Wildermuth, Chronicle Staff Writer
Mormon church officials, facing an ongoing investigation by the state Fair Political Practices Commission, Friday reported nearly $190,000 in previously unlisted assistance to the successful campaign for Prop. 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California.
The report, filed with the secretary of state's office, listed a variety of California travel expenses for high-ranking members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and included $20,575 for use of facilities and equipment at the church's Salt Lake City headquarters and a $96,849 charge for "compensated staff time" for church employees who worked on matters pertaining to Prop. 8.
"This is exactly what we were talking about when we filed the suit," said Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate, which opposed the same-sex marriage ban. "They spent money on the campaign and were supposed to report it."
Church officials were not available for comment Friday night.
Karger filed his complaint with the FPPC on Nov. 13, alleging that the Mormon church had produced commercials, set up Web sites, conducted simulcasts and sent church leaders to California to support Prop. 8 without filing any of the required reports.
Up until Friday, the Mormon church had denied any direct financial support for the campaign beyond a reported $2,078 spent for bringing church Elder L. Whitney Clayton to California.
Church officials complained that Karger's complaint was full of errors and that the church had "fully complied" with California law.
The report filed Friday contained few details about how the money was spent. It did list $26,000 for audio-visual production and travel expenses for a number of Mormon leaders other than Clayton.
It also reported a number of expenses in the Bay Area, including $122 for a meal at Nonna Rose Restaurant in San Francisco, and $133 spent at the 3-Zero Cafe in Half Moon Bay.
While the deadline for the report, which covers the period from July 1 to Dec. 31, is Monday, many campaign contributions by major donors and independent committees must be reported within days after they're made.
Roman Porter, the FPPC's executive director, declined to discuss the case directly, saying only that it remained under investigation. In general, however, "cases like these hinge over what had to be reported and when it had to be reported," he said. A late report covering disputed filings "wouldn't remove the obligation to file on time" but would be considered by investigators.
The proposed ban on same-sex marriage was called the second most-watched campaign in the nation last November, behind the presidential race. While Mormons gave millions of dollars to the "Yes on Prop. 8" campaign, church leaders insisted that the contributions came from individual church members, not the church itself, so the church was not required to file reports with California.
San Francisco Chronicle, January 31, 2009
The Prop 8 Campaign Money
California's fair-elections commission is investigating a complaint against the Mormon Church's role in campaigning for Proposition 8, which made marriage illegal between people of the same sex. Based on the facts that have come out so far, the state is right to look into whether the church broke state laws by failing to report campaign-related expenditures.
Proposition 8, which California voters passed on Nov. 4, overturned a ruling by the California Supreme Court and wrote discrimination against one particular group of people into the State Constitution. After it passed, tens of thousands of people rallied in cities across the country in support of same-sex marriage. The California Supreme Court said recently that it would review whether Proposition 8 was constitutional.
Mormons were a major force behind the ballot measure. Individual church members contributed millions of dollars and acted as campaign foot soldiers. The church itself also played an unusually large role. Michael R. Otterson, the managing director of public affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - the full name of the Mormons' church - said that while the church speaks out on other issues, like abortion, "we don't get involved to the degree we did on this."
Fred Karger, the founder of a group called Californians Against Hate, who filed the complaint, contends that the Mormon Church provided significant contributions to the pro-Proposition 8 campaign that it did not report, as state law requires. The Fair Political Practices Commission of California is investigating, among other things, commercials, out-of-state phone banks and a Web site sponsored by the church.
If the commission finds that the church violated state reporting laws, it could impose penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, and sue for additional amounts. The Mormon Church, which says it is sending information to the commission, says it did nothing wrong.
Churches, which risk their tax-exempt status if they endorse candidates, have more leeway in referendum campaigns. Still, when they enter the political fray, they have the same obligation to follow the rules that nonreligious groups do.
New York Times, November 29, 2008
Calif. gay marriage ban backers target businesses
By LISA LEFF, Associated Press Writer
San Francisco, CA (AP) -- Leaders of the campaign to outlaw same-sex marriage in California are warning businesses that have given money to the state's largest gay rights group they will be publicly identified as opponents of traditional unions unless they contribute to the gay marriage ban, too.
ProtectMarriage.com, the umbrella group behind a ballot initiative that would overturn the California Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage, sent a certified letter this week asking companies to withdraw their support of Equality California, a nonprofit organization that is helping lead the campaign against Proposition 8.
"Make a donation of a like amount to ProtectMarriage.com which will help us correct this error," reads the letter. "Were you to elect not to donate comparably, it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition to traditional marriage. ... The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to ProtectMarriage.com but have given to Equality California will be published."
The letter was signed by four members of the group's executive committee: campaign chairman Ron Prentice; Edward Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference; Mark Jansson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and Andrew Pugno, the lawyer for ProtectMarriage.com. A donation form was attached. The letter did not say where the names would be published.
The unusual appeal reflects the increasing tension surrounding the tight race over Proposition 8, which would change the California Constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman. In recent days, both sides in the debate have accused their opponents of threatening their respective campaign volunteers and misleading voters.
San Diego businessman Jim Abbott, who owns a real estate company and is a member of Equality California's board of directors, received one of the letters late Wednesday afternoon. His adult son called Abbott to read it to him.
"He characterized it as a bit 'Mafioso,'" Abbott said. "It was a little distressing, but it's consistent with how the 'yes' side of this campaign has been run, which is a bit over the top."
Abbott, who married his same-sex partner at the end of August, estimated that over the last decade he has given $50,000 to Equality California, including a recent $10,000 gift to underwrite a San Diego event that raised money to defeat Proposition 8.
When asked whether ProtectMarriage.com planned to name businesses that have supported the No on 8 campaign, Prentice initially said he was unaware of any such effort.
"I'm not familiar of any organized attack against organizations that have given to No on 8," he said Thursday.
But when asked about the letter to Equality California donors, Prentice confirmed they were authentic and said the ProtectMarriage.com campaign was asking businesses backing the other side "to reconsider taking a position on a moral issue in California."
Prentice said it was his understanding it was intended for large corporations such as cable operators Time Warner and Comcast instead of small business owners like Abbott. Both Time Warner and Comcast are listed on Equality California's Web site as corporate sponsors that gave $50,000 each to the group.
Companies that have contributed directly to one of the campaign committees collecting cash to fight Proposition 8, including one set up by Equality California, also were recipients of the letter, Prentice said. That list includes companies such as Pacific Gas & Electric, Levi Strauss and AT&T.
"I think the IDing of, or outing of, any company is very secondary to the question of why especially a public corporation would choose to take a side knowing it would splinter it's own clientele," he said.
Equality California executive director Geoffrey Kors said Thursday he has heard from two other business owners besides Abbott.
"It's truly an outrageous attempt to extort people," Kors said.
While an anti-Proposition 8 group called Californians Against Hate has posted lists of gay marriage ban donors on the Internet and even launched boycotts of selected businesses, Kors said that work has been independent of the official No on 8 campaign.
"They are going after our long-term funding and trying to intimidate Equality California donors from giving any more to the No on 8 campaign and from giving to Equality California ever again."
While corporations often give to rival candidates for public office as a way of preserving their government access no matter who wins, tit-for-tat solicitations are almost unheard of in ballot initiative campaigns, said Robert Stern, president of the nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies.
"This is a proposition where you are on one side or the other. You vote yes or no, not yes and no," Stern said.
Though unusual and disturbing, Stern said there was nothing illegal about ProtectMarriage.com hitting up Equality California supporters for money.
Sonya Eddings Brown, a ProtectMarriage.com spokeswoman, estimated that 36 companies were targeted for the letter and said those that do not respond with a contribution would be highlighted in a press release and on the campaign Web site.
She called the tactic "a frustrated response" to the intimidation felt by Proposition 8 supporters, who have had their lawn signs stolen and property vandalized in the closing days of the heated campaign.
San Francisco Chronicle, October 23, 2008
LDS Church urges pro-Proposition 8 calls
By Scott Taylor, Deseret News
California-citizen members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints currently living out of the state are being organized by the LDS Church to make phone calls -- if needed -- in support of California's Proposition 8.
Responding to a request from the Protect Marriage Coalition, the LDS Church is making arrangements for these members to call friends, family and fellow citizens in California "to urge support of the effort to defend traditional marriage," stated a Tuesday church-issued news release.
On the Nov. 4 state ballot, the proposition calls for an amendment to the California state constitution that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
The LDS Church also announced a satellite broadcast tonight to be received in California meetinghouses.
Elders M. Russell Ballard and Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy are to address the LDS Church's doctrine of marriage and its participation in the Protect Marriage Coalition.
Several Institutes of Religion in Utah told the Deseret News on Tuesday they would pick up the broadcast for California students attending colleges and universities locally.
Elder Clayton, who also serves as president of the church's North America West Area, said in the release the out-of-state efforts help on two fronts.
"We are looking at options to fulfill a request from the coalition to help with phone calls to encourage support of Proposition 8," he said. "We're also responding to the many requests we have had from students and others who want to help. Making phone calls is something they can do."
He added the coalition hasn't decided on whether to activate any additional phone volunteers outside of California.
While many LDS Church members outside of California have expressed a willingness to help, the out-of-state efforts for now will focus on willing Californians.
Out-of-state calls have yet to start, but the church anticipates a small test of its planned call system soon.
California members and leaders of the LDS Church have long been involved in coalition efforts in that state to protect traditional marriage, including what started as a grass-roots effort nearly a decade ago to help voters there in the November 2000 election pass Proposition 22.
That proposition resulted in a state law with similar language � only marriage between a man and woman is valid or recognized in California.
However, within a half-dozen years, lower courts were suggesting the law might be unconstitutional.
"That's when the coalition saw the handwriting on the wall, that this would make it all the way up to the (California) Supreme Court," said Ron Prentice, founding director of the California Family Council, an organization for the protection and promotion of Judeo-Christian principles in California culture.
Prentice described the Protect Marriage Coalition as a cooperative effort headed by leaders and members of the state's Evangelical Protestants, Catholics and Latter-day Saints, with other religious and community groups throughout the state participating.
The coalition benefitted from established relations between the LDS Church and two of California's prominent leaders, Archbishop George Niederauer of the San Francisco Archdiocese and Archbishop William Weigand of the Sacramento Archdiocese. Both had previously lived and worked in Salt Lake City and had worked closely with LDS Church leaders in past projects.
"It just jump-started the level of trust that needed to be built," said Prentice of the cooperative efforts.
"That was either providential or fortuitous, depending on your faith," said Ned Dolejsi, executive directory of the California Catholic Conference, the Sacramento-based public-policy arm of the Catholic Church in the state.
The coalition needed to regroup quickly after the California Supreme Court ruled last May to allow same-sex marriages in the state and the issue was then put before the public as a constitutional amendment on the November ballot.
"Certainly coming out of the blocks was the LDS Church, proving that they were organized," said Dolejsi, adding it provided "an early boost."
He said the LDS Church's announced involvement of more members "is a reflection on the passion and conviction of the LDS Church members here."
And like the LDS Church, the Catholic Church is receiving large and small donations and offers to help from out-of-state Catholics and Catholic-aligned organizations.
"It's an issue that obviously affects more than just California," Dolejsi said.
Deseret News, October 9, 2008
Mormons Outside California Recruited For Prop. 8
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Senior elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made a televised appeal to Mormons in California Wednesday night to step up their already considerable efforts to pass a ballot initiative that would ban same-sex marriage in the state.
Two members of the church's second-highest governing body, the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, quoted from Mormon scripture on the sanctity of marriage as they laid out a week-by-week strategy for boosting Mormon involvement before the Nov. 4 election in voter registration efforts, phone banks and distributing campaign materials.
"What we're about is the work of the Lord, and He will bless you for your involvement," apostle M. Russell Ballard said during the hourlong meeting, which was broadcast to church buildings in California, Utah, Hawaii and Idaho.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is part of a coalition of conservative groups backing Proposition 8, which would overturn the California Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in the nation's most populous state by amending the state constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman.
Mormons have been active participants in the campaign both as volunteers and financial contributors, giving an estimated 43 percent --some $8.4 million -- to the Proposition 8 campaign, according to the Web site mormonsfor8.com. There are about 770,000 Mormon church members in California, but Mormons from outside the state have been encouraged to give money and time to help pass the measure.
During Wednesday's taped satellite broadcast, church leaders asked for 30 members from each California congregation to donate four hours of week to the campaign. They also called on young married couples and single Mormons to use the Internet, text messaging, blogging and other forms of computer technology to help pass the initiative, saying the church has created a new Web site -- PreservingMarriage.org -- with materials they can download and post on their own social networking sites.
Church elder L. Whitney Clayton, who has been working as a liaison between the LDS leaders and the Proposition 8 campaign, said before the event that it was meant to energize Mormons for the weeks remaining before Election Day.
"It's a political campaign, and time is short and there's a lot to do."
Along with recruiting Mormons to work in California, church members from outside the state have been asked to call friends and family at home in California to encourage support for the measure, according to Clayton. He said many students attending church-owned universities have asked how they might help and could be enlisted to make calls.
"In California, the phone trees are up and running. We just want to be able to help, and one of the things we can do is we can organize," Clayton said in an interview Wednesday.
Officially, the Mormon church is politically neutral and does not endorse individual candidates or political parties. The church does, however, weigh in on issues it considers morally important. The church holds traditional marriage as a sacred institution ordained by God and has actively fought efforts to legalize same-sex marriage across the United States since the 1990s.
Its involvement in the California same-sex marriage debate this year began with a letter from church President Thomas S. Monson asking California Mormons to give their time and money to pass Proposition 8. Monson's letter has been read repeatedly in Mormon churches, and opponents of the forthcoming initiative have credited LDS members with giving the Yes on 8 camp an edge in donations and volunteers.
Some Mormons have criticized the church for wading so heavily into the political realm.
"We know that it is not without controversy, yet let me be clear that at the heart of this issue is the central doctrine of eternal marriage and it's place in our Father's plan," Ballard said.
Besides Clayton and Ballard, the broadcast featured Quentin L. Cook, another member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
cbs5.com, Oct 9, 2008
Gay-rights advocates' plan for LDS conference: Service, not protests
Volunteering -- Activists opt for kinder, gentler approach than post-Prop. 8 rallies
By Rosemary Winters
Far from the post-Proposition 8 protests that ignited outside of LDS temples in November, gay-rights advocates are taking a gentler tack during next week's LDS General Conference.
Instead of pickets and chants, members and supporters of Utah's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community plan to take up garden tools and medical-supply kits for "General Service Weekend" on April 4 and 5.
Some of the hard feelings from the LDS Church's backing of Prop 8 -- the November ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in California -- appear to have dissipated. But LGBT activists remain motivated in their pursuit of marriage equality and other legal protections, said organizer Jacob Whipple.
"We wanted to harness that energy for productive means," he said. "We don't feel that there is a need to protest [the LDS Church] further."
Whipple launched the Salt Lake City protest that drew 3,000 people to Temple Square thee days after the November election.
Salt Lake City police Sgt. Robin Snyder said Thursday that no permits for protests outside of general conference have been requested -- the deadline to apply is today, although a permit is not required. In recent weeks, a viral e-mail spread false rumors about a massive and violent gay-rights rally planned near the conference, a semiannual event that features speeches from prominent LDS leaders.
Whipple said Thursday he knows of no plans by gay-rights supporters to
demonstrate during the conference. Instead, he has arranged several service projects in Ogden and Salt Lake County, including cleanups at Dimple Dell Park and the Jordan River Parkway, gardening for the nonprofit Utah G.A.R.D.E.N.S. and social-work visits to refugee families. He expects 300 to 600 volunteers to participate.
"Service to others is always a good idea," LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said via e-mail in response to the LGBT event.
Eric Ethington, who plans to pitch in on service weekend, hopes that seeing gay and transgender Utahns giving back to society will increase awareness and understanding of LGBT issues.
Since November, Ethington has organized a series of service events -- including delivering pumpkin bread to gay-rights foe Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan -- through his grass-roots group Pride in Your Community.
"Quite often, people just see the rallies and the pride parade ... and maybe get a little scared of that," he said. "We are people just like anybody else. We care about our neighbors."
Salt Lake Tribune, March 27, 2009
Prop 8 inspires new army of Utah activists
Post-election push -- Groups enlist new soldiers in the battle for gay rights.
By Rosemary Winters
Utahns split about post-Prop 8 temple protests. Crushed by the defeat of same-sex marriage in California, Jacob Whipple fired off text messages to everyone he knew the day after Election Day. Two nights later, more than 3,000 people joined him at a rally outside of Salt Lake City's Temple Square.
"It was exhilarating," says first-time organizer Whipple.
The 29-year-old is part of a national phenomenon Proposition 8 backers likely didn't see coming. The ballot measure, eliminating the right of gay couples to marry in California, succeeded, but it also ignited a furor among gay-rights supporters, forging and fortifying a new generation of activists who could fuel the movement for years to come.
"People thought that Prop 8 would fail, considering it was in California, which most people think of as this very liberal, very pro-gay state," says Doug Jennings, the Utah Pride Center's media coordinator. "It moved people to say, 'What's wrong with our organizations right now? What are they not doing that we can do?' "
Whipple staged a protest. A week later, so did University of Utah student Elaine Ball: About 2,000 people rallied at Salt Lake City Hall, where speaker Jeff Key declared Utah's capital "ground zero" in post-Prop 8 activism.
As headquarters of the LDS Church, which prodded its members to give substantial time and cash to prop up Prop 8, Utah has drawn a national backlash, including calls to boycott the Beehive State.
