Same-Sex Marriage, Proposition 8 and the Mormon (LDS) Church

Review a wide variety of articles regarding California's Proposition 8 and the impacts of the LDS Church's involvement in its passage at and You can review some of the articles below:

1. Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage

2. Film Focuses on Mormon Role in Gay Marriage Ban; Sundance documentary examines Mormon church's role in political fight over gay marriage

3. Gay marriage fight, 'kiss-ins' smack Mormon image

4. Mormon church "regrets" Calif. gay marriage ruling

5. Prop 8 involvement a P.R. fiasco for LDS Church; The campaign offered fuel for critics

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. LDS elders showed seasoned political savvy on California's Prop. 8

8. The Mormon Proposition

9. The Mormons Are Coming!'; Supporters of Same-Sex Marriage Trumpet the Church's Work Against It

10. Mormons Boost Antigay Marriage Effort; Group Has Given Millions in Support of California Fund

11. Utah money helped push Prop 8 spending to historic level

12. LDS communications part of Prop 8 trial

13. '8: The Mormon Proposition': Audacious look at church's role in gay-marriage ban

14. Gay-marriage ruling brings split Utah reaction

15. Mormons, LGBT People Respond to Packer's Talk

16. Supreme Court to Hear Gay-Marriage Cases

17. Gay Marriage Backers Win Supreme Court Victory

18. Public’s Shift on Same-Sex Marriage Was Swift, Broad


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


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


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 "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


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


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


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 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


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, a website dedicated to tracking Mormon contributions to the pro-Prop 8 website -- 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, 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,, and

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, 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 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 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 -- 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,, 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, 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 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 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
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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

* 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 -- $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, 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 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


'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


Gay marriage gets high-profile help

As Prop 8 trial winds down, artists work to bring issue back into spotlight

By Ted Johnson

A same-sex wedding, officiated by Liza Minnelli, kicks off "Sex and the City 2," but it is only a coincidence that the sequel's opening at the multiplex comes just weeks before closing arguments in the federal trial over Proposition 8.

No matter. Several times during the testimony phase of the case, proponents of California's ban on same-sex marriage have made the point that the gay community has the advantage of support from Hollywood.

And that support will play out in the coming weeks and months with an array of documentaries and other projects. If they don't address the trial itself, they at the very least intend to keep the issue in the firmament.

Two days after the June 16 closing arguments in the trial, Red Flag Releasing will debut "8: The Mormon Proposition," a documentary shown at Sundance that depicts a surreptitious role of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in raising money and organizing the push for the ban on gay nuptials, mirroring some of the testimony raised in the trial by Prop 8 opponents, who entered into evidence internal campaign e-mails and other documents.

The narrator of "8" is screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who grew up Mormon and who is also a member of the board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group of entertainment figures and politicos led by Chad Griffin who are driving the federal challenge.

Meanwhile, Kenneth Del Vecchio, a filmmaker and former municipal court judge, has made a movie called "An Affirmative Act," a drama in which two women are put on trial for posing as a straight couple in order to obtain a marriage license. The pic debuts at the Hoboken Film Festival next month.

In the works is a documentary called "The Lavender Scare," directed by former "60 Minutes" producer Josh Howard, that chronicles the federal government's hunt in the 1950s to purge homosexuals from its ranks. It's based on a book by David K. Johnson that Prop 8 opponents entered into the evidentiary record of the federal trial.

The Equal Rights foundation is not backing any of the projects, but Griffin says they are "thrilled with any effort to bring this trial to the millions of people not in the courtroom."

Ironically enough, what remains to be seen is whether there will be any video footage of the Prop 8 trial itself. A media coalition is pushing Judge Vaughn Walker to allow cameras in for the closing arguments, after earlier efforts to show the trial's testimony phase via an online stream and to courthouses across the country were rebuffed by the Supreme Court.

It's arguable the extent to which that camera ban actually limited coverage, given that reporters, bloggers and advocates on both sides provided real-time updates in the courtroom via text messaging and Twitter, which were allowed.

But some Prop 8 opponents fear that the video blackout stymied public interest.

