The Mormon Church, Proposition 8 and Same-Sex Marriage (Page 2)
View 50 articles regarding the short- and long-term impacts of the LDS (Mormon) Church's involvement in the passage of California's Proposition 8.
To view page one with even more articles, see prop8-lds.com.
1. Film documents Mormon role in gay marriage debate
2. When Mormons Mobilize: Anti-Gay Marriage Prop. 8 Effort ‘Outed’?
3. A year of scrutiny for the LDS Church; Challenges -- A tumultuous year, from politics to polygamy
4. Gay marriage advocates bristle at religion's role in Prop. 8 win
5. The New Religious Right; Does the organizational and fund-raising prowess displayed by the LDS church during California's Proposition 8 campaign augur future political might?
6. State officials to investigate Mormon Church's Prop. 8 campaign activities
7. Hurtful comments based on ignorance can run both ways
8. LDS Church urges pro-Proposition 8 calls
9. Mormons Outside California Recruited For Prop. 8
10. Too complicated to find common ground
11. Mormon church reports $190,000 Prop. 8 expenses
12. The Prop 8 Campaign Money
13. Calif. gay marriage ban backers target businesses
14. Gay-rights advocates' plan for LDS conference: Service, not protests; Activists opt for kinder, gentler approach than post-Prop. 8 rallies
15. Prop 8 inspires new army of Utah activists; Post-election push -- Groups enlist new soldiers in the battle for gay rights
16. Opponents file suit to annul gay marriages in California
17. California's Legal Tangle
18. Uncivil Union: Catholic Prelate Says He Wooed Mormons For California Marriage Battle
19. Why we're mad at the Mormon church; A Times Op-Ed columnist defended a religious group that worked tirelessly to trample on the rights of same-sex couples
20. LDS stand on Prop. 8 oozes irony
21. Prop. 8 divides Mormon family during the holidays
22. Readers have choice words (pro and con) on Prop. 8
23. Mormons and Proposition 8; Of all people, Mormons should be sensitive to those seeking nontraditional unions
24. LDS Church Can't Hide Behind A Temple
25. Jonah's Latest
26. The Long March to the Mormon Temple
27. Prop 8 Supports Threaten Justice Recall
28. Prop. 8 backers splinter as court fight resumes
29. [LDS] Church Readies Members on Proposition 8
30. Hanks to Mormons: Sorry for Prop 8 Remark
31. Judge rejects bid to keep names of anti-gay marriage initiative backers secret
32. Gay marriage foes want campaign contributions anonymous, citing 'harassment'
33. New questions emerge about LDS Church Prop 8 contributions
34. FPPC gets new complaint over Prop. 8 campaign
35. Gay rights group filing complaint in Prop 8 battle
36. LDS Church releases statement regarding Buttars
37. New LDS ward email about gay civil unions attracts attention
38. A Prop 8 campaign look-alike in Hawaii?
39. Can social conservatives assimilate the LDS into their movement?
40. What's it like to be a Mormon progressive?
41. Booze, budget and Buttars highlight Utah session
42. Gay or straight, commitment deserves acceptance
43. The Bigots' Last Hurrah
44. Utah's Gay Rights Failure
45. Reid rips LDS Church's Prop. 8 support
46. California Upholds Gay Marriage Ban; 18,000 Same-Sex Couples Who Married Before Prop 8 Can Retain Rights, According to Ruling
47. Romney under fire for PAC donation to anti-gay marriage group
48. Romney donated to anti-gay marriage effort;Four-year-old campaign donation comes