"When [Prop 8 passed], I realized that, yes, for years, people have been voting to take away our rights," says Whipple, who plans to marry his boyfriend, Drew Cloud, in California this April, even though the ceremony now will not be legally recognized. "If no one in Utah was going to stand up and fight for change, I was going to be a big part of it."
But the east Millcreek resident wasn't alone. By mid-December, Whipple had to convene an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) town-hall meeting so the community could work to coordinate all of the new political efforts. Many new activists were cultivating grass-roots groups on the social-networking Web site Facebook.
Whipple launched the All for One Initiative and sponsored a Christmas toy drive for Primary Children's Medical Center.
Ball, a Salt Lake City resident, and Eric Ethington, of Murray, hatched Pride in Your Community, with the goal of boosting awareness of LGBT issues through service. Ball and Ethington, both 24, are bisexual.
In December, they shuttled 20 people to Cottonwood Heights during a snowstorm to shovel driveways and sidewalks. Last week, Ball and Ethington baked pumpkin bread to deliver to Republican Sen. Chris Buttars and his neighbors in West Jordan.
"We really want to get out to those [conservative] districts to show there are people who care [about gay rights] in their community," says Ball, who is married and wants "everyone" to have that right.
Michael Mueller, a 34-year old straight and married Salt Laker, became an organizer the month before Prop 8 passed, throwing a benefit for the "no" campaign. He launched Utahns for Marriage Equality, drawing more than 1,000 members on Facebook.
"The thought of 16,000 marriages in California being rescinded," Mueller says, "struck me not as a gay-rights issue, but as a human-rights issue."
Earlier this month, he gathered 60 people in view of Delicate Arch in southeastern Utah for a rally in support of marriage and other legal protections for same-sex couples. He wanted to cast the iconic, red-rock span as a symbol for all Utahns -- not just the straight ones.
Established advocates have benefited from a post-Prop 8 push, too.
Equality Utah crafted the Common Ground Initiative, a collection of bills that would extend some legal protections to same-sex couples, such as hospital visitation and probate rights. The LDS Church has said it does "not oppose" such rights, but it has not responded to a request to endorse the initiative itself or the particular bills.
More than 3,000 people have signed a petition backing the effort. Seventy percent of them are brand-new names to Equality Utah's database, said executive director Mike Thompson.
"That's a significant increase," he says. "We're interested, ourselves, to see if this kind of new wave of activism is going to translate into focused efforts during the legislative session."
Already, there are indications that LGBT Utahns and their straight allies could lobby Capitol Hill in greater numbers this year. The session starts Jan. 26. Last week, close to 120 people showed up for Equality Utah's "citizen lobbyist" training -- double the usual number.
Nikki Boyer, chairwoman of Utah's Stonewall Democrats and a lesbian involved in the movement for more than 40 years, compares the post-Prop 8 surge to earlier rallying points for the LGBT community, including the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and Anita Bryant's drive for anti-gay legislation in the 1970s.
"What's different with this [burst in activism] is now there are organizations and people in place who can carry on the message," Boyer says.
For the 66-year-old, it was inspiring to look over the crowd at the Temple Square rally and see so many young faces.
"I just hope it keeps up," she says. "I would like to see -- in my lifetime -- our civil rights given to us."
Salt Lake Tribune, January 17, 2009
Opponents file suit to annul gay marriages in California
SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) -- Opponents of same-sex marriage in the US state of California, who won a referendum blocking the unions last month, filed suit to annul thousands of gay marriages conducted in the state this year.
Californians in a November 4 referendum on "Proposition 8" voted 52.1 percent in favor of a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which the state Supreme Court had ruled permissible in June allowing some 18,000 gay couples to wed.
Also on Friday, California's Attorney General Edmund Brown called on the Supreme Court to invalidate Proposition 8 on grounds it deprives people of a right the high court deemed was guaranteed by the state constitution.
"Proposition 8 must be invalidated because the amendment process cannot be used to extinguish fundamental constitutional rights without compelling justification," Brown said in a statement.
Proposition 8 was backed by Christian conservative groups intent on reversing the Supreme Court decision that struck an article from the state constitution defining marriage exclusively as between a man and a woman.
Referendum proponents known as the "Protect Marriage" coalition on Friday took their campaign one step further, petitioning the Supreme Court to annul the gay marriages officiated so far in California.
"Proposition 8's brevity is matched by its clarity," the group said in its legal brief. "There are no conditional clauses, exceptions, exemptions, or exclusions: 'Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.'"
The anti-gay marriage initiative follows three lawsuits against Proposition 8 already filed in the Supreme Court, which last month said it would take up the issue at an undetermined date.
Two suits seeking to invalidate the plebiscite-backed constitutional amendment were filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the non-profit, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender agency Lambda Legal.
A third lawsuit has been filed by the cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Santa Clara.
Gay activists and officials in Los Angeles and San Francisco have said Proposition 8 implies a major constitutional revision requiring a more complicated process than a simple amendment, which is how the proposition advocates define their initiative.
Neither the ACLU nor Lambda returned AFP calls Friday for comments on the latest court filing.
Proposition 8 advocates on Friday also announced they had beefed up their legal team with former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who investigated the Monica Lewinsky affair during former president Bill Clinton's tenure.
Starr, dean of Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, California, will plead Proposition 8's case before the Supreme Court, the activists said.
After Proposition 8 passed, only two US states now allow marriage between people of the same gender: Massachusetts and Connecticut. Many other states expressly ban gay marriage in their constitutions.
Gay activists have been on the move since Proposition 8 was passed, organizing several demonstrations chiefly against the Mormon Church, which provided crucial funds for the California proposition campaign.
On December 10, gays across the United States held a "Day Without a Gay" demonstration, urging homosexuals to skip work as part of a protest against growing anti-gay sentiment.
Among the thousands of gay couples who tied the knot since June are talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres who married partner Portia de Rossi, and Japanese-American actor George Takei, better known as Star Trek's Mr Sulu, who married longtime partner Brad Altman.
AFP, December 20, 2008
California's Legal Tangle
The approval of Proposition 8 in California, a constitutional change designed to prohibit marriage between couples of the same sex, was not just a defeat for fairness. It raised serious legal questions about the validity of using the Election Day initiative process to obliterate an existing right for a targeted minority.
These deeper questions were largely lost during the expensive campaign by proponents of Proposition 8. Essentially, in their rush to enshrine bigotry in the State Constitution, they circumvented the procedure specified in that same document for making such a serious change. Now, the state's top court, which has agreed to hear the legal challenge to Proposition 8, has the unpleasant duty of tossing out a voter-approved ballot measure.
The case turns on whether Proposition 8 is a constitutional amendment, requiring only approval by a bare majority of voters, or a more far-reaching constitutional revision, requiring a two-step process: either a constitutional convention or a two-thirds vote of the State Legislature followed by voter ratification. The court, which has struck down several measures before, should not lightly overturn the will of the people. But it has not confronted a revision this far-reaching in terms of upsetting basic rights and the state's constitutional structure.
The court has correctly determined that the equal protection clause prohibits governmental discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which extends the right of marriage to same-sex couples. But the issue goes well beyond gay rights. Allowing Proposition 8 to stand would greatly limit the court's ability to uphold the basic rights of all Californians and preclude the Legislature from performing its constitutional duty to weigh such monumental changes before they go to voters.
Treating Proposition 8 as a mere amendment would set a precedent that could allow the rights of any minority group to be diminished by a small majority. The measure passed 52 percent to 48 percent.
In California, sitting judges are subject to elections, and some supporters of Proposition 8 raise the threat of trying to oust justices who do not go along with trouncing on people's rights and proper constitutional procedure. We trust the court will not be intimidated. The justices' job is to protect minority rights and the State Constitution - even when, for the moment at least, it may not be the popular thing to do.
New York Times, November 24, 2008
Uncivil Union: Catholic Prelate Says He Wooed Mormons For California Marriage Battle
By Joseph L. Conn
Mormons, Catholics and fundamentalists more or less regard each other as heretics but they put those differences aside temporarily to form a theocratic alliance.
The more you learn about California's Proposition 8, the more it raises church-state concerns.
When well-funded sectarian allies manipulate the democratic process to take away the civil rights of a small minority of Americans, fundamental constitutional safeguards are gravely jeopardized. Conservative religious forces wanted to write their theological viewpoint about marriage into civil law, and they didn't mind trampling on the rights of same-sex couples in the process.
In his column this week in Catholic San Francisco, Archbishop George H. Niederauer says his archdiocese didn't donate any funds to the campaign in favor of Prop. 8, but did pay for, and appropriately disclose, printing and distribution of flyers to parishes. He also casually reports that it was he - a Roman Catholic prelate - who recruited the mega-bucks Mormon Church into the battle over Prop. 8.
"Last May," recalls Niederauer, "the staff of the [state Catholic] Conference office informed me that leaders and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) had given their support to the campaign for Proposition 22 in the year 2000, and were already considering an involvement in connection with Proposition 8. Accordingly, I was asked to contact leaders of the LDS Church whom I had come to know during my eleven years as Bishop of Salt Lake City, to ask them to cooperate again, in this election cycle. I did write to them and they urged the members of their Church, especially those in California, to become involved."
As numerous news media accounts testify, wealthy Mormon Church members around the country subsequently poured millions of dollars and work-hours into the pro-Prop. 8 campaign. They did much of the heavy lifting while the Catholic hierarchy and evangelical and fundamentalist Protestant churches helped man the battle stations.
Mormons, Catholics and fundamentalists more or less regard each other as heretics - and ironically have significantly different theologies about marriage - but they put those differences aside temporarily to form a theocratic alliance.
Archbishop Niederauer brushes aside any church-state concerns with all of this.
"Some would say that, in light of the separation of church and state, churches should remain silent about any political matter," he asserts. "However, religious leaders in America have the constitutional right to speak out on issues of public policy."
But that comment just scratches the surface of this issue.
Of course, churches have a right to speak out on religious, moral and political issues. But Niederauer and his cronies did much more than that: they orchestrated a massive national political campaign to write their church teachings into civil law at the expense of a vulnerable minority.
The pro-Prop. 8 advertising campaign was divisive and often deceptive. Voters certainly were never told that church hierarchs were plotting behind the scenes to impose church dogma on the state through constitutional fiat.
Many Americans, both gay and straight, are outraged at this sequence of events, and the more they learn, the madder they get. Some of them are even protesting outside Mormon, Catholic and evangelical congregations that spearheaded the Prop. 8 drive.
That upsets Niederauer. In his column, he deplores the heated dialogue and grouses, "We need to be able to disagree without being disagreeable."
Easy for him to say: Nobody manipulated the political process to remove his civil rights. Frankly, when churches plunge into politics, they have to expect the give and take that goes on in the public square. If you can't stand the heat, as Harry Truman put it, get out of the kitchen.
Proposition 8 is now before the California Supreme Court. Here's hoping the justices examine the issues carefully - and keep church-state separation in mind.
The blog of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, December 4, 2008
Prop. 8 divides Mormon family during the holidays
By Herman Wong
In fewer than five months, Billy Hutchinson's parents went from smiling at his wedding to voting against his marriage. Raised as Mormons, neither Hutchison nor his longtime partner, Scott Wilkinson, was surprised when the Church of Latter-Day Saints came out in support of Proposition 8. But Hutchinson never anticipated that his parents would donate $200 to support California's gay marriage ban. Now Wilkinson wants nothing to do with his in-laws. The annual Christmas visit to see the folks in Calaveras County is off, and Hutchinson feels caught in the middle. "I don't know what to do now," he says.
The couple's gay and Mormon lives have come into conflict before. Wilkinson says Brigham Young University expelled him for being homosexual (in an et tu moment, he says he was turned in by a "reformed lesbian";). Hutchinson, meanwhile, came out to his parents when he opted out of going on the customary mission, worried he'd fall in love with one of his fellow missionaries.
The two men, who live in San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood, met on a day trip organized by mutual friends to see the Calaveras sequoias in 1993. Mormon talk was an icebreaker, and their religion wound up playing a key role in their relationship. "We're monogamous because of [Mormon values] and the example of our parents," Hutchinson says.
The partners have made trips to the altar several times now. The first time was in Vermont in 2000. They got hitched again at San Francisco City Hall on Valentine's Day in 2004, only to have the union disqualified by the courts. Their most recent wedding came in June, and was their best-attended ceremony: 20 friends came to celebrate, as did Hutchinson's father, Jack, and sister, Rose. His mother, Billie, had difficulty getting time off work, but there she was on his doorstep the night before the nuptials. "This time in June felt the best because my family was there," Hutchinson says.
Then Prop. 8 happened. Billie pushed for the donation, believing it was what her religion wanted, Rose says. Hutchinson and his partner say they found out about the campaign contribution (made in September) only when Wilkinson stumbled upon Jack's name while scanning donor lists for his old church friends. Hutchinson says his parents explained that it was about protecting the church from lawsuits for refusing to allow gay weddings in their chapels. Rose says her family would love to support gay marriage, but that marriage doesn't belong to them, but to God.
Hutchinson and Wilkinson intend to officially leave the church, but familial wounds linger. Deluged by work, Hutchinson hasn't yet had time for the inevitable long conversation. So his family waits. "I don't want to lose my brother," says Rose, on the verge of tears.
Prop. 8 sold itself as pro-family: Its signs feature the silhouettes of a man, woman, and two children holding up the words "Yes on 8." But for the Hutchinsons, Prop. 8 detonated the nuclear family.
SF Weekly, December 17, 2008
Mormons and Proposition 8
By Lola Van Wagenen
Of all people, Mormons should be sensitive to those seeking nontraditional unions.
Reports that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a big supporter of Proposition 8 should sadden all Mormons. Based on the unique history of Mormons, there is no religious group in our country that should be more tolerant of "nontraditional" forms of marriage than those of us whose ancestors were polygamist Mormons, who were persecuted because of their "nontraditional" marriages.
Have today's Latter-day Saints forgotten that in the 19th century, our ancestors were violently and relentlessly attacked for their "peculiar institution"? Have they forgotten that they pleaded for understanding and tried in vain to prove that they were good parents? Have they forgotten that Utah territory gave our great-great-grandmothers the right to vote in part to prove that they were not downtrodden, and that these ancestors prayed to the Lord for the protection of "celestial marriage" against the hatred directed at Mormons?
Our polygamous ancestors were accused of being incapable of providing loving homes for their children. Who knows better than we do that this was untrue? Who can deny that our "nontraditional" ancestors left a heritage of hardworking, high-achieving progeny. And yet the fallacy that "nontraditional" marriages erode and destroy family values is one of the main attacks being used against gay and lesbian couples by LDS proponents of Proposition 8.
Most Mormons today would concede that much of the continuing prejudice against the LDS church persists because of our history of "nontraditional" marriage, even though 118 years have passed since the church abandoned polygamy. Still, what religious group has known more hatred and persecution in America than our families? And it lingers. Have today's Mormons not learned to fight against prejudice and the vilification of people who happen to be different?
Returning to my Mormon roots as a historian has deepened my appreciation for, and gratitude to, my ancestors -- for their struggles and their sacrifices that living in "nontraditional" marriages demanded. My great-great-grandfather was jailed for his marriage, a history that I share with so many practicing Mormons. Given the Mormon experience, why are today's Latter-day Saints not in the vanguard of pleading for acceptance, equal rights and compassion for all Americans? They should be standing up in opposition to Proposition 8, knowing that loving homes and good parenting can come equally from "nontraditional" or "traditional" marriages.
Los Angeles Times, November 1, 2008
The Long March to the Mormon Temple
by Patrick Range McDonald
It was a little before ten o'clock on Wednesday evening, the day after Proposition 8 appeared to be approved by the voters of California, when Levi Jackman Foster arrived at the Los Angeles Mormon Temple in Westwood. He was 22-years-old, gay, and angry. Foster, a handsome blond with short hair and a two-day beard, was also an ex-Mormon.
"I completely abandoned the church because they abandoned me," Foster explained, as he stood on the sidewalk on Santa Monica Boulevard.
Foster, who wore a gray sweater, dark jeans, and leather boots, had just walked four miles from West Hollywood. Two hours earlier, several thousand gays, lesbians, and their straight friends gathered at San Vicente and Santa Monica boulevards for a rally opposing the passage of Proposition 8, the ballot measure that eliminates the right of gays and lesbians to legally marry in California. His friend, Sean Hemeon, another ex-Mormon and a former boyfriend of Foster's, had made the march with him.
"When I heard people talking about walking to the temple," said Hemeon, "I knew I had to go."
Hemeon was also handsome, 27-years-old, and wore leather shoes, blue jeans, and a dark jacket. Both of the young men were better dressed for a night of club hopping than demonstrating on the streets of Los Angeles, but they were very serious about the long walk they had just completed with a hundred or so strangers, who carried "No on 8" signs and chanted "Equal rights!"
"Proposition 8 is tearing my family apart," said Foster, who then explained that his parents had donated money and voted in favor of Proposition 8. "They weren't going to vote on it," Foster continued, "but the church told them to, so they did. They also gave money to 'Yes on 8' because the church told them to do that." Members of the Mormon church had contributed tens of millions of dollars to the "Yes on 8" campaign.
By this time, Foster was getting antsy, and led a group away from the wrought iron gates on Santa Monica Boulevard and toward a side street and up to the gates at the front entrance. Two guards in white shirts and black jackets stood on the other side of the gates, waiting for the "No on 8" crowd.
"The Mormons have been oppressed minorities in the past," Foster said, "and now they're doing the same thing to us. It's something the church doesn't get."
Foster kept walking to the gate, and Hemeon followed. Hemeon was thinking about how things went wrong on Tuesday night.