That was a motivation behind a word-for-word online re-enactment of the trial produced by John Ireland and John Ainsworth, and was a trigger for a recently launched project by the Courage Campaign in which celebrities stage portions of testimony as a kind of street theater, with their short clips posted on YouTube. The first of these clips featured stars like Marisa Tomei, Cheyenne Jackson and Josh Lucas, but that is just the start. The intent, says Courage Campaign founder Rick Jacobs, is to organize and draw in average folks. Another phase of the campaign that will encourage people throughout the country to share their stories will be launched soon.

"Yes, it would have been much better to have this trial televised," Jacobs says. "Regardless, we need to get the stories out in bite-sized pieces. ... If we can find the money to hire enough organizers we can make sure that this trial is part of the American consciousness."

Sharing that sentiment is Reed Cowan, the director of "8," who says televised coverage "would have generated more attention to the movement."

"I'm disgusted that the American citizenry has been denied hearing what has gone on in that courtroom," he says.

His project, which was conceived before the Prop 8 case was filed and does not address the trial, argues that the Mormon Church masked the extent of its role in passing the proposition -- through money and organizing -- in order to make the message more palatable to the general public. And just as Prop 8 opponents asserted during the trial, Cowan lays out the argument that the church was driven by animus toward gays and lesbians.

The church has long called on First Amendment rights in defending its role in the campaign. It hasn't had much to say about "8," other than to issue a statement via spokeswoman Kim 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. Clearly, anyone looking for balance and thoughtful discussion of a serious topic will need to look elsewhere."

The documentary does feature a 2008 campaign training clip from a Mormon Website,, designed to show how best to discuss the proposition to friends and neighbors. It features two surfers walking along a beach, one of whom suggests that there's more to same-sex marriage than what "Hollywood and everyone says."

He adds, "I mean seriously, think about it. Is there anyone in Hollywood you would trust with anything important?"

We shall soon see.

Variety, May 29, 2010


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

Mormons, LGBT People Respond to Packer's Talk

Joanna Brooks

As condemnations of Sunday's talk by Elder Boyd K. Packer continue to roll in from LGBT groups and their allies, I'm also hearing from many LDS people, gay and straight, who are grappling with the talk and the controversy.

No one expected Elder Packer to retool the Church's position on same-sex marriage. That position has been dearly bought and paid for in millions of dollars and thousands hours donated by US-based Church members from the community's multigenerational Mormon core. And it is grounded in a uniquely Mormon theology that sacralizes marriage as a rite necessary to salvation.

But it's the tone of the talk--which I've heard described as "bruising" and "scolding" by observant LDS Church members--that seems to be really getting to people.

Over the past decade, one thing we've been able to count on from most LDS leaders delegated to address homosexuality (apart from the discourse surrounding Proposition 8) is a measured and careful tone. That tone reflects some acknowledgment of the struggles many, many LGBT people--including those who acknowledge their sexual orientation but choose to remain celibate and orthodox--go through as they live their lives with dignity. At the core of that tone was a recognition that there are people--those who experience same sex attraction as well as their families and Church leaders--for whom this issue is very difficult and very demanding.

That careful, measured tone was not the tone I heard on homosexuality at the Conference Center Sunday morning.

Now, on the message boards that accompany every article written on this piece, I see LDS people at odds with one another. I read comments from Mormons bravely telling the stories of their own lives, their children, the LGBT people they love, and alongside them I read Mormons indulging in base homophobia totally unrelated to doctrine and who feel they have prophetic sanction to do so.

What tone will govern Mormon discourse on homosexuality?

Will our speech be compassionate and careful?

My grandmother was a daughter of the Utah pioneers. She moved to Los Angeles during the Great Depression and lived her adult life as a Mormon in the diaspora. When they found out she was a Mormon from Utah, people in Los Angeles, she recalled, would sometimes reach out to feel her head for horns. Late in her life, she and I talked about homosexuality--we talked about everything--and she recalled back in the 1950s a boy who grew up on her block in her middle-class Los Angeles suburb, a child who she always knew was different, and kindly she asked, "I wonder what has happened to him? I wonder if everything turned out okay for him?"

Kindness was the core of her Mormonism.

In this moment, her memory is a blessing.

Religious Dispatches, October 6, 2010


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


Gay Marriage Backers Win Supreme Court Victory

WASHINGTON — In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the 5 to 4 decision. He was joined by the court’s four more liberal justices.