"A lot of gay men sat back and expected other people to do the work," he said. "I was one of them."
Hemeon never would have gotten involved in the "No on 8" campaign, where he worked at a phone bank and handed out literature on Election Day, until he visited his brother in another part of California. When Hemeon drove up to the house, he saw a "Yes on 8" sign in the front yard.
"I didn't say anything at the time," Hemeon recalled, "but he knew I wasn't happy. He could see it on my face."
That happened three weeks ago. As soon as Hemeon returned to West Hollywood, where he lives, he volunteered for the "No on 8" campaign. Hemeon also sent his brother an email, telling him what he thought about the sign and that he still loved him.
"I didn't get a response back until twenty minutes after the LA Times called the vote for the 'Yes' side," he said with a bit of disappointment. "I haven't responded to him yet, but I will."
Foster stood at the gate and looked at the guards.
"Is there someone we can have a dialogue with?" he asked.
The guard told him the church was closed for the evening and no one was around. Foster stared at them. Hemeon looked at the crowd and smiled.
"In some ways, I think this thing is great," he said. "It's making us face ourselves and what we have to do for equality, and it's making my family and I talk about these things."
Foster then led the crowd back to the gates on Santa Monica Boulevard. Just before everyone started the four-mile walk to West Hollywood, he gathered them around.
"There are Mormons here tonight who have been kicked out their homes," he told them, "so we need to show up tomorrow and let them what we think!"
The crowd roared, and Hemeon said he, too, would come back to the temple for the "No on 8" rally on Thursday, even though it started in the middle of the day at 2 p.m.
"I feel like I have to be," he said. "It's a part of my healing process."
Hemeon and Foster found a ride back to West Hollywood and joined the crowd that still stood in the middle of San Vicente and Santa Monica boulevards at eleven-thirty at night. The chants, clapping, and whistles drowned out the dance music coming out from Rage, a nearby gay nightclub. People like Hemeon and Foster could be heard from several blocks away.
Los Angeles Weekly, November 6, 2008
Prop. 8 backers splinter as court fight resumes
John Wildermuth, Chronicle Staff Writer
The group that persuaded California voters this month to pass Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage, now is fighting its friends as well as its foes.
Other conservative groups that loudly backed Prop. 8 are being targeted as too extreme and off-putting by ProtectMarriage.com, which put the constitutional amendment on the Nov. 4 ballot and hopes to help persuade the state Supreme Court to uphold the measure.
"We represent the people who got things done, who got Prop. 8 passed," said Andrew Pugno, general counsel for the Yes on Prop. 8 campaign. "An important part of defending Prop. 8 is eliminating arguments not helpful to our concerns."
Pugno, for example, persuaded the Supreme Court last week to bar the Campaign for California Families from intervening in the court case over the validity of Prop. 8 and the same-sex marriage ban.
"That organization represents the extreme fringe and is not representative of the coalition that got it passed," Pugno said. "They didn't even support Prop. 8 until sometime in the summer."
People associated with the group didn't expect the Prop. 8 campaign's efforts to push them to the sidelines.
"I'm surprised, because we've litigated beside each other for 4 1/2 years" in the unsuccessful effort to keep the Supreme Court from overturning Prop. 22 same-sex marriage ban in 2000, said Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, which represents the Campaign for California Families. "We have the same goal, which is to defend Prop. 8."
The group is run by Randy Thomasson, who for years has been one of California's most visible opponents of gay rights and what he bills as "the homosexual agenda."
The people behind Prop. 8 have been butting heads with Thomasson for years, arguing that his efforts to outlaw same-sex marriage and curb domestic partnership arrangements are a long step further than a majority of California voters is willing to go.
In 2005 and again in January, Thomasson and his allies proposed initiatives that not only would bar same-sex marriage but that also "voids or makes unenforceable" rights conferred by California law on couples, gay or heterosexual, registered as domestic partners, including community property, child custody, hospital visitation and insurance benefits.
"It was like the nuclear option to obliterate the entire domestic partners law," Pugno said. "We were constantly hassled by that organization, who thought we weren't aggressive enough."
Limiting the range of the ballot measure - and making a point to avoid direct attacks on gays, lesbians and same-sex couples during the campaign - made political sense for the Prop. 8 strategists.
Of the 31 "defense of marriage" measures that have gone on ballots across the nation, the only one that lost was a 2006 Arizona constitutional amendment that also would have banned legal recognition of many domestic partnership benefits. When Arizona groups put a measure on the Nov. 4 ballot aimed solely at barring same-sex marriage, it passed easily.
A Field Poll released in May showed that nearly a third of California voters opposed same-sex marriage, but still believed gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to have civil unions granting them the rights of married couples. Surveys done earlier this year by GOP pollsters also showed that any measure attacking domestic partnership rights had little or no chance of passing in California.
"We wanted to be singularly focused on defending and protecting marriage," Pugno said.
Policy disputes shouldn't spill over into public attacks, said Staver.
"The CCF originally had a version of the marriage amendment that was much larger and comprehensive, but they abandoned that and supported Prop. 8," he said. "Different people have different views. Moving in the same direction to protect marriage is more important than singing from the same song sheet."
But the disputes between the groups have grown in the past few days, with Thomasson launching an all-out attack against the Supreme Court for accepting the challenge to Prop. 8, a court decision Pugno and others from ProtectMarriage.com had welcomed.
"If the court disobeys the constitution by voiding Prop. 8, it will ignite a voter revolt," Thomasson said in statement released after the court agreed Wednesday to hear arguments over the validity of the constitutional amendment. "The court is playing with fire by threatening to destroy the people's vote on marriage."
Pugno and others from the Prop. 8 campaign want to avoid such fiery challenges and threats to the court and keep matters on a quiet legal level until the court rules on same-sex marriage sometime after March.
"What we are not doing is discussing the possibility of recalling justices who oppose us," Ron Prentice, chairman of the Yes on Prop. 8 effort, said in an e-mail to supporters Wednesday. "Making threats to recall justices from office is counterproductive and harmful to our chances of winning in court."
Money also is part of the dispute. While ProtectMarriage.com collected almost all of the nearly $40 million raised to back Prop. 8, Thomasson's group and others gathered money to support their own efforts to pass the same-sex marriage ban.
But Prentice argued that "some other groups are attempting to use the passage of Prop. 8 for fundraising and publicity purposes," and Pugno said his group had unsuccessfully tried to stop the groups from claiming they were part of the official Prop. 8 effort.
Ballot measures don't belong to anyone or any group, Staver argued for the Campaign for Children and Families.
"There were a lot of different organizations and people that supported Prop. 8, but not through the official campaign," he said. "Did we give money directly to them? No. But did we encourage people to support Prop. 8? Absolutely."
San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, November 23, 2008
[LDS] Church Readies Members on Proposition 8
As the Proposition 8 campaign in support of traditional marriage enters its last two weeks, the Protect Marriage Coalition is encouraging its members to make phone calls in support of the measure. The Church is participating with the Coalition in support of this endeavor.
The Church has requested that phone calls made from Church members be made by California registered voters. Members of other faiths are also making phone calls at the request of the Coalition.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are California citizens currently living out of the state are being organized to make phone calls in support of Proposition 8, if needed.
At the request of the Protect Marriage Coalition, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is making arrangements for them to call friends, family and fellow citizens in California to urge support of the effort to defend traditional marriage. The coalition has asked members of the many participating churches and organizations to contribute in whatever way they can to the effort to pass Proposition 8, including by phoning.
"It is a combination of two things," said Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Church's Presidency of the Seventy. "We are looking at options to fulfill a request from the coalition to help with phone calls to encourage support of Proposition 8. We're also responding to the many requests we have had from students and others who want to help. Making phone calls is something they can do."
Elder Clayton said that no decision had yet been made by the coalition on whether to activate any phone volunteers outside of California.
Although many Church members other than Californians have expressed a desire to help, the out-of-state effort will stay focused on Californians for the time being. No calls have yet been made from outside of California other than a handful of calls to test the system.
In addition, in a satellite broadcast that took place tonight for Californian Church members, Elders M. Russell Ballard, Quentin L. Cook and L. Whitney Clayton addressed the Church's doctrine of marriage and participation in the Protect Marriage Coalition.
Proposition 8, on which Californians will vote on 4 November, defines marriage in California as between a man and a woman.
Newsroom, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, October 8, 2008
Judge rejects bid to keep names of anti-gay marriage initiative backers secret
By Aurelio Rojas
A federal judge Thursday denied a request by Proposition 8 supporters to withhold disclosure of late campaign donors to California's same-sex marriage ban, saying the public has a right to know.
Claiming donors have been harassed, attorneys for Proposition 8 had sought a preliminary injunction to keep secret the identities of 1,600 donors who made contributions just before or after voters approved the measure on Nov. 4.
They asserted that First Amendment rights to be free from retaliation outweigh the state's interest in disclosure.
But U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr. sided with the state after hearing more than an hour of oral arguments in Sacramento.
"The court finds the state is not facilitating retaliation by compelling disclosure," England said.
Late donations are scheduled to be filed to the state by Monday, which Yes on 8 campaign attorneys argued will unleash a new round of retaliation against donors, including some whose businesses have been boycotted.
Lawrence Woodlock, an attorney for the state Fair Political Practices Commission, argued most of the activity the plaintiffs called harassment was actually protected free speech, such as boycotts, and those are not subject to criminal prosecution.
In denying the injunction, England said public disclosure is especially important in initiative campaigns because many campaign committees have vague names that obscure who is giving money.
"If there's ever a need to bring sunshine on a political issue, it is with a ballot measure," England said.
The Yes on 8 campaign submitted declarations by donors who claimed they have been harassed by e-mails, phone calls, postcards and even received death threats.
Richard Coleson, a Indiana-based elections law attorney hired by the campaign, told the court the harassment is having a "chilling" impact on donors.
He said some frightened donors say they will not contribute to defeat a ballot challenge to Proposition 8 that is being threatened by opponents if the California Supreme Court upholds its constitutionality.
Frank Schubert, Yes on 8 campaign manager, said he was disappointed the court did not grant a preliminary injunction.
But he said the campaign would continue to press its case in Sacramento and "possibly" appeal to the 9th District Court of Appeal in San Francisco.
Roman Porter, executive director of the Fair Political Practices Commission, called Thursday's ruling "a victory for the people of California."
"The commission," he said, "will continue to vigorously defend any suit brought against disclosure of campaign statements."
California's Political Reform Act, which voters approved in 1974, requires the name, occupation and employer of any individual who makes a campaign contribution of $100 or more.
The Yes on 8 campaign challenged the legality of the $100 limit, arguing in court that relatively small donors are being harassed because the limit has not been adjusted for inflation.
The judge declined to raise the limit, noting that most states have lower limits.
He also dismissed the campaign's contention that it qualified for a narrow exception to campaign-donation disclosure laws granted by the U.S. Supreme Court for the NAACP in Alabama and Socialist Workers Party in Ohio.
England said the thousands of donors who contributed to Proposition 8 are not members of a group or political party, but diverse individuals.
Zackery Morrazzini, an attorney for Attorney General Jerry Brown and Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who were also named in the suit, said likening the Proposition 8 campaign to the NAACP and Socialist Workers Party was a stretch.
Those groups, he said, had a long history of being harassed and threatened.
Sacramento Bee, January 30, 2009
See copy of ruling here.
Utahns march for gays rights, 'Common Ground'
Gay rights -- Capitol marchers seek legislative approval
By Kirsten Stewart
Aside from a few rainbow flags, there was little to distinguish Saturday's gay rights demonstrators from any other group of civic-minded Americans.
Kathleen Chaplin drove from Draper to support her friends and neighbors who, the 47-year-old says, are entitled to "the same rights as anyone."
Lured from a Capitol Hill apartment, 20-somethings Devin Hirschi and Tiffany Gourley joined the fray, because says Gourley, "Everyone deserves to find love, no matter where they find it."
Mary McKenzie's motivation: outrage over California's passage of Proposition 8. This was her third time demonstrating, her 10-year-old son in tow.
"I don't understand why everyone isn't outraged about people's civil rights being taken away by popular vote, no matter their sexual preference, or how they feel about homosexuality," said the 35-year-old Clinton woman. "I'm not religious, but I would defend your right to practice your religion."
About 300 people braved driving rain to take part in Saturday's march on the Utah Capitol, a peaceful event marking possibly the most expansive legislative push for gay rights in state history.
Marchers made the soggy trek from Washington Square to the Capitol, chanting and carrying signs harkening the Civil Rights movement. When they reached their destination, speakers blasted the U2 song, "In the Name of Love."
The event was timed to coincide with Monday's start of the 2009 legislative session in which lawmakers will take up a bundle of bills collectively known as the Common Ground Initiative.
These five bills would make it illegal to fire an employee or evict a tenant for being gay or transgender, provide wider rights for inheritance and health insurance and give same-sex partners the ability to sue in cases of wrongful death, among other things.
"The era of discrimination, fear, hatred and prejudice is coming to an end, said openly gay Unitarian Church Reverend Sean Dennison, addressing the crowd. "I would like to see Utah take the surprising step and lead the way."
Backed by a coalition of 30 gay activist and human rights groups, the bills have been carefully crafted to avoid the loaded topic of gay marriage and to fit with statements issued by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the aftermath of Proposition 8 banning gay same-sex unions. Though steadfastly opposed to same-sex unions, the LDS Church has clarified it does not object to granting certain rights to same-sex couples.
Recent polls show a majority of Utahns favor increased legal protections for same-sex couples.
And ranking Republicans have said they'll seriously consider the bills.
"It's hard to get too excited. At least we're getting some consideration," said 50-year-old Brent Carter of West Jordan.
For Carter, Saturday's march was personal. He would like to be able to make medical decisions for his partner of eight years. And he's hoping to get on his partner's health insurance plan.
"It would save us a lot of money," he said.
Others were more hopeful.
Said Landa Mavety of Draper who postponed a Saturday of housecleaning to support her 23-year-old lesbian daughter: "There's a long road ahead, but this is a beginning."
The Salt Lake Tribune, January 25, 2008
FPPC gets new complaint over Prop. 8 campaign
By Susan Ferriss
An additional complaint about the Mormon church's support for Proposition 8 rolled into the state's Fair Political Practices Commission this week.
Roman Porter, the FPPC's executive director, confirmed Friday receiving a request for more investigation � with links to alleged Mormon insider documents � from Fred Karger of the group Californians Against Hate.
Karger's complaint, dated Thursday, asks the commission to look more deeply into whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spent far more staff time and money on Proposition 8 than officially disclosed. The complaint will be added to the original one that Karger filed last November, Porter said.
Karger accuses the Mormon church of setting up the National Organization for Marriage in 2007 to work to qualify Proposition 8 for the ballot last November. The group "came out of nowhere," he said, "and all of a sudden it began raising big, big money."
Karger said the alleged insider documents he obtained � he would not say where � reveal a pattern of the church setting up "front groups" to hide church financing to stop gay marriage.
In his complaint, he included alleged correspondence from the 1990s between Mormon church members involved in lobbying against gay-marriage proposals in Hawaii. The letters bear the signatures of then high-level Mormon representatives, and describe the need to lower the church's profile in the Hawaii effort by working with figures from other religions.
One June 1996 letter purportedly shows a Mormon church representative was aware that media were interested in probing church donations to the Hawaii coalition.
"We have organized things so the Church contribution was used in an area of coalition activity that does not have to be reported," the letter reads.
In an e-mailed statement, Mormon church spokeswoman Kim Farah denied establishing the National Organization for Marriage and said the church has reported its entire contribution of $190,000 to Proposition 8.
Farah said the church has not tried to verify the authenticity of the documents related to the Hawaii campaign against gay marriage.
Brian Brown, National Organization for Marriage's executive director and a Roman Catholic, said, "The only way to respond to Fred Karger is one word: ridiculous."
Brown said his group includes a Mormon board member and people of many other faiths. The early money used to get enough signatures to put Proposition 8 on the ballot came mostly from well-off Catholic individuals, he said.
Jeff Flint, a Proposition 8 campaign manager, accused Karger of "irrational hatred" of the Mormon church.
"I'm not exactly sure how to answer the latest conspiracy theory," Flint said.
Sacramento Bee, March 21, 2009
Gay rights group filing complaint in Prop 8 battleBy Jennifer Dobner, Associated Press Writer
SALT LAKE CITY -- The head of a gay rights group on Wednesday said he plans to file a second campaign finance complaint about the Mormon church's activities in the fall ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California.
Fred Karger, founder of Californians Against Hate, said The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints deliberately covered up its financial role in backing Proposition 8 by failing to file timely campaign finance reports as required by California law. Karger said it's possible the church spent millions more than it actually reported.
"I'm calling this Mormongate," Karger said. "I think there's been a massive cover-up."
Karger filed an initial complaint about the church with the California Fair Political Practices Commission in November. An investigation is under way.
A January 30 report shows the church gave $189,903.58 in non-monetary contributions to the Yes on 8 campaign.
The expenses included $97,000 for staff time and $21,000 for the use of church buildings and equipment. Most of the rest went for travel expenses, including airline tickets, hotels and meals.
The church reported no cash donations.
Church spokeswoman Kim Farah has said the value of the church's in-kind contributions is less than one-half of one percent of the $40.8 million raised by the campaign.
In response to the allegation that it tried to hide its support for Proposition 8, the church posted on its Web site a list of seven campaign finance reports dating back to the last summer.
According to the church, all filings went to the California Secretary of State, the Department of Elections for the City and County of San Francisco, and the Registrar-Recorder for Los Angeles.
Karger disputes the data called on the public to share any pertinent information about the church's activities related to Proposition 8. He said he's said up a Web site and a toll-free telephone number to recieve information.
Also Wednesday, Karger called for a boycott of car dealerships in Utah, California, Iowa and Texas owned by the Utah-based Ken Garff Automotive Group. Katherine Garff made an individual contribution of $100,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign, Karger said.
Garff's son, John Garff said the contribution was a personal decision made by his mother, and not a contribution from the company, which is politically neutral.
John Garff said the company has gay and lesbian employees, has a zero tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination in the workplace and offers a benefits package that is favorable to those in same-sex partnerships. In Utah, the automotive group is also a longtime contributor to the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy and education organization.
Mercury News, February 11, 2009
Santa Cruz Mormon family's quiet struggle illustrates complexity in Prop 8 fight
By Kurtis Alexander
SANTA CRUZ -- The last time Heather Pope saw her parents was two weeks before the November election during a brief visit from Utah.
Leaving behind her same-sex partner of seven years and their 7-month-old daughter, Pope was aware of the controversy unfolding with California's Proposition 8, the ballot measure that would establish a constitutional ban on gay marriage. But she didn't realize just how personal the political fight would become.
On the lawn of her parents' large house on the northern edge of Santa Cruz, where she had lived a little more than a decade ago, was a sign advocating passage of Proposition 8.
"It felt like a smack in the face," said Pope, who knew her family opposed gay marriage but, at 31, didn't expect their longtime differences would get to her. "It's funny that those things still bother me, but it did."
The disappointment, Pope knew, would run both ways.
For her parents, who had surrounded her with a close-knit family, given her a good education and grounded her in the Mormon faith, Heather's personal life was a personal affront.
Her parents' convictions ran deep. Heather's mother had stood on street corners and raised placards in support of Proposition 8. Her parents together gave $60,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign -- more than anyone in Santa Cruz County and among the biggest individual donations in the state.
Since Pope was in town to see her 14-year-old sister, she was determined to keep the issues with her parents from detracting from the visit. As she'd learned to do years ago, she would ignore the subject of her sexuality and leave the matter outside the home, even as the political signs stood in the front yard.
Today, months after the nation's most-watched ballot measure sailed to victory and barred same-sex marriage, the Proposition 8 sign no longer stands in front of the Pope house. The debate, however, continues.
The state Supreme Court will hear arguments today challenging the legality of Proposition 8, while for those like Heather whose families struggle to accept homosexuality, the issues at home remain equally unsettled.
A religious home
The Pope family home not far off Highway 17 in the Carbonera neighborhood is filled with musical instruments, sports equipment and the usual things you'd find in a place where five children have grown up.
It's also a home that has embraced the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with its traditional values and opposition to homosexuality.
"I have the responsibility to raise my family in the ways I see as appropriate," said Charles Pope, who joined his wife in an interview with the Sentinel in the living room of their home after the election.
The biggest reason the couple supports Proposition 8 and why they gave tens of thousands of dollars to the campaign, Gloria and Charles say, is to make sure the right message is sent to kids.
"For children growing up, thinking that they can go either way, I don't think that's healthy for society," Gloria said. "Let's give them the opportunity to learn about biology and reproduction before they have to deal with this."
For Charles, the problem was that the courts stepped in and, despite successful voter initiatives outlawing gay marriage, sanctioned something that goes against his core values.
"I don't impose my beliefs on them," he said. "I don't want them to impose their beliefs on me."
As a top manager at Seagate Technology, Charles said that he goes out of his way to keep his personal beliefs to himself, at least in public.
When an unmarried underling asked for time off after she became pregnant, for example, Charles said he was happy to accommodate her request and offer support. After another conversation with a co-worker brought to light his opposition to unmarried couples living together, his cohabiting colleague was surprised, Charles said, because his feelings had not been evident.
"I put all these people in the category of immoral," he said. "But has that affected our working relationship? No."
When it comes to their daughter Heather, Charles and Gloria's position is not compromised.
"There is a moral implication to acting on same-sex attraction," Charles said.
Gloria adds, "I'm still sad she didn't choose to fight it and live without the sexual intimacy."
They love her, they say, but not the way she lives. On their somewhat regular but "tense" visits with her, they say they try to ignore her lifestyle and say it's easier when her partner and child aren't around.
The tough truth
Heather came out to her parents 10 years ago, during a telephone conversation she says she rehearsed in her head but that still didn't come out as planned.
"At the time I told them I was bisexual," she said, speaking by phone from Utah. "I hadn't ruled out same-sex relationships, but felt like that was a softer blow."
Her parents didn't expect it.
"When she told us, we were in shock, we were depressed, all the reactions you can imagine," Gloria said.
Heather had already left Santa Cruz for college at Utah State University in Logan; she would later meet her partner Kasey in Salt Lake City. They bought a home together in the small town of Goshen, outside Provo.
By then, Heather's parents realized there was little they could do to change their daughter, outside hoping her Mormon upbringing would catch up with her.
Heather, who works as a graphic designer, says she still considers herself religious and sympathizes with elements of the Mormon Church.
"It's hard to sever your roots," she said. "I've done a lot of searching of religions and just haven't found my niche."
Many of the family values and the sense of community she learned from her parents have stuck with her. She e-mails pictures of her daughter, Zoe, to her parents and shares stories about her new family over the phone.
Her parents try to reciprocate, sending gifts to Zoe and Kasey and including them in family events.
But Heather says the attempts to connect fall short.
When Heather's parents visited her home in Goshen, they went by "Gloria" and "Charles" around Zoe, not "grandma" and "grandpa."
Zoe is Kasey's biological daughter through artificial insemination.
"They treat her very much like an acquaintance's kid," Heather said. "They won't see the baby as their granddaughter."
Walking by the Proposition 8 sign at her parents' home before the election, and past the placards in her mother's car that were destined for rallies against gay marriage, Heather acknowledged the differences of opinion were harder to handle than she had expected.
"It often feels like they don't show any respect," she said.
Heather's mother knew her daughter had struggled during the visit.
"I'm sure it bothered her," Gloria said. "I'm sure it hurt, as it does us."
But Gloria made it a point to keep her feelings to herself, and she expected her daughter to do the same.
"Heather was just really cool," her mother remembered. "She didn't say anything. She just focused on the family."
Both seem surprised that they still try to make things work.
"I think they're holding out hope that I'll come back to the church, and I'm holding out hope they'll accept Kasey and Zoe," Heather said. "But I think the reality is that neither of us is going to do what the other wants."
Mercury News, March 5, 2009
Mormon Leader: Religious Freedom at Risk
By The Associated Press
The anti-Mormon backlash after California voters overturned gay marriage last fall is similar to the intimidation of Southern blacks during the civil rights movement, a high-ranking Mormon said Tuesday.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks referred to gay marriage as an ''alleged civil right'' in an address at Brigham Young University-Idaho that church officials described as a significant commentary on current threats to religious freedom.
Oaks suggested that atheists and others are seeking to intimidate people of faith and silence their voices in the public square, according to his prepared remarks.
''The extent and nature of religious devotion in this nation is changing,'' said Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a church governing body. ''The tide of public opinion in favor of religion is receding, and this probably portends public pressures for laws that will impinge on religious freedom.''
Oaks' address comes as gay-rights activists mount a legal challenge to Proposition 8, the ballot measure that overturned gay marriage in California. His comments about civil rights angered gay rights supporters who consider the struggle to enact same-sex marriage laws as a major civil rights cause.
''Blacks were lynched and beaten and denied the right to vote by their government,'' said Marc Solomon, marriage director for Equality California, which spearheaded the No on 8 campaign. ''To compare that to criticism of Mormon leaders for encouraging people to give vast amounts of money to take away rights of a small minority group is illogical and deeply offensive.''
Solomon said the Mormon church hierarchy has every right to speak out, ''but in the public sphere, one should expect that people will disagree.''
In an interview Monday before the speech, Oaks said he did not consider it provocative to compare the treatment of Mormons in the election's aftermath to that of blacks in the civil rights era, and said he stands by the analogy.
''It may be offensive to some -- maybe because it hadn't occurred to them that they were putting themselves in the same category as people we deplore from that bygone era,'' said Oaks, a former Utah Supreme Court justice who clerked for Chief Justice Earl Warren at the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Salt Lake City-based Mormon church, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has shied from politics historically but was a key player in the pro-Proposition 8 coalition. The LDS First Presidency, its highest governing body, announced its support for Proposition 8 in a letter read at every California congregation, and individual Mormons heeded the church's calls to donate their money and time.
After the measure prevailed, its opponents focused much of their ire on Mormons, organizing boycotts of businesses with LDS ties and protests at Mormon worship places. While some demonstrations were peaceful, in others church windows were shattered and slurs were hurled at the church's founding fathers.
Some of the most pointed comments in Oaks' Tuesday address focus on Proposition 8. Oaks said the free exercise of religion is threatened by those who believe it conflicts with ''the newly alleged 'civil right' of same-gender couples to enjoy the privileges of marriage.''
''Those who seek to change the foundation of marriage should not be allowed to pretend that those who defend the ancient order are trampling on civil rights,'' Oaks said. ''The supporters of Proposition 8 were exercising their constitutional right to defend the institution of marriage ...''
Oaks said that while ''aggressive intimidation'' connected to Proposition 8 was primarily directed at religious people and symbols, ''it was not anti-religious as such.'' He called the incidents ''expressions of outrage against those who disagreed with the gay-rights position and had prevailed in a public contest.''
''As such, these incidents of 'violence and intimidation' are not so much anti-religious as anti-democratic,'' he said. ''In their effect they are like well-known and widely condemned voter-intimidation of blacks in the South that produced corrective federal civil-rights legislation.''
The Mormon church has faced criticism for its past stances on race; it wasn't until 1978 that the church lifted a prohibition that denied full church membership to black men of African descent.
In an interview Monday, Oaks said the Proposition 8 saga was one of several trends that motivated him to deliver the address, but it was ''not the trigger.''
''There are civil rights involved in this -- the right to speak your mind, to participate in the election,'' Oaks said. ''But you don't have a civil right to win an election or retaliate against those who prevail.''
Fred Karger, founder of the gay rights group Californians Against Hate, said Oaks' speech is part of a public relations offensive to ''try to turn the tables on what has been a complete disaster for the Mormon church ... They are trying to be the victim here. They're not. They're the perpetrators.''
In his address, Oaks also rejected any religious test for public office. He said that if ''a candidate is seen to be rejected at the ballot box primarily because of religious belief or affiliation, the precious free exercise of religion is weakened at its foundation ...''
In the interview Monday, Oaks said he was referring in part to the 2008 presidential bid of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whose Mormon faith troubled some evangelicals.
New York Times, October 13, 2009
Walsh: Chris Buttars, George Wallace - brothers in arms?
By Rebecca Walsh, Tribune columnist
It feels like 1963.
A diminutive girl in a skirt is just trying to go to school. And a racist relic of a politician is blocking the door.
Chris Buttars -- a.k.a. "the mouth" -- is Utah's George Wallace. And Elaine Ball -- a.k.a. "pumpkin bread girl" -- is playing student Vivian Malone.
It's been nearly half a century since school desegregation played out in that stark confrontation between a girl and a governor. And Buttars seems completely unaware of history -- at least the part where he's on the wrong side of it.
But Ball has been brushing up.
In the weeks after Proposition 8 scraped Utah raw, the 24-year-old linguistics student decided there was a better way to help her neighbors figure out she's a human being first, bisexual second. So she organized leaf-raking parties and snow-shoveling brigades and baked that bread for Buttars. It's called Pride in Your Community. Ball is going to kill homophobia with kindness.
"We need to come together," she says. "These are the people who work with you, who you employ, who you give housing to. We want people to see that we're real. We don't want to be compared to radical Muslims."
Kilo Zamora, director of the Inclusion Center, calls Ball's tactics "unusual and beautiful."
They were lost on Buttars.
He suffered through her little visit. Then, two weeks later, he confided his deepest darkest fears of "pig sex" and Sodom and Gomorrah and a gay-rights-driven end of days to a gay documentary filmmaker. Apparently self-aware enough to realize he'd said too much, he thought he could censor his comments before the film was released. So, he blamed the filmmaker specifically and the "left-leaning media" in general when a "friendly interview" blew up in his face. Again. Almost a year to the day since his "black baby" comment.
"I would rather be censured for doing what I think is right than be honored by my colleagues for bowing to the pressure of a special-interest group that has been allowed to act with impunity," Buttars says.
Just like Wallace -- a victim of his own bile. He refuses to apologize or resign.
And why should he? He handily won re-election representing West Jordan, South Jordan and Herriman on the whisper of a rumor that his opponent was gay. When Senate President Michael Waddoups says Buttars is representing his constituents, he's right.
Unable to defend Buttars' racist comments last year, senators used a threatening letter to a judge as an excuse for censure. Confronted again this year by his verbal diarrhea, the new senate president (who owes his job to a vote from Buttars) stood "four-square" behind the homophobe's right to say whatever hateful, violence-inciting thing he likes about gays.
Still trying to tamp down the controversy, Waddoups yanked Buttars from the Senate Judiciary Committee -- he said it would free up the arch-conservative lawmaker to say more. And Republican Utah senators downplayed the Buttars backlash as so much hyper-political correctness. It's still OK to compare gay activists to terrorists, question their morals and wonder about their sex lives.
"We agree with many of the things he said," Waddoups says. "We may disagree with some of what he said. We may disagree with the way he said it."
What parts do Republican senators agree with? They won't say.
An LDS Church spokesman hastened to clarify late last week that Buttars "does not speak for the church."
The kind of bone-deep, dehumanizing hatred Buttars spews is dangerous.
Utah has had its Matthew Shepard. In 1993, after a night of drinking, drugs and an attempted kiss, a Nevada cowboy tracked down 31-year-old Douglas Koehler on a Park City street and shot him between the eyes. Judge David Young said Koehler contributed to the circumstances of his death and let his killer off with six years in prison.
Last weekend, the Utah Pride Center was burglarized.
Buttars says we'll look back on this moment in history and see it as a "crossroads." Just not the crossroads he thinks.
As Unitarian minister Tom Goldsmith says: "Time's on our side. The old bigots are going to die. It's the younger generation that's going to carry the standard."
Like Elaine Ball. She and her pumpkin bread will be here long after Buttars is gone.
Salt Lake Tribune, February 22, 2009
New LDS ward email about gay civil unions attracts attention
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - It appears a LDS Church Ward in the midwest is now getting involved in another state's battle over gay rights and doing so using what might be considered very unusual language.
ABC 4 has uncovered a purported LDS Church Ward email dealing with Illinois' new proposed law dealing with civil unions.
The LDS Church, of course, played a significant role in passing Prop 8.
That California ballot measure banned gay marriage there.
And Thursday - about the same time the California Supreme Court hears a landmark case about Prop 8 - the Illinois legislature takes up the issue of gay civil unions.
Once again, the LDS Church is involved.
Reportedly, an email was sent out via a LDS Church ward website to all members of the Nauvoo, Illinois 3rd ward.
It asks Nauvoo 3rd Ward members to help defeat Illinois house bill 2234.
This bill would create legal civil unions in Illinois.
And it has a big committee hearing before Illinois legislators Thursday morning.
But what's unusual about the email is some of the strong language it uses.
"As has already been seen in Massachusetts, this will empower the public schools to begin teaching this lifestyle to our young children..."
and later the email goes on to say,
"It will also create grounds for rewriting all social mores; the current push in Massachusetts is to recognize and legalize all transgender rights (an individual in Massachusetts can now change their drivers license to the gender they believe themselves to be, regardless of actual gender, which means that confused men and women are now legally entering one another's bathrooms and locker rooms. What kind of a safety issue is this for our children?)
But what presumably was meant just for Nauvoo Illinois 3rd Ward LDS members, is now appearing on the internet.
ABC 4 will have more on this story as it develops.
abc4.com, March 4, 2009
Can social conservatives assimilate the LDS into their movement?
By Michael Brendan Dougherty
In 1898, B.H. Roberts, a high-ranking member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was elected to represent Utah in the House. At the time, Americans could grudgingly accept a Mormon politician as long as he wasn't too Mormon. But Roberts still lived with the three wives he had married before the LDS church ended polygamy. Protestant ministerial associations and newspapers like the New York Evening Journal petitioned Congress to refuse Roberts his seat. The voices of rectitude delivered 7 million signatures written on 28 scrolls wrapped in the American flag to the Capitol. The House voted 268-50 against Roberts. His seat was given to a one-woman Mormon whose faith could be glossed over.
Over a century later, assertive Mormonism may find its political home in the conservative movement. The faith that once seemed like a threat to Christian values is increasingly viewed as an ally by social conservatives looking for recruits in the culture war. As Mormons have stepped forward to lead efforts against gay marriage, the enmity of liberals to the LDS church has increased. But evangelical hostility to Mormonism seems to be melting into acceptance, even admiration.
The "not-too Mormon" rule lingered from Roberts's time to Mitt Romney's recent presidential campaign, despite the impressive progress Mormons have made in politics. America's 5.5 million Latter Day Saints make up just 1.6 percent of the population yet hold over 5 percent of congressional seats. Their ranks include Republican firebrand Jeff Flake and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Church leaders like Ezra Taft Benson have served honorably in appointed office, and George W. Bush awarded LDS President Gordon B. Hinkley the Medal of Freedom.