The decision, the culmination of decades of litigation and activism, came against the backdrop of fast-moving changes in public opinion, with polls indicating that most Americans now approve of same-sex marriage.

Justice Kennedy said gay and lesbian couples had a fundamental right to marry.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,” he wrote. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”

“It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage,” Justice Kennedy said of the couples challenging state bans on same-sex marriage. “Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in a dissent joined by Justice Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, said the Constitution had nothing to say on the subject.

“If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”

In a second dissent, Justice Scalia mocked Justice Kennedy’s soaring language.

“The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic,” Justice Scalia wrote of his colleague’s work. “Of course the opinion’s showy profundities are often profoundly incoherent.”

As Justice Kennedy finished announcing his opinion, several attendees seated in the bar section of the court’s gallery wiped away tears, while others grinned and exchanged embraces.

Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired in 2010, was on hand for the decision and many of the justices’ clerks took seats in the chamber, which was nearly full as the ruling was announced.

As in earlier civil rights cases, the Supreme Court had moved cautiously and methodically, laying careful judicial groundwork for a transformative decision.

As late as October, the justices ducked the issue, refusing to hear appeals from rulings allowing same-sex marriage in five states. That decision delivered a tacit victory for gay rights, immediately expanding the number of states with same-sex marriage to 24, along with the District of Columbia, up from 19.

Largely as a consequence of the Supreme Court’s decision not to act, the number of states allowing same-sex marriage has since grown to 36, and more than 70 percent of Americans live in places where gay couples can marry.

The court did not agree to resolve the issue for the rest of the nation until January, in cases filed by gay and lesbian couples in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. The court heard extended arguments in April, and the justices seemed sharply divided over what the Constitution has to say about same-sex marriage.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said their clients had a fundamental right to marry and to equal protection, adding that the bans they challenged demeaned their dignity, imposed countless practical difficulties and inflicted particular harm on their children.

The Obama administration, which had gradually come to embrace the cause of same-sex marriage, was unequivocal in urging the justices to rule for the plaintiffs.

“Gay and lesbian people are equal,” Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said. “They deserve equal protection of the laws, and they deserve it now.”

Lawyers for the four states said their bans were justified by tradition and the distinctive characteristics of opposite-sex unions. They said the question should be resolved democratically, at the polls and in state legislatures, rather than by judges.

The Supreme Court had once before agreed to hear a case arising from a constitutional challenge to a same-sex marriage ban, California’s Proposition 8, in 2012 in Hollingsworth v. Perry. At the time, nine states and the District of Columbia allowed same-sex couples to marry.

But when the court’s ruling arrived in June 2013, the justices ducked, with a majority saying the case was not properly before them, and none of them expressing a view on the ultimate question of whether the Constitution requires states to allow same-sex marriage.

A second decision the same day, in United States v. Windsor, provided the movement for same-sex marriage with what turned out to be a powerful tailwind. The decision struck down the part of the Defense of Marriage Act that barred federal benefits for same-sex couples married in states that allowed such unions.

The Windsor decision was based partly on federalism grounds, with Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion stressing that state decisions on how to treat marriages deserved respect. But lower courts focused on other parts of his opinion, ones that emphasized the dignity of gay relationships and the harm that families of gay couples suffered from bans on same-sex marriage.

In a remarkable and largely unbroken line of more than 40 decisions, state and federal courts relied on the Windsor decision to rule in favor of same-sex marriage.

New York Times, June 26, 2015


Public’s Shift on Same-Sex Marriage Was Swift, Broad

As recently as 1990, about seven in eight Americans said sexual relations between adults of the same gender were wrong

By Ben Leubsdorf and Colleen McCain Nelson

A remarkably swift and broad shift in public attitudes toward gays and lesbians, unlike any other in recent history, preceded the Supreme Court’s ruling Friday that found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

As recently as 1990, about seven in eight Americans said sexual relations between adults of the same gender were wrong. In 2004, less than a third supported same-sex marriage, and only one state, Massachusetts, allowed it. Voters in more than two dozen states approved constitutional bans during the first decade of the 2000s. In 2008, the presidential nominees of both major parties publicly opposed gay marriage.