But few elected officials have made Mormonism integral to their political identity -- for good reason. Early in Romney's campaign, USA Today reported, "as far back as 1967, only three quarters of Americans said they would vote for an otherwise well qualified person who was a Mormon." Some 40 years later -- the results to this question are almost exactly the same." After Romney delivered his "Faith in America" speech addressing the Mormon question directly, Lawrence O'Donnell railed on The McLaughlin Group, "Romney comes from a religion that was founded by a criminal who was anti-American, pro-slavery, and a rapist!"
Though many religious conservative leaders hoped to endorse Romney, they found that a sizable portion of their flocks shared O'Donnell's sentiments. James Dobson told talk-show host Laura Ingraham, "I don't believe that conservative Christians will vote for a Mormon, but that remains to be seen, I guess." Popular evangelical radio-preacher Bill Keller warned, "If you vote for Mitt Romney, you are voting for Satan!"
Romney's campaign was derailed when Evangelicals turned to Baptist preacher-turned-politician, Mike Huckabee. His enthusiastic reception at the Values Voters conference prevented Dobson and other Religious Right leaders from endorsing Romney. Huckabee poked at Romney's faith, asking a New York Times reporter, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?" His strong showing among evangelical voters in the South doomed Romney's bid.
But evangelical hostilities don't last forever. When John F. Kennedy ran for president, many conservative evangelicals believed the Pope was the antichrist. The president of the National Association of Evangelicals warned, "Public opinion is changing in favor of the church of Rome. We dare not sit idly by -- voiceless and voteless." But two decades later, as Catholics took the lead in protesting abortion, evangelicals gradually traded theological rivalry for political co-operation. The alliance has become so natural that evangelicals were willing to reject co-religionist Harriet Miers as a nominee for the Supreme Court in favor of the more qualified Catholic Samuel Alito.
The same process of assimilation into the social conservative movement may be taking place for Mormons. Soon after the California Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage constitutional, Catholic Bishop of San Francisco George Niederauer asked the LDS church to join a multifaith coalition against gay marriage. By June, Elder Lance Wickman, a top LDS official, called Prop 8 "The Gettysburg of the culture war." Church members fell in line, ready for a fight.
The LDS church rarely involves itself directly in politics, and its effort in California's �Protect Marriage Coalition� represented a shift in church policy. In a satellite simulcast from Salt Lake City to Californian church members, Elder Clinton Cook instructed, "Give your best to this most significant effort to support in every way possible, the sacred institution of marriage."
Mormons' best efforts proved essential. Though California's 770,000 Latter Day Saints make up two percent of the population, Mormons contributed over half of the $40 million used in the Prop 8 battle. In the last two weeks of the campaign, the Protect Marriage Coalition received a $1 million donation from Alan C. Ashton, grandson of a former president of the LDS church. Not only did Mormons give money, they gave time. One strategist for Protect Marriage, Jeff Flint, estimated that Mormons made up 80 to 90 percent of the early door-to-door volunteers. Freg Karger, a leader of Californians Against Hate and Prop 8 opponent, says, �We were surprised by how heavy they came into this. Without their millions of dollars and ground troops, it would have been a very different `Yes on 8�campaign.�
Long known as reliable fundraisers and behind-the-scenes organizers in Republican politics, Mormons made Proposition 8 their coming out party as a social conservative force. But their involvement came at a price. Justin Hart, a member of the LDS church and a conservative commentator, laments, "There was this huge target put on our backs."
In the final days of the campaign, a pro-gay marriage ad, "Home Invasion," depicted Mormon missionaries ransacking the home of a lesbian couple, taking their wedding rings, and tearing up their marriage license. Tom Hanks called Mormon Prop 8 supporters, "un-American." One Utah lawyer, Nadine Hansen, set up a website, Mormonsfor8.com, which encouraged dissenting Mormons to �out� contributors to "Yes for 8" as Mormons and post information about their wards and places of work.
Because of the backlash, Mormons have shied away from media coverage they cannot control. LDS members who were directly involved with Prop 8 have been asked not to comment to the media. But the institutional church has gone on a press offensive, inviting journalists into its newest temple and discussing their involvement in politics. Shrewdly, Mormon leaders have shifted the debate about marriage to a debate about free exercise of religion. Elder Clinton Cook in an address to LDS members warned that the acceptance of gay marriage would inevitably lead to �legal penalties and social ostracism� for the religious. In this formulation, Mormons are just one of many faith groups seeking to protect their freedom of conscience.
The combination of political strength Mormons demonstrated in the campaign and their perceived suffering afterwards has bonded them to other religious conservatives. "They wanted to show other religions that they saved them," Hart says. "When we get beat up in the press, it is a badge of honor. And in the conservative movement, it has endeared us to a lot of different groups. They say, "Wow, thanks to the Mormons for making it happen."
After Prop 8, evangelical opinion leaders exhorted their audiences to stop worrying and learn to love the Latter Day Saints. John Mark Reynolds, a professor at evangelical Biola University wrote, "In the battle for the family -- traditional Christians have no better friends than the Mormon faithful." A petition to thank the LDS church for its participation in the Prop 8 campaign circulated on conservative websites, and James Dobson signed it. Presbyterian writer John Schroeder said, �We Evangelicals must thank our Mormon cousins. They, along with our Catholic brethren, were better organized than us and that provided a base from which we could all work together to get this job done.�
Social conservatives stand to gain much from extending their coalition. As the Prop 8 campaign highlighted, Latter Day Saints offer resources and organization to a movement that often finds itself underfunded and adrift. But the downsides of such an alliance are significant. Though they are fast growing group, Mormons are still a religious minority, concentrated in the mountain West. Their historical and theological baggage may be too much for a mainstream political movement to bear. Evangelicals and Catholics have based their co-operation on a shared belief in the doctrines of the Nicene Creed. Mormons have a continuing revelation, one that many orthodox Christians believe to be flexible in the face of political exigencies. Polygamy was suspended in the LDS church once statehood was offered to Utah, and blacks were allowed to enter the Mormon priesthood not long after protests made Mormon beliefs in the origin of racial differences a national embarrassment. Christia ns may ask: will the LDS church eventually leave behind its current social commitments?
There are downsides to an alliance for Mormons as well. By hitching themselves to the conservative movement, Mormons risk alienating many co-religionists who have enjoyed a religious community that has for several generations remained politically diverse.
Political realities have made social conservatives open to co-operation with Mormons. Without the LDS church, gay marriage would remain settled law in California. Losing ground among the young and the educated, social conservatives need to be creative in building a constituency for their ideas. But inviting the LDS into the movement will test the limits of co-belligerence. There is something amiss about a mutable and pluralistic coalition claiming to stand against the dictatorship of relativism.
The American Conservative, February 23, 2009
What's it like to be a Mormon progressive?
Greetings from Orem, Utah, where I'm attending a conference on "Mormonism in the Public Mind" at Utah Valley University. I'm here because I was the keynote speaker yesterday, talking about Mormonism and the media, and I'll have more to say about that, and some of my travels through Mormondom this week, a bit later. But first, some liveblogging.
This morning, a panel of three scholars took a look at Mormonism and politics, trying to extract lessons from three episodes -- the Romney campaign for president, the Proposition 8 campaign in California, and the quixotic campaign of a Utah Valley University professor, an active Mormon, who ran for the state Legislature as a Democrat in one of the most Republican areas of the country.
Boyd Petersen, the program coordinator for Mormon Studies at Utah Valley University, talked about his unsuccessful bid for the Utah Legislature, and what he learned about the close association between Mormons and the Republican Party. "Last year, I did something no sane person would do -- I ran for the state Legislature in Utah County as a Democrat -- one of the reddest county in one of the reddest states.'' Petersen described himself as "a socially conservative Democrat,'' and said his "most radical position" was that he opposed school vouchers. But what's it like to be a Mormon Democrat? This is what Petersen said:
"Many Mormon Democrats, such as me, experience frustration that we're not fully accepted into the Mormon Church tribe...Many of our fellow church members see us as apostates...Utah Mormons still ask the question, 'Can a good Mormon be a Democrat?' At times we progressive Mormons feel like we're not just a different tribe, but we're living on separate planets. The gap that divides us can seem quite unfathomable.''
Petersen argued that the strong association between Mormonism and Republicanism is not healthy for the religion, because political parties take members for granted. "Republicans know they have it in the bag, and Democrats know they don't have a chance,'' he said. Furthermore, he said, "I have known many students who have left the church because they felt excluded for progressive beliefs.''
Morris Thurston, a Mormon legal historian in southern California, talked about his experience as an active church participant who also opposed Proposition 8, the measure approved by California voters to outlaw same-sex marriage in that state. Thurston, who publicly attempted to rebut arguments in favor of Proposition 8, said that although some Mormons praised him, others "condemned me to hell for defying the prophet.'' He said there was an article in a Mormon publication that "likened those who opposed Prop. 8 to Lucifer," and said a leader in his own ward described "dissenters...like the wicked and adulterous people of Noah's Day." The campaign "was very stressful for me, and the negativity took its emotional toll,'' he said, adding, "it's difficult to be seen as a heretic.''
Thurston said he observed a very heavy involvement by the Mormon church in advocating for Proposition 8, citing meetings held in ward and stake buildings, conversations in which bishops urged members to become more active, talks in sacrament, priesthood and relief society meetings, and even commentary in fast day testimonies. "It would be difficult to understate the effectiveness of the LDS campaign,'' he said, citing doorbelling efforts, sign-holding, and election day efforts to get voters to the polls in support of Proposition 8. By contrast, he said, "the organizers of 'No on 8' came across as rank amateurs.'' Then, provocatively, Thurston noted that Brigham Young had supported slavery and opposed interracial relationships, and said, "continuing revelation sometimes results in leaders accepting conduct that earlier leaders have condemned, or condemning conduct that earlier leaders held sacred.'' Musing about the future of Mormon attitudes toward same-sex marriage, he said, "Is it possible revelation will be perceived that will change our attitudes towards our gay brothers and sisters?"
Taking a look at a different political issue, and from a different perspective, Kirk Jowers, the director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, examined the question of whether Romney's religion cost him the presidency -- an issue other scholars are also trying to evaluate. Jowers did not offer a conclusion, and did not discuss other problems with the Romney campaign, but made it clear that he believes anti-Mormonism was a key factor in Romney's disappointing performance in Iowa, which led rapidly to his withdrawal from the race. Jowers reviewed an array of anti-Mormon comments made during Romney's candidacy, and said, "religion was a critical part of his campaign...it was very difficult for him to just get a clear run.'' Jowers also said "that soft bigotry was put down with the hammer in Iowa" and "there's a great argument to be made that he lost Iowa due to his religion.''
Boston GlobeApril 3, 2009 12:48 PM
Booze, budget and Buttars highlight Utah session
By Brock Vergakis, Associated Press
An economic crisis, attempts to make Utah's liquor laws a little less odd and a state senator's comments about gay people dominated the 2009 legislative session.
The 45-day session was to end Thursday at midnight and much of the Legislature's time has been spent slashing state agency budgets.
Lawmakers had to make two rounds of cuts - one to the 2009 budget and another to the 2010 budget - to keep the state from going into the red.
All told, the state's nearly $10.9 billion budget will be about $600 million less than the one lawmakers approved last year. The gap would have been larger - the state had a $1 billion shortfall - but lawmakers are softening the cuts with federal stimulus money, allowing them to avoid raising taxes this year.
"It could've been much worse," Senate Majority Leader Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse said. "We feel encouraged that we'll experience an upswing quicker than other states because we think we're going to have some appeal to do business in Utah."
One of Gov. Jon Huntsman's primary economic development goals is to boost the state's $6 billion-a-year tourism industry, which those in the hospitality industry say has been held back by archaic liquor laws.
Utah is the only state in the country that requires customers to fill out an application and pay a membership fee - at least $4 for three weeks or $12 annually - before being allowed to walk into a bar. It is also the only state that prohibits bartenders from serving cocktails directly over bar counters, forcing servers to walk alcoholic drinks around the bar before serving them.
Huntsman pushed for the elimination of both laws to please tourists and send a message to the rest of the world that the state is welcoming to those who choose to have a drink. Surveys have shown that the state's confusing liquor laws and its teetotaling image - about 60 percent of its population is Mormon, a religion that tells its members to shun alcohol - are a hindrance to business and worker recruitment.
In exchange for loosening some of the strictest liquor laws in the country, Huntsman agreed to tougher DUI penalties and having the ID of anyone who looks younger than 35 scanned before going into a bar.
The effort was lauded by tourism leaders struggling to lure people to the state during an economic crisis.
The tourism industry's problems were exacerbated this winter by a proposed boycott of the state by some gay rights activists because of the Salt Lake City-based Mormon church's involvement in the Proposition 8 campaign to ban gay marriage in California.
During that campaign, the church said it wasn't opposed to some rights for gay people, but wanted to defend traditional marriage.
Gay rights activists in Utah had hoped to capitalize on those statements by passing a package of bills known as the Common Ground Initiative. Among other things, it would have given unmarried, financially dependent adults legal standing on inheritance matters, hospital visitation and the ability to sue in the event of a wrongful death.
However, conservative lawmakers rebuffed the package because they worried it could lead to a court recognizing gay marriages in Utah, even though the state has a constitutional amendment banning them.
One of the bills would have asked voters to repeal a ban on domestic unions, but it was pulled by the sponsor before ever getting a hearing with the hope other bills could advance.
Shortly thereafter, Huntsman publicly said for the first time he supported civil unions for gay people, although he said he wouldn't pursue making them legal in Utah.
Gay rights groups throughout the country applauded Huntsman for taking a stand in support of civil unions in one of the nation's most conservative states.
But the praise was short-lived.
Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, drew ire for saying in an interview with a documentary filmmaker that gay people lack morals and that gay activists are one of America's greatest threats.
Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, responded by removing Buttars' from a judiciary committee he chaired. Buttars frequently took pride in using his position on the committee to kill gay rights legislation.
However, Waddoups said he didn't remove Buttars' to punish him for making the comments. Instead, he said he wanted to remove a distraction.
Waddoups also said that his GOP colleagues agree with many of Buttars' statements, but he has refused to say which statements.
Among Republicans, only Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights, has publicly stated his disagreements with Buttars' statements.
"I think I could say that, to a person, everyone in our caucus supports traditional marriage. Many of us, however, feel that the tenor, the examples, some of the phrasing that Sen. Buttars used in his controversial comments, were intolerant and immoderate," Bell said during the session. "I don't believe that all gays have no morals whatsoever."
Buttars' comments led to calls for cultural sensitivity training by Democrats, but the GOP said it wasn't interested in requiring it for lawmakers.
Forbes.com, March 12, 2009
Utah's Gay Rights Failure
By Austin Smith
Upon hearing about the recent defeat of a number of bills, known as the Common Ground Initiative, that would have given more rights to gay couples in Utah, many BYU students may have responded with a cursory "Good" hastily thinking that the sanctity of marriage has been upheld and not giving the news another thought. Utahns' zeal to protect the traditional definition of marriage, however, was not under attack by these bills. Utah's Amendment 3 clearly and unequivocably defines marriage as only between a man and a woman; that was not in question. What fair-minded Utahns are challenging and disputing is the idea that being gay means you can be discriminated against without legal recourse, treated as a second-class citizen, and refused virtually any legal protections for you and your dependents. This idea is repugnant, and the fact that all of the Common Ground Initiative bills died before getting a real chance to be voted on is an abysmal failure on the part of Utah's legislature to protect its citizens and promote strong communities.
Before discussing the details of the proposed legislation, it is important to understand the background. This summer, during its involvement with the successful campaign to pass California's Proposition 8, the LDS Church repeatedly emphasized that its position was not anti-gay, but rather pro-marriage as traditionally defined. The church issued a statement saying it "does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches." It was in this context that Equality Utah, a gay-rights group, proposed the Common Ground Initiative: three bills that would have given gays and lesbians in Utah these exact rights, without jeopardizing the integrity of the traditional family or churches' rights. It is not easy to strike a balance that is acceptable to the LDS church, a majority of Utahns according to multiple polls, and gay rights groups, but this initiative succeeded in doing so. Sadly, it took just under a month for Utah legislators to vote down each of the bills in committee.
House Bill 267, introduced by Christine Johnson, was killed in committee. That means it remains legal in Utah to fire an employee or evict a tenant solely because of his or her sexual orientation. To be sure, employers are allowed to fire employees, and landlords may evict tenants for many reasons; this bill would have applied only to clear situations of discrimination, when employee performance or tenant behavior is ignored and the layoff or eviction is clearly motivated only by the discovery of the victim's sexual orientation. This is not a hypothetical situation: the Utah Department of Labor receives numerous reports of this exact situation occurring every month; however, a woman who is fired solely because she is a lesbian has no legal opportunities for recompense--her employer has acted completely legally under Utah State law. Besides the obvious miscarriage of justice, this practice of turning a blind eye to real discrimination hurts families, weakens the economy, and contributes to the conception that gays and lesbians are second-class citizens.
House Bill 160, introduced by Jennifer Seelig, was killed in committee. That means gay couples will not receive probate, hospitalization, or medical rights for their partner. Anyone who has had a loved one unexpectedly end up in the hospital understands the need to see and visit them. Far too often in Utah, hospitals have policies that only allow immediate family to visit patients, which means that committed partners in a homosexual relationship, who have shared their lives together for years, are not be able to see each other in such heart-wrenching moments. Again, gays and lesbians are relegated to second-class status, and again, the LDS church (among other fair-minded conservative organizations) is not opposed to such rights. What does society gain by keeping apart people who clearly love each other deeply in their times of greatest anguish?
Senate Bill 32, introduced by Scott McCoy, was killed in committee. That means that financial dependents of all kinds--whether gay partners or a grandmother who depends on a grandson for her living--face much higher obstacles to obtaining standing in court to sue in the case of a wrongful death. This bill would have directly helped both gay and straight Utahns who for whatever reason depend on someone other than a spouse, parent, or child for their income but whose breadwinner is killed due to negligence in the workplace or elsewhere. It makes sense for those whose loved ones are wrongfully killed be given standing to ask courts for redress; it would keep more people off of welfare rolls and endow more families with a greater sense of financial security.
The most common argument against the Common Ground Initiative was also one of the most fallacious: critics argued that enacting this legislation would lead to a slippery slope ending in gay marriage. This completely ignores the fact that the Utah constitution not only explicitly defines marriage as only between man and a woman, it also disallows any other arrangement between gay couples that even comes close to granting the same rights as marriage. There is no way a Utah court can overturn the constitution; this canard is a red-herring meant to distract conservative Utahns from granting gays and lesbians the basic human rights they should be entitled to, such as not having to fear that their employer will find out about their orientation and being able to visit their partner in the hospital.
The fact is that this legislative session, Utah's state senators and representatives have failed to protect some of the most vulnerable Utahns. We do not need to agree with every aspect of the lives of our neighbors, but we should care enough to grant everyone in our communities the basic rights to live their lives without fear, to be able to live securely and pursue happiness. By killing all of the Common Ground Initiative bills, our legislators have let ideology trumps simple human decency. I hope that we can all work harder to make Utah a better place for all of our family and friends, regardless of sexual orientation. Passing these bills next year would be a great place to start.
BYU Political Review
Petitioners to Mormons: Soften gay marriage stance
By Jennifer Dobner, Associated Press Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A group of current and former Mormons at odds with the church's position on gay marriage and its political activism to ban it has launched a Web site asking the faith to soften its stance.
The site, http://www.ldsapology.org, includes a petition for reconciliation that calls on leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to end what it says are hurtful anti-gay policies and its involvement in anti-gay politics and fundraising.
Janeen Thompson, a site organizer, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that the petition is a direct reaction to Mormon church involvement in a coalition that worked last fall to pass Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California's state constitution.
A May ruling by the California Supreme Court upheld the vote.
"We felt prompted to undertake this project on behalf of the gay community whose rights have been taken away largely because of the LDS involvement in the campaign," said Thompson, a lifetime Mormon who lives in Boulder Creek, Calif.
Church spokeswoman Kim Farah said Monday that the church had no comment on the site.
As of Monday, 162 individuals had signed the petition. Thompson said signatures will be gathered through the fall and organizers plan to deliver the petition to the church's Salt Lake City headquarters Nov. 4 -- the anniversary of the 2008 Proposition 8 vote.
Like many religions, Mormonism teaches that traditional marriage is an institution ordained by God and that homosexual sex is a sin. Gays are welcome to attend church but must remain celibate to retain service callings.
The church has been consistent in its position and actively worked against marriage equality legislation since the 1990s.
Following the November vote, the church became a target for protests, vandalism and hate speech. Church leaders have called for civility in the discussion of the issues and say the dialogue is not helped when people on both sides demonize each other.
Site organizers -- who include Mormons, non-Mormons, gays and heterosexuals living in several states -- agree.
Site material includes a chronicle of church involvement in gay marriage legislation, personal stories from gay and lesbian Mormons, the current Mormon pamphlet on the theology related to homosexuality and a list of known gay Mormons who have committed suicide.
The church once taught homosexuality was an illness and offered cures such as electroshock therapy, medication, marriage to heterosexual women and other therapies as treatments. In 2007, Dallin Oaks, of the faith's Quorum of Twelve Apostles, acknowledged the past use of some abusive therapies and said they had been phased out.
Cheryl Nunn of Santa Cruz, Calif., owns the site domain. She said her discomfort with those past practices raised her awareness of gays in the church. Last fall, Nunn and Thompson became active in the campaign against Proposition 8, attending marches and rallies.
Nunn is unequivocal about wanting an apology.
"Most likely that may not happen, but any reduction in aggressive Mormon Church fund raising, sermons to campaign and block vote or to promote anti-gay legislation, would mean the petition message had been heard."
Mercury News, June 22, 2009
A year of scrutiny for the LDS Church
Challenges -- A tumultuous year, from politics to polygamy
By Peggy Fletcher Stack
If 2002 was Mormonism's debutante ball, 2008 may go down as its first semester of college.
The Utah-based church made new friends, endured back-stabbing from would-be friends, joined some clubs, got a taste of fame and had a few wrenching exams.
From the possibility of a Mormon in the White House to a stream of Latter-day Saints on reality television, from being attacked as belonging to a cult (or mistaken for a polygamous sect in Texas) to participating in California's bitter battle for traditional marriage, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would see their faith in the nation's mirror. To many, such scrutiny was unlike any they had seen in their lifetime.
"The church emerged on the center stage of public consciousness in a way we hadn't seen before," says Chase Peterson, former University of Utah president and lifelong Latter-day Saint. "The full consequences of this new public awareness probably will not be understood for some time."
Indeed, it was a "wild, eventful year for the church," says Philip Barlow, Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, "quite beyond its perpetual efforts in spreading its message, looking after its members, managing its vast resources, building its facilities and addressing catastrophes at home and abroad."
The crucial question is: How will the LDS Church and its individual members respond to the year's events?
For example, Mormons, who in recent decades have been staunchly Republican, were cast as pariahs during Mitt Romney's presidential campaign by controlling sectors of the Republican Party. Though he had won widespread political and financial support across the nation, most Evangelicals in the party bitterly opposed him, and between 37 percent and 43 percent of Americans said they would never vote for a Mormon, any Mormon.
Even after Romney bowed out of the race, many Mormons continued to smart from the accusations and misrepresentations of their faith that flourished during his run. They developed a serious distaste for Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who, they believe, fueled anti-Mormon hostility while playing innocent.
Others were more straightforward. The Rev. Robert Jeffress repeatedly called Mormonism a "cult," and evangelist Bill Keller famously said, "A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for Satan."
Will Latter-day Saints now begin to question their allegiance to the Republican Party, Barlow wonders, or even move into the Democratic Party in the future, especially if Barack Obama is successful in his first term?
Life was changing inside the church as well.
LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley died at the end of January.
At 97, Hinckley was Mormonism's oldest prophet and the most vigorous to the end. He had transformed the church's public image, giving interviews to reporters everywhere he went.
Hinckley's longtime associate, Thomas S. Monson, ascended to the LDS presidency, choosing Dieter Uchtdorf, a German member, as a counselor. The leadership focus began to shift.
Where Hinckley met with the media and immediately traveled outside the country, Monson held an awkward, scripted news conference and stayed closer to home, running the church from its Salt Lake City headquarters. He dedicated four temples and announced eight more, while also opening a new welfare services compound and sending humanitarian aid across the globe.
Despite such goodwill efforts, conflicts occasionally erupted.
In March, Mormon leaders were chagrined by news accounts of three Mormon missionaries in Colorado who apparently desecrated a Roman Catholic shrine. Though the Catholics ultimately forgave the missionaries for their vandalism, a month later the Vatican issued an order, blocking LDS access to Catholic parish records because of the Mormon practice of baptism for the dead. The move caused widespread hand-wringing among genealogists everywhere, including Catholics.
Catholics and Mormons later put aside their differences to become allies on a different political issue -- gay marriage.
In June, Mormons joined the Preserve Marriage Coalition at the request of Archbishop George Niederauer, the San Francisco Catholic leader who had previously led the Diocese of Salt Lake City. The First Presidency sent a letter to all California Mormons, urging them to support a ballot measure known as Proposition 8, which defined marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman.
The same Evangelical groups that had demeaned Mormonism as a cult during Romney's campaign were now the LDS Church's allies in the California fight.
"These new defenders of the Mormon faith have long been the most prolific Mormon-bashers in the nation," said Wayne Besen, executive director of the Brooklyn-based gay-rights group Truth Wins Out. "[The two groups] have nothing in common but their anti-gay rhetoric."
The measure passed on Nov. 4, and in the ensuing days, angry supporters of gay marriage protested outside LDS temples across the nation.
"The church's support of Proposition 8 created a loud backlash and may make the church a symbol for the constriction of civil rights," Barlow says. "Will the church dig in on what it sees as a moral and constitutional issue or will common cause help repair or forge new allegiances with Evangelicals?"
Not many years from now, 2008 may be seen as a turning point for the LDS Church in addressing the reality of homosexuality, he says.
The church's theology was formed at a time when homosexuality could only be construed in biblical terms as "abomination," he says. "Because of experience and science, today church leaders see the issue in a more complex light. They distinguish between feelings and actions, and they acknowledge that we do not know the originating causes of same-sex attraction."
LDS founder Joseph Smith once said that " 'by proving contraries, truth is made manifest,' " Barlow says. "As is the past, this may be a painful but auspicious moment in LDS history."
The Salt Lake Tribune, December 27, 2008
California Upholds Gay Marriage Ban
18,000 Same-Sex Couples Who Married Before Prop 8 Can Retain Rights, According to Ruling
By Susan Donaldson James
The California Supreme Court has upheld Proposition 8 -- the controversial ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage in the state of California.
At the same time, the ruling allows about 18,000 same-sex couples who'd already married to retain the rights they attained during the brief six-month period that gay marriage was legal in the state.
"There it goes," said Jim Schnobrich, who married his partner of 27 years in Pasadena, Calif., last September. "We have to keep going."
Still, the couple, who have two children, ages 12 and 16, said that they are now in a "weird class," as the ruling preserved their 8-month-old same sex-marriage.
"That's good news, but the bigger thing is that now we have this weird status that other people can't have. There is this kind of equality situation where people are maybe thinking we aren't really married."
"But it's not going to change anything in our lives," he told abcnews.com. "We feel strongly about equality and will move ahead. But I worry for my kids and how they feel. I want them to be in a place like every other family at their school. It's hard to explain to them."
The announcement of the decision caused outcry among a sea of demonstrators who had gathered in front of the San Francisco courthouse to await the ruling.
Adoption, Tax Laws Could be Affected
Christian groups that applauded retention of the ban said that the ruling on those same-sex marriages could create a conflict -- not only in the marital rights of Californians but in adoption and income tax laws.
"It's disappointing that the court will continue to uphold the legality of those who married during May to November of last year," said Bruce Hausknecht, judicial analyst for Focus on the Family in Action. "We don't know what the situation will be like, but it's likely to cause havoc in the courts as they try to deal with a class of individuals that look totally different."
Gay rights advocates, disappointed with the ruling, said their next step would be to "take it back to the voters."
"Advocates for equality are convinced that Prop 8 will be overturned at the ballot," said the Family Equality Council, which fought the ban.
"Prop 8 was a sad, knee-jerk response to the sight of couples in love celebrating their happiness with family and friends," Pizer said. "It badly damaged the Constitution's equality guarantees. With today's deeply disappointing court decision, it is up to us as a caring, moral people to repair our constitution at the ballot box."
Minority, Church Groups Targeted
Lambda has already launched an educational campaign, Marriage Watch California, which will specifically target the communities of color and diverse church groups that overwhelmingly supported Proposition 8.
"We will give education and legal support as part of a broad effort all over the state to provide greater visibility on why this issue is important and why there is no basis in the fear mongering from the other side," Pizer told abcnews.com.
The contentious campaign pitted gay rights activists against Christian church groups, including the Mormons, that raised a record $83 million to pass the referendum.
Justices considered a series of lawsuits to overturn the ban, which overruled a 4-3 June court decision that briefly legalized same-sex marriage. Those suits claim Proposition 8 was put on the ballot improperly.
Gay rights marches began early this morning in California and groups have planned rallies tonight, preparing to be arrested in a mass demonstration of civil disobedience.
The Family Equality Council, which has fought to overturn the gay marriage ban, said they would be organizing national grass roots protests in Day of Decision rallies.
Putting a new question on the ballot to legalize gay marriage could take months, and many gay advocates said it might not be viable until 2010 or later.
"We have a lot of educating to do to convince [voters] that gays and lesbians are equal," said Lambda legal's Pizer. "It's very important that people agree on that point, and that the people of California share that belief."
But Focus on the Family's Hausknecht said pro-Proposition 8 groups are already preparing their "talking points" for a new referendum on the issue.
Religious Liberties Compromised
"How gay marriage affects my [tradtional] marriage is entirely the wrong question," he said. "The right question is how is gay marriage going to affect society in general and religious liberties and the rights of conscience?"
"Across the country we've seen the impact on religious freedom, not just same sex marriage but nondiscrimination statutes," he said.
Waiting for the decision "has been an absolutely gut-wrenching experience," Molly McKay, a spokeswoman for Marriage Equality USA, told The Associated Press.
"As Californians, we are all under tremendous strain worrying about the economy, our jobs and our families," she said. "On top of that, gay families have been living for months with the fear that the court will allow a bare majority of voters to strip gay and lesbian families of their constitutional protections and eliminate our marriages -- or just as bad, eliminate new couples' ability to get married."
Opponents of Proposition 8 argued that it revised the California's equal protection clause to such a dramatic degree that its sponsors needed the legislature's approval to submit it to voters.
Gay Marriage Legal in Five States
But several justices at a March hearing said they were skeptical of that argument and many legal experts said the Supreme Court would not likely undermine the state's citizen initiative process by reversing the gay marriage ban.
Since the passage of Proposition 8, gay marriage has gained momentum around the nation. Iowa, Maine and Vermont have joined Massachusetts and Connecticut in recognizing same-sex couples. Similar proposals are under way in New Hampshire and New York.
The Democratic-controlled California Legislature has twice passed measures to legalize gay marriage, but they were vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"While I believe that one day either the people or courts will recognize gay marriage, as Governor of California I will uphold the decision of the California Supreme Court," Schwarzenegger said today. "Regarding the 18,000 marriages that took place prior to Proposition 8's passage, the court made the right decision in keeping them intact. I also want to encourage all those responding to today's court decision to do so peacefully and lawfully."
With passage of Proposition 8, California amended its constitution to specify that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized.
Gay Marriage Briefly Legal
In May 2008, the state's Supreme Court overturned a gay marriage initiative. That decision allowed thousands of gays and lesbians to be legally married in that state; gay couples across the state decided not to take their chances, choosing to marry before voters took up the measure.
The passage of Proposition 8 set off a backlash that rippled across state borders. Organizers used Internet sites such as Facebook to draw huge crowds from New York to Los Angeles and cities in between.
Advocates turned the vote on Proposition 8 into a countrywide referendum on gay rights, calling it "the new frontier in the civil rights movement."
The protests lining the streets were a contrast to the joyful celebrations of same-sex weddings at city halls throughout California last summer. Those ceremonies were filled with a sense of hope and acceptance. Now that has given way to anger, defiance, and a war of words.
The Mormon Church has become one of the key targets of protestors after it was revealed that their members contributed millions of dollars to defeat gay marriage.
Many like Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobby based in Washington, joined in the fight to pass the ban, saying it was "more important than the presidential election."
"We've picked bad presidents before, and we've survived as a nation," Perkins said. "But we will not survive if we lose the institution of marriage."
Advocates on both sides of the issue spent $83 million on the ballot campaign, the most ever on a social issue in the nation's history.
"It's a staggering amount," said Matt Coles, director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposed the ban. "California is a cultural trendsetter. If voters decide same-sex couples can marry, it has an enormous influence."
Other states that had gay marriage on the ballot in 2008 included Arizona and Florida. Voters in both states passed measures to amend their constitutions to specify that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage.
In Arkansas, residents approved a measure aimed at preventing gay couples from adopting children. The measure, Proposed Initiative Act 1, goes further than just barring same-sex couples from adopting; it bars any individual cohabiting outside of a valid marriage from adopting or providing foster care to minors.
ABC News, May 26, 2009
LDS Church releases statement on Proposition 8 decision
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement regarding the California Supreme Court's decision to uphold Proposition 8.
Here is statement for Scott Trotter, spokesperson for the Church:
Today's decision by the California Supreme Court is welcome. The issue the court decided was whether California citizens validly exercised their right to amend their own constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. The court has overwhelmingly affirmed their action.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recognizes the deeply held feelings on both sides, but strongly affirms its belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman. The bedrock institution of marriage between a man and a woman has profound implications for our society. These implications range from what our children are taught in schools to individual and collective freedom of religious expression and practice.
Accordingly, the Church stands firmly for what it believes is right for the health and well-being of society as a whole. In doing so, it once again affirms that all of us are children of God, and all deserve to be treated with respect. The Church believes that serious discussion of these issues is not helped when extreme elements on both sides of the debate demonize the other.
----Information from: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
ABC4.com, May 26, 2009
Mormon Church Applauds Gay Marriage Ruling
Church Supported Proposition 8
SALT LAKE CITY -- The Mormon church is praising the California Supreme Court's decision to uphold a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a statement Tuesday that it recognizes there are strong feelings on both sides of the issue but reasserted its belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman, saying it has profound implications for society.
The church was a supporter of last fall's Proposition 8, which was approved by California voters. Church members gave their time and money in support of the initiative and the church was targeted by protesters after Prop. 8 passed.
The court also ruled that the estimated 18,000 gay couples who married before the ban took effect will stay wed.
ksbw.com, May 26, 2009
Utahns cheer, jeer California gay-marriage ruling
Gay marriage -- The LDS Church welcomes the decision as 300 protest it at the Capitol
By Rosemary Winters
St. George couple Derek Streeter and Stephen Eiche huddled over a computer Tuesday to check the news together: California's gay-marriage ban stands, but their union is safe.