Then the scales tipped. In Maine, 53% voted to reject same-sex marriage in 2009; just three years later, 53% of Mainers voted to legalize it.

This month, a strong national majority was ready to support the high court’s 5-4 ruling on Friday.

By comparison, it took 30 years after the Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws for a majority of Americans to approve of marriage between blacks and whites. Decades of national debate over abortion rights have failed to narrow deep divisions.

“It is a unique phenomenon, that change of this magnitude has occurred so quickly on an issue like this,” said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who helps conduct Wall Street Journal/NBC News surveys.

Perhaps the single most important factor in changing minds: Gays, lesbians and bisexuals came out of the closet. Some 77% of Americans in a Journal/NBC News poll this spring said they personally know or work with someone who is gay or lesbian, up from 62% in 2004.

“The fact that Americans are much more likely to know now that a family member or a co-worker or someone who is a member of their church or synagogue or mosque is gay—that makes them reevaluate their past attitudes toward gay men and lesbian women,” said Georgia State University sociologist Dawn Michelle Baunach.

Technology and media have been factors, as well, some say. Television shows such as “Will & Grace” and “Modern Family,” which portray gay relationships in a positive light, may have helped change attitudes, Ms. Baunach said.

And with the rise of the Internet and social media, “it’s easier to come into contact with these ideas,” said Amy Bree Becker, assistant professor of communications at Loyola University Maryland. Social networks such as Facebook enable mobilization by activists on issues beyond gay rights, she added.

Not everyone has changed their minds. Only 27% of white evangelical Protestants favor same-sex marriage, according to polling by the Pew Research Center. Other groups that on the whole do not favor gay-marriage rights in Pew’s polling include people born before the post-World War II baby boom and conservatives.

Just a few years ago, opponents of gay marriage were a majority. Now, with the Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, a small and solidly conservative group of Americans is finding itself out of the mainstream.

On Friday, some of these Americans saw in the Court’s decision another sign of the emergence of a world many say they don’t recognize. They view with concern a culture that has rapidly become more welcoming of gay unions and transsexuals.

“The country that I was born into is gone,” said Joy England, a retired teacher in Sylvan Springs, Ala. “I feel like I’m living in a different country…I’m amazed how quickly it came about.”

As same-sex couples rushed to courthouses seeking marriage licenses and President Barack Obama declared the court’s decision a “victory for America,” Ms. England said she was on the verge of weeping. From South Carolina to Oklahoma, many opponents of gay unions echoed Ms. England’s dejection Friday while vowing to ramp up the fight to protect what they call traditional marriage.

These Americans now are in the minority, but they have outsize impact on Republican politics and will play a central role in the party’s 2016 primary campaign, presenting a test for candidates who must navigate a primary electorate that will look far different than the general-election voting pool. The dilemma is particularly acute for Republicans as they wrestle with the question of whether to rally the base and continue the battle against gay marriage, or reluctantly move in the direction of the broad shift in public opinion.

Support for gay marriage rose in Journal/NBC News polling over the last six years among women and men, whites and blacks and Hispanics, Democrats and Republicans, in cities and suburbs and small towns, among every age group and in every income bracket.

“There is no group that has become more opposed,” Mr. McInturff said.

The young helped lead the way: Support among 18- to 34-year-olds surged from 47% in October 2009, to 57% in March 2012, and then to 74% in March this year.

Suburban residents, political independents, Midwesterners and Hispanics all saw support for same-sex marriage surge by 22 or 23 percentage points between 2009 and 2015.

Friday’s ruling based the right to marriage on the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal protection and due process under the law. But Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion traced the legal decision back to changes in American society.

“In the late 20th century, following substantial cultural and political developments, same-sex couples began to lead more open and public lives and to establish families,” Mr. Kennedy wrote. The question of gay rights reached the courts, he wrote, because of “a quite extensive discussion of the issue in both governmental and private sectors,’’ as well as “a shift in public attitudes toward greater tolerance.”

Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2015

June 26, 2015 – U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage.

June 26, 2013 -- U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – See entire decision at

June 26, 2013 – U.S. Supreme Court effectively overturns Proposition 8 by allowing trial court’s decision to stand – See entire decision at:

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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