"We wept a little," said Streeter, who married Eiche, his partner of 20 years, near San Diego last August. "We knew probably they would uphold the marriages -- so that's good -- but we were really sad for everybody else."
The California Supreme Court, in a 6-1 ruling, validated Proposition 8, last fall's voter-approved constitutional amendment forbidding same-sex marriage. But the justices voted unanimously to keep in place the 18,000 marriages that were performed last year when such unions were legal.
"Today's decision by the California Supreme Court is welcome," the Prop 8-backing LDS Church said in a news release. "The bedrock institution of marriage between a man and a woman has profound implications for our society."
But more than 300 Utahns rallied outside the Capitol building on Tuesday night to protest the court decision, waving rainbow flags and signs with slogans like "Repeal Proposition H8" and "18,000 a good start." They cheered two same-sex couples who wed in California last year.
"This means a lot to me and it gives me hope," Salt Lake City resident Martha Amundsen, who married "the love of her life," Lisa Altman, in San Francisco, told the crowd.
Recognizing the unions of 18,000 couples "was the right thing to do," said Matthew Landis, a member of the board of Utahns for Marriage Equality, which organized the rally. "But until all marriages are recognized, it's not good enough."
Gay and lesbian Utahns, he noted, have been especially interested in the California marriage issue because of the LDS Church's prominent role in the 2008 campaign. Mormons, including many in Utah, donated millions to bolster the successful ballot initiative after the church formally endorsed Prop 8.
"It's especially heartbreaking and disappointing for people here in Utah," Landis said, "because we know so much of the money to bring about Proposition 8 came from our own families and our own state."
Utahns kicked in $2.7 million to pass Prop 8. The LDS Church, as an organization, contributed close to $200,000 worth of support. Orem gay-rights activist Bruce Bastian forked over $1 million to fight the measure.
After Prop 8's passage, protests erupted outside LDS temples, including a 3,000-strong rally near the faith's iconic Salt Lake Temple. The Utah-based church then issued statements that, while it fought against gay marriage, it does not oppose certain legal protections for same-sex couples.
Those post-Prop 8 statements gave rise to Equality Utah's push for the Common Ground Initiative during the 2009 Legislature. But the three-bill campaign stalled on Utah's Capitol Hill amid arguments that such measures would take the Beehive State down California's slippery slope to gay marriage.
"What [the California ruling] makes clear," said Will Carlson, Equality Utah's public policy manager, "is that granting protections in the workplace and in housing and even hospital visitation and adoption [for gay couples] doesn't guarantee that marriage licenses are going to be the end result. California, among many states, offers all the protections we are looking for."
Utah has a constitutional ban on gay marriage, Amendment 3, that voters approved by a 2-to-1 margin in 2004.
Bill Duncan, director of the Lehi-based Marriage Law Foundation and a supporter of Utah's amendment, called California's ruling "gratifying."
"It protects not only the idea of marriage, but also the rule of law," Duncan said. "People can use existing law to make public policy without judges overturning the people's decision for no other reason than they disagreed with the people's judgment."
The ruling is especially heartening, Duncan said, after a string of states -- Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine -- recently joined Massachusetts in legalizing gay marriage.
"There's been the argument out there that it's kind of inevitable that marriage is going to be redefined," he said. "This makes it clear that, when voters have a chance to have their say on the question, they understand that marriage [between a man and a woman] is valuable and worth preserving."
But California activists have pledged to repeal Prop 8 by putting gay marriage on the ballot as soon as 2010.
"This time, the [gay-marriage advocates] are going to make sure everyone understands what they're voting for," Streeter said. "Ultimately, it will pass."
Salt Lake Tribune, May 27, 2009
Mormon leader likens anti-gay marriage backlash to intimidation of blacks during civil rights
by Eric Gorski, AP Religion Writer
The anti-Mormon backlash after California voters overturned gay marriage last fall is similar to the intimidation of Southern blacks during the civil rights movement, a high-ranking Mormon says in a speech to be delivered Tuesday.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks refers to gay marriage as an "alleged civil right" in remarks prepared for delivery at Brigham Young University-Idaho, a speech church officials describe as a significant commentary on current threats to religious freedom.
In an advance copy provided to The Associated Press, Oaks suggests that atheists and others are seeking to intimidate people of faith and silence their voices in the public square.
"The extent and nature of religious devotion in this nation is changing," said Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a church governing body. "The tide of public opinion in favor of religion is receding, and this probably portends public pressures for laws that will impinge on religious freedom."
Oaks' address comes as gay-rights activists mount a legal challenge to Proposition 8, the ballot measure that overturned gay marriage in California. His comments about civil rights are likely to anger gay rights activists who consider the struggle to enact same-sex marriage laws as a major civil rights cause.
In an interview Monday before the speech, Oaks said he did not consider it provocative to compare the treatment of Mormons in the election's aftermath to that of blacks in the civil rights era, and said he stands by the analogy.
"It may be offensive to some -- maybe because it hadn't occurred to them that they were putting themselves in the same category as people we deplore from that bygone era," he said.
The Salt Lake City-based Mormon church, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has shied from politics historically but was a key player in the pro-Proposition 8 coalition. The LDS First Presidency, its highest governing body, announced its support for Proposition 8 in a letter read at every California congregation, and individual Mormons heeded the church's calls to donate their money and time.
After the measure prevailed, its opponents focused much of their ire on Mormons, organizing boycotts of businesses with LDS ties and protests at Mormon worship places. While some demonstrations were peaceful, in others church windows were shattered and slurs were hurled at the church's founding fathers.
Some of the most pointed comments in Oaks' Tuesday address focus on Proposition 8. Oaks said the free exercise of religion is threatened by those who believe it conflicts with "the newly alleged 'civil right' of same-gender couples to enjoy the privileges of marriage."
"Those who seek to change the foundation of marriage should not be allowed to pretend that those who defend the ancient order are trampling on civil rights," Oaks said. "The supporters of Proposition 8 were exercising their constitutional right to defend the institution of marriage ..."
Oaks said that while "aggressive intimidation" connected to Proposition 8 was primarily directed at religious people and symbols, "it was not anti-religious as such." He called the incidents "expressions of outrage against those who disagreed with the gay-rights position and had prevailed in a public contest."
"As such, these incidents of 'violence and intimidation' are not so much anti-religious as anti-democratic," he said. "In their effect they are like well-known and widely condemned voter-intimidation of blacks in the South that produced corrective federal civil-rights legislation."
The Mormon church has faced criticism for its past stances on race; it wasn't until 1978 that the church lifted a prohibition that denied full church membership to blacks of African descent.
In an interview Monday, Oaks said the Proposition 8 saga was one of several trends that motivated him to deliver the address, but it was "not the trigger."
"There are civil rights involved in this -- the right to speak your mind, to participate in the election," Oaks said. "But you don't have a civil right to win an election or retaliate against those who prevail."
Oaks said he is specifically concerned about a movement toward using hate crimes laws to prosecute or threaten preachers who preach that homosexual acts are sinful.
Oaks' address also rejects any religious test for public office. Oaks said that if "a candidate is seen to be rejected at the ballot box primarily because of religious belief or affiliation, the precious free exercise of religion is weakened at its foundation ..."
In the interview Monday, Oaks said he was referring in part to the 2008 presidential bid of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whose Mormon faith troubled some evangelicals.
Chicago Tribune, October 13, 2009
Gay-marriage ruling brings split Utah reaction
By Rosemary Winters, The Salt Lake Tribune
The LDS Church expressed disappointment at the news from California. Hundreds of jubilant gay-marriage supporters marched around the church�s Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City.On Wednesday, Utahns both panned and praised the decision of a federal judge in San Francisco to overturn Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that eliminated gay marriage in California. Two years ago, the campaign drew intense interest in Utah after the LDS Church urged its members to support Prop 8 with their cash and time. Utahns spent $3.8 million � most of it to defeat gay marriage � in the $83 million fight.
The federal ruling means, for now, gay marriage is legal � again �in the Golden State.
But Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker has put a temporary hold on issuing marriage licenses while he gives opposing sides in the lawsuit, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, time to debate whether there should be a long-term stay during appeals, which could extend for years and stretch as far as the U.S. Supreme Court.
�We have plans to go to California as soon as possible and make our marriage legal,� said Salt Lake City resident Jeff Key, who, on Wednesday, celebrated not only the ruling but the three-year-anniversary of his nonlegal wedding with his partner, Adam Nelson. �I�m feeling pretty proud to be an American right now.�
In fact, Key knelt on one knee at a Capitol Hill rally Wednesday evening and asked Nelson, �Will you remarry me?�
Nelson said �yes� to the cheers of nearly 400 supporters of gay marriage. The crowd, flying both rainbow and American flags, swelled to 600, said organizer Eric Ethington, as the group marched from the Capitol to LDS Church headquarters and around Temple Square.
�We�re all here. We�re all equal,� Ethington said before leading the march. �Get it through your head.�
Earlier on Wednesday, the LDS Church lamented the overturn of the ballot measure it helped to pass, spending nearly $200,000 on the campaign, according to campaign disclosures.
�California voters have twice been given the opportunity to vote on the definition of marriage in their state and both times have determined that marriage should be recognized as only between a man and a woman. We agree,� said LDS Church spokesman Michael Purdy. �Marriage between a man and woman is the bedrock of society.�
The church also called for �mutual respect� and �civility� in the ongoing debate over marriage.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, blasted Walker.
�This is what happens when judges make up the Constitution as they go along,� Hatch said in a statement.
Cliff Rosky, a law professor at the University of Utah, praised the analysis that went into the decision as �correct.� Walker concluded that Proposition 8 denied gay men and lesbians their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.
�Marriage is a fundamental right. The Supreme Court has made that very clear,� Rosky said. �I don�t think that same-sex marriage is so different than other forms of marriage that it becomes [excluded from] the right to marry.�
Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah, agreed.
�Equality Utah has always believed that the Constitution does cover gay and transgender people,� she said. �We support full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, which includes the right to marry.�
In 2004, Utah voters approved a state constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage and civil unions.
If the Prop 8 lawsuit eventually lands in the U.S. Supreme Court, a decision there in favor of gay marriage could create a right for gay men and lesbians to marry in every state, said Bill Duncan, director of the Lehi-based Marriage Law Foundation.
Duncan, who filed a brief in the California lawsuit on behalf of religious groups siding with the Prop 8 defendants, disagrees with Walker�s ruling. �In order for something to be a fundamental right, it has to be deeply rooted in our nation�s history and tradition,� said Duncan, who filed an amicus.
�Same-sex marriage is not deeply rooted in our nation�s history and tradition.�
Currently, same-sex marriages are allowed in Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C.
Salt Lake Tribune, August 5, 2010
'8: The Mormon Proposition': Audacious look at church's role in gay-marriage ban
By Jen Chaney, Washington Post Staff Writer
It takes a certain amount of nerve for a former Mormon to make a film that takes on the Mormon Church for alleged political meddling in one of the biggest gay-rights battles in recent history.
It takes even more nerve to then unveil that movie in Utah, the home of Mormon Church headquarters and the epicenter of the Latter-day Saints faith.
Clearly Steven Greenstreet -- a Silver Spring resident, onetime adherent to the Mormon faith and co-director of "8: The Mormon Proposition," one of the buzzier documentaries to debut at this year's Sundance Film Festival -- isn't lacking in the audacity department. His film -- which the church has blasted as "obviously biased," even before its release -- examines the church's role in the contentious campaigns over Proposition 8, the same-sex marriage ban Californians voted into law in 2008.
"One way or another, we're going to put this movie in front of as many voters as possible across the nation," Greenstreet says by phone from Park City, where the annual celebration of indie cinema and studio dealmaking has been underway for the past week. "The people in California went to the ballot box with misinformation and lies orchestrated by billions of dollars raised by a church."
Using internal church documents and recordings of Mormon officials, and interviews with gay activists, political figures and former members of the church, Greenstreet and his fellow director, Miami journalist Reed Cowan, make the case that the church overstepped its bounds as a nonprofit, religious organization to ensure that Prop 8 passed. But the movie doesn't just focus on that single piece of legislation.
"8" also explores the broader impact of what the filmmakers describe as the church's historically intolerant attitude toward gays, using tales of suicide attempts by young Mormons struggling with their sexual orientations and men still grappling with memories of the shock treatments they endured in order to "cure" them of their homosexuality.
"We have a lot of numbers and money and politics in our film, but really, it's about the people and their stories," Greenstreet, 30, says.
The church has not addressed specific allegations in the film. Mormon officials do not appear on-camera, although we do hear a phone call between church spokeswoman Kim Farah and Cowan, who also was raised Mormon. "I think that we don't want to put ourselves front and center in a battle with the gay community," she tells him.
When The Washington Post requested comment, the church forwarded its official statement, also from Farah: "We have not seen '8: The Mormon Proposition.' However, judging from the trailer and background material online, it appears that accuracy and truth are rare commodities in this film. Although we have given many interviews on this topic, we had no desire to participate in something so obviously biased."
The anti-gay group America Forever has taken a more pugnacious stance against the documentary, issuing 80,000 faxes to its base that condemn the movie as a "hateful attack" on the church and declare: "Shame on Sundance" and "Shame on Reed Cowan."
Early reviews of "8" have been mixed. Daniel Fienberg, a blogger for the Web site Hitfix, dismissed it as "sloppily assembled propaganda," while the Salt Lake City Tribune called it "a vital, important cry for an open dialogue." Variety said the film "covers a lot of ground in a short space, not always in the most organized way, but on enough fronts to spark an informed dialogue."
All the attention has sparked interest from distributors, Greenstreet and Cowan say, although they haven't inked any agreements yet. Adding currency to the film is a closely watched federal court case in California regarding the constitutionality of Prop 8, as well as President Obama's recently announced desire to end the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Both filmmakers say their work on the movie has jeopardized relationships with their families, whose members continue to practice the Mormon faith. "I know they are hurt, and on so many levels, by the fact that I attach my name as a director to this film," says Greenstreet, whose parents still live in his home town of Pylesville, Md.
Cowan, 37, who grew up in the town of Roosevelt, Utah, and is openly gay, says he hasn't spoken to his sisters or father in six months. (He occasionally speaks to his mother.) "I'm sad to say my parents haven't gotten to any screenings yet," he says. "And they could."
Still, Greenstreet, who describes himself as a straight man and gay activist, doesn't regret his decision to make this film or to quit the faith that once defined his life.
"Leaving the church was a grueling and painful experience," he says. "It was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. But I am who I am today because of that decision."
Washington Post, January 30, 2010
Film documents Mormon role in gay marriage debate
By Jennifer Dobner (AP)
SALT LAKE CITY � Reed Cowan's reasons for making a film about the Mormon church's activism against gay marriage in California are personal.
Himself gay and Mormon, Cowan clashed with his family over his sexual orientation and the beliefs of their faith, but it was a conversation between him and a sibling about her support of Proposition 8 cemented his commitment to make the film: "8: The Mormon Proposition."
"I thought, if this is the dialogue in my Mormon family, then what is like in other Mormon households," the Miami-area filmmaker and former Utah television journalist said. "If this is the pain I feel over Prop. 8 and other Mormon efforts to quash (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights, what is the pain of others multiplied all over the world?"
While the 80-minute documentary is still in production, a trailer posted on the Internet has caught the eye of both sides of the debate, viewed by roughly 70,000 people in its first 78 hours online. And the Web site that hosts the video has had nearly 28,000 visitors since it went online last month.
Cowan contends that the church was the most influential force in the campaign and paints the faith's theology and culture as historically anti-gay.
Internet commentary on the trailer is divided.
Depending on the source, the movie is either an emotional and scathing indictment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or an unfair characterization of the Utah-based church's beliefs and motivation for political involvement. The church was part of a coalition of faiths and conservative groups that pushed for approval of a gay marriage ban in California's constitution.
Church officials have seen the trailer and other online materials about the film, LDS spokeswoman Kim Farah said, and "it is obvious that anyone looking for balance and thoughtful discussion of a serious subject will need to look elsewhere."
Like many faiths, Mormonism defends traditional marriage as an institution ordained by God that is central to a healthy society. The church has consistently worked against legislation to legalize gay marriage since the 1990s. Last week, however, church leaders endorsed a pair of Salt Lake City ordinances that make it illegal to discriminate against LGBT persons in employment and housing.
Narrated by Academy Award winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black � also gay and raised Mormon � the film chronicles the campaign and includes personal stories from straight and gay Mormons, including newlyweds Tyler Barrick and Spencer Jones, who married in San Francisco on June 17, 2008, the first day same sex marriage was legal in California.
The film touches on gay suicide and homelessness, which many believe occur at higher-than-average rates among gay Mormons and highlights the strong opposition to gay rights from the Utah Legislature and lobbyists who are predominantly Latter-day Saints.
It also draws on past statements of former leaders and efforts to cure homosexuality with electroshock therapy at the church-owned Brigham Young University.
Mormon church officials appear in the film in footage obtained through other filmmakers, media outlets and in a church-produced video that appeared on the Web.
Cowan said he "begged" for church participation � through both official channels and personal connections � but was rejected. "I got an immediate no," he said.
Alex Nibley, a Utah filmmaker and digital media instructor said the trailer's powerful, high-quality footage promises an emotional look at it subject. Still, he said, it appears to fit within the typically polaraized spectrum of film takes on the Mormon church � most either that promote the faith or attack its views.
"I suspect that the impact will be to confirm certain ideas that people have about the church," Nibley said. "It may expand some perceptions in the public at large, but it will probably not shake the faith of a lot of those who aren't going to pay much attention to it."
Cowan said his goal for the film was to document what he believes is a crusade against gay people and to illustrate that the faith operates as both a church and a political action committee.
A release date for the film, believed to be the first about Prop. 8, is uncertain. Cowan is shopping the film to festivals.
Seattle Times, November 15, 2009
Prop. 8: Gay-marriage ban unconstitutional, court rules
A federal appeals court Tuesday struck down California's ban on same-sex marriage, clearing the way for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on gay marriage as early as next year.
The 2-1 decision by a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that limited marriage to one man and one woman, violated the U.S. Constitution. The architects of Prop. 8 have vowed to appeal.
The ruling was narrow and likely to be limited to California.
�Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California,� the court said.
The ruling upheld a decision by retired Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who struck down the ballot measure in 2010 after holding an unprecedented trial on the nature of sexual orientation and the history of marriage.
In a separate decision, the appeals court refused to invalidate Walker�s ruling on the grounds that he should have disclosed he was in a long term same-sex relationship. Walker, a Republican appointee who is openly gay, said after his ruling that he had been in a relationship with another man for 10 years. He has never said whether he and partner wished to marry.
ProtectMarriage, the backers of Proposition 8, can appeal Tuesday's decision to a larger panel of the 9th Circuit or go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court is expected to be divided on the issue, and many legal scholars believe Justice Anthony Kennedy will be the deciding vote.
Gays and lesbians were entitled to marry in California for six months after the California Supreme Court struck down a state ban in May 2008. The state high court later upheld Proposition 8 as a valid amendment of the California Constitution.
While the Proposition 8 case was still pending in state court, two same-sex couples sued in federal court to challenge the ban on federal constitutional grounds.
Los Angeless Times, February 7, 2012
Supreme Court to Hear Gay-Marriage Cases
By Jess Bravin
WASHINGTON�The Supreme Court for the first time entered the debate over gay marriage Friday, announcing it would accept cases from New York and California that test the rights of same-sex couples.
The move means that a defining legal moment is set to come by next June after a year in which gay marriage assumed even greater prominence in the national debate. President Barack Obama in May said he personally believed gay couples should enjoy the right to wed, becoming the first sitting president to take that stand. In November, Maine, Maryland and Washington state became the first states to approve gay marriage at the ballot box.
In the first case, the high court will hear arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 federal law denying benefits to same-sex spouses. The case was brought by Edith Schlain Windsor, whose spouse, Thea Clara Spyer, died in 2009 after more than four decades together. Ms. Windsor said she shouldn't have to pay estate tax because the surviving spouse in a marriage of a man and a woman wouldn't face the tax under federal law.
The second case involves California's Proposition 8, a 2008 state measure that barred same-sex marriages in the state. Lower courts have struck down Proposition 8.
Federal appeals courts in Boston and New York already have found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, saying it punishes a minority of lawfully married people without sufficient justification. The Obama administration, while continuing to enforce the law, has declined to defend it in court, agreeing with plaintiffs that constitutional principles of due process and equal protection don't permit such discrimination.
The Republican-controlled House stepped up to defend the law, hiring a prominent conservative litigator, Paul Clement, solicitor general in the George W. Bush administration, as its advocate.
"When Thea and I met nearly 50 years ago, we never could have dreamed that the story of our life together would be before the Supreme Court as an example of why gay married couples should be treated equally," said Ms. Windsor after the Supreme Court's announcement in a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Opponents of gay marriage said the Supreme Court's decision would be a chance to put the brakes on lower courts.
"It's the ideological blinders of judges at this point. There is immense cultural pressure to favor same-sex marriage," said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, speaking before Friday's announcement.
The organization's chairman, John Eastman, said Friday after the announcement that the high court's decision to accept the California case was "a strong signal that the court will reverse the lower courts." He said "voters hold the ultimate power over basic policy judgments and their decisions are entitled to respect."
While the cases involve same-sex marriage, they don't directly raise the core question of whether the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of equal protection, due process and individual liberty mean that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry.
Instead, the gay-marriage issue is arriving at the high court in increments. The Defense of Marriage Act cases look at instances where gay couples are already legally married under state laws and ask whether the federal government can deny them benefits to which they would be entitled had their spouse been of the opposite sex.
Before the 1996 law, the federal government simply accepted as valid any marriages authorized by states, which historically have had authority over matters of family law. Backers of the law say the federal government has legitimate reasons for denying recognition, such as saving money by not paying survivors' benefits, but lower courts have found those proposed reasons insufficient to justify discrimination.
The Proposition 8 case in California also doesn't necessarily force courts to decide on a fundamental gay-marriage right. A federal appeals court in San Francisco struck down the proposition on narrower grounds, saying the state couldn't withdraw a previously recognized right from a minority that has suffered discrimination.
Some 18,000 gay couples were married in California after the state supreme court found in May 2008 that the state constitution permitted no discrimination in authorizing couples to marry. The following November, a voter initiative amended the state constitution to limit marriage to heterosexuals.
The Supreme Court's liberal wing�Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan�is likely to treat the Defense of Marriage Act with great skepticism. Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, the court's most outspoken opponent of gay rights, is expected to be more deferential to the congressional statute, probably joined by Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Samuel Alito has no well-defined record on such questions, but typically takes conservative positions on social issues.
A larger question mark hangs over Chief Justice John Roberts, who in cases such as the June decision on Mr. Obama's health-care law has been sensitive to the court's long-term institutional interests in maintaining credibility with the public and other branches of government.
If Chief Justice Roberts votes with the opponents of gay marriage, the deciding voice almost certainly will be that of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has been the court's most impassioned defender of gay rights.
In 1996�the same year the Defense of Marriage Act was passed�an opinion by Justice Kennedy struck down Colorado's Amendment 2, a voter initiative that barred state and local government from protecting gays from discrimination. Noting that the initiative nullified antidiscrimination measures previously enacted by Denver and other cities, Justice Kennedy wrote that it seemed born of "animosity" toward gays and served no valid purpose.
Seven years later, in Lawrence v. Texas, the court overruled its own 1986 precedent to strike down a state law criminalizing gay sex. "Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct," Justice Kennedy wrote for the court.
The Constitution's framers used such broad terms as "liberty" without defining them because "they knew times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress," Justice Kennedy wrote.
In dissent, Justice Scalia accused the majority of signing on to the "so-called homosexual agenda," and he said its reasoning would likely lead to recognition of same-sex marriage.
Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2012
Prop 8 ruling explained: Why gay marriage will resume in California
By Pete Williams and Erin McClam, NBC News
The Supreme Court ruling on a California law known as Proposition 8 came down to a legal technicality but has huge practical effect — restoring gay marriage in the nation’s most populous state.
The court ruled that proponents of Proposition 8, a ban on gay marriage passed by California voters in 2008, did not have the legal right to defend the law in the federal courts.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court, said that the proponents — the people who put Proposition 8 on the ballot — had no “personal stake” in defending it, at least no more than other ordinary citizens of California.
“It is not enough,” Roberts wrote, “that the party invoking the power of the court have a keen interest in the issue.”
At issue was a legal standard known as standing — the standard that keeps just anyone from suing about just anything in the federal courts. To have a case, the standard says, you have to show harm.
The California Supreme Court ruled in May 2008 that gay couples had a right to marry. Six months later, Proposition 8 passed with 52 percent of the vote, halting gay marriage in California.
Two gay couples then sued in federal court to overturn the ban. State officials refused to defend the law, and a federal judge allowed its original proponents — again, the people who put it on the ballot — to step in.
The judge later ruled against Proposition 8 but suspended his ruling while its proponents had a chance to appeal. The Supreme Court said Wednesday that they had no case.
The ruling was important not just for what it did — clear the way for the resumption of gay marriage in California — but for what it didn’t do. The court made no ruling on whether there is a constitutional right to gay marriage.
“It just refused to decide anything,” said Tom Goldstein, the publisher of SCOTUSblog and a Supreme Court analyst for NBC News. He said the ruling amounted to: “We’re washing our hands of the case.”
The ruling was much narrower than the other major Supreme Court decision on Wednesday, which held that gay couples who are legally married in their states are entitled to federal benefits. Still, opponents of Proposition 8 were ecstatic.
“Today is a good day,” Paul Katami, who was among those challenging the law, said outside the court. Turning to his partner, Jeff Zarrillo, he said: “It’s the day I finally get to look at the man that I love and finally say: Will you please marry me?”
Later, answering a phone call from Air Force One, Katami invited the president to the wedding.
Gay marriage will not resume immediately in California. The Supreme Court clerk sent a letter to the appeals court Wednesday saying that that its formal judgment on the case will not be issued for at least 25 days.
It is up to the appeals court to take care of a formality — dissolving the original judge’s suspension of his order. California notified its clerks that they may have to wait a month or so. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom told NBC News that gay marriage would resume in California within 30 days.
“As soon as they lift that stay, marriages are on,” California Attorney General Kamala Harris told reporters. “The wedding bells will ring.”
The decision on the Defense of Marriage Act divided the court along its normal ideological lines: The four liberals voted to overturn it, the four conservatives voted to uphold it, and the swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, made the difference.
Proposition 8 left the justices in a more unusual breakdown: Roberts was joined in the majority by three of the liberals and Justice Antonin Scalia, who had delivered a blistering dissent in the Defense of Marriage Act case.
Opponents of gay marriage took heart in pointing out that the court was clearly leaving it to individual states to define marriage.
“The battle is going to continue to be fought out at the states as we fully expected,” said John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, the leading group opposed to gay marriage.
NBC News, June 26, 2013
Mormons join Hawaii’s gay-marriage fight, but with a new approach
After Prop 8 • Mormon leaders urge members to lobby for religious exemptions
By Peggy Fletcher Stack
After keeping quiet while Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and others approved gay marriage, the LDS Church is once again speaking up — but with a new, post-Prop 8 tone and emphasis.
This time, it’s in Hawaii, which is poised to debate proposed legislation making same-sex marriage legal.
In a letter dated Sept. 15 and read to congregations, LDS leaders across the state urged Mormons to “study this legislation prayerfully and then as private citizens contact your elected representatives in the Hawaii Legislature to express your views about the legislation.”
The letter did not tell members which side of the issue to take, only to study the church’s “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” a document that endorses one man/one woman as the ideal for marriage.
Whether Mormons favor or oppose the potential change, the letter said, they should push for “a strong exemption for people and organizations of faith” that would protect religious groups “from being required to support or perform same-sex marriages or from having to host same-sex marriages or celebrations in their facilities; and protect individuals and small businesses from being required to assist in promoting or celebrating same-sex marriages.”
Ruth Todd, spokeswoman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said LDS officials at the faith’s Salt Lake City headquarters “are aware of the letter recently read in local Relief Society and Priesthood meetings in Hawaii.”
“The Church’s positions on these issues are well established,” she wrote in an email, “including our encouragement for members to be good citizens and to be involved in their communities. As the stake presidents’ letter says, members in Hawaii have been asked to study these issues and to consider becoming involved as private citizens.”
Owen Matsunaga, one of those stake presidents over a number of Mormon congregations and the church’s spokesman in Hawaii, affirmed that stance, saying that “senior church leaders … are certainly aware of the issues in Hawaii and elsewhere in the world, and are available to us to provide expertise as needed, but expect local leaders and members to make decisions specific to local circumstances.”
“Our position in Hawaii,” Matsunaga wrote in an email, “is entirely consistent with the church’s doctrine and in harmony with this pattern.”
This new approach in Hawaii is “significant,” said Quin Monson, a political scientist at LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University. “It doesn’t seem to be asking for direct involvement in the direction of the legislation, but asking people to defend religious liberty.”
It echoes sentiments unveiled on the LDS Church’s website last week, including the belief that “essential freedoms of conscience, embedded in religious liberty, must be diligently preserved and protected.”
The letter’s language seems to “signal a kind of resignation that there’s a shift in society that we can’t stop,” Monson said, “but we can ask for exceptions.”
It’s far different from the tenor and tactics the Utah-based faith unleashed in 2008 to help pass California’s Proposition 8, which limited marriage to a man and a woman. In that case, the initial letter came for the governing LDS First Presidency and directed members to “do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time.”
Mormons helped raise millions for Prop 8, and the measure passed, only to be overturned by the courts.
Latter-day Saints, who account for more than 5 percent of Hawaii’s population, also quietly worked to defeat the Aloha State’s push, in the mid-1990s, for gay civil unions.
Mitch Mayne, a gay Mormon in San Francisco, is disappointed to see his church re-enter the marriage-equality fray.
But Mayne, who serves in a leadership position in his LDS congregation, is pleased that the letter’s language “is much more softly worded than what we saw during Prop 8” and that it acknowledges that Mormons might take different positions on the issue.
“I don’t think we can discount all the change that is happening inside the LDS Church,” he said. “Progress happens in spirals. That means some days it looks like we are going backwards, but we are not. Progress will continue to happen until we get to where our Savior wants us to be.”
Charles Haynes, a First Amendment scholar in Washington, D.C., believes the Mormon emphasis on religious freedom is a good way for people of faith to move forward.
“People on the left and on the right believe that same-sex marriage is inevitable; the momentum is all in that direction,” said Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum. “The best thing [believers] can do is to protect religious freedom — as they understand it — in this new reality.”
Whatever an owner’s personal beliefs, if a business opens its door to the public, Haynes said, it will not be able to withhold its services from gays.
As to whether churches themselves will be forced to perform or host same-sex weddings, Haynes said, “that will never happen until the First Amendment is repealed.”
The threat of such governmental coercion, he said, is “a red herring to frighten people.”
Nor does Haynes believe that pastors or Mormon authorities will be barred from condemning homosexuality from the pulpit.
“This is the freest society on Earth for religious people,” he said. “Protecting the rights of gay and lesbian people will not change that.”
LDS leaders’ letter to Hawaiian members:
“We have received a number of questions in the last few months regarding proposed legislation that would redefine the relationship and nature of marriage in Hawaii.
“As members of the Church we should be actively engaged in worthy causes that will affect our communities and our families. This legislation will directly affect both. Members are encouraged to study this legislation prayerfully and then as private citizens contact your elected representatives in the Hawaii Legislature to express your views about the legislation. As you do so, you may want to review “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” and other Church publications available on the Church website at lds.org. You may also wish to consider donating your time or resources to one of the community organizations addressing this issue.
“Whether or not you favor the proposed change, we hope that you will urge your elected representatives to include in any such legislation a strong exemption for people and organizations of faith. Such an exemption should:
“ — Protect religious organizations and officials from being required to support or perform same-sex marriages or from having to host same-sex marriages or celebrations in their facilities; and
“ — Protect individuals and small businesses from being required to assist in promoting or celebrating same-sex marriages.
“This is an important issue. As you stake presidency, we urge every family to discuss this issue together and then respond as you feel appropriate. Thank you for your support and faithful service. We pray that the Lord will bless and protect you and your families always.”
The Salt Lake Tribune, September 19, 2013
Federal judge backs same-sex marriages in Utah; state to appeal
By Michael Muskal
A federal judge on Friday struck down Utah's same-sex marriage ban, making the state where the powerful Mormon Church has fought gay marriage the latest front in the legal battle over marriage rights.
In a 53-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby held that Utah’s law passed by voters in 2004 violates the federal right of gay and lesbian couples to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
“The state’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason,” Shelby wrote. “Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional.”
Utah will appeal the ruling to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Ryan Bruckman, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office, said in a telephone call to the Los Angeles Times. He said the state will also seek an emergency stay to prevent any gay marriages from taking place.
Even as he spoke, at least one county clerk in Salt Lake County has begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The state’s attorney general’s office did not have an immediate comment on whether it will seek an appeal in the case.
The Utah ruling comes a day after New Mexico’s Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, by ruling that it is unconstitutional to deny a marriage license to gay and lesbian couples. New Mexico became the 17th state, along with the District of Columbia, to allow same-sex marriages.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, in effect, recognizing same-sex marriages for the purpose of receiving federal benefits. The legislation has led to a flurry of lawsuits to force states to legalize same-sex marriages. Other states, including Hawaii and Illinois, recently legalized gay marriages through legislative action.
In September 2013, a New Jersey judge cited the DOMA ruling in a state case, holding that the state constitution requires the recognition of same-sex marriages.
That ruling effectively brought same-sex marriage to New Jersey after Gov. Chris Christie decided not to appeal. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, challenges in many other states are still pending.
But Utah, the home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, holds a special place because of the state’s history opposing gay marriage and the Mormon Church’s strong opposition.
Clifford Rosky, chairman of the board of the advocacy group Equality Utah, and a professor of law at the University of Utah, praised the decision, which he called careful and well-reasoned. “This is one of the decisions that recognizes that every individual has the right to marry the person he or she loves.”
Rosky also said he expects the state to appeal the decision to the 10th Circuit, but given the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling, that could cause a problem for the appeals court.
Los Angeles Times, December 20, 2013
See http://www.prop8-lds.com/page2.html for additional news articles regarding Proposition 8 and same sex marriage issues.
June 26, 2013 -- U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – See entire decision at http://prop8-lds.com/DOMA_Ruling_6_26_13.pdf.
June 26, 2013 – U.S. Supreme Court effectively overturns Proposition 8 by allowing trial court’s decision to stand – See entire decision at: http://prop8-lds.com/Prop8Ruling6_26_13.pdf
February 7, 2012 -- Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules Proposition 8 is invalid -- See entire decision here.
November 11, 2011 -- California Supreme Court issues advisory decision that proponents of Proposition 8 have standing in federal litigation -- See decision at here.
August 4, 2010 -- Federal district court rules Proposition 8 is invalid -- See entire decision here.
May 26, 2009 -- California Supreme Court rules on Proposition 8 -- See the entire California Supreme Court decision here.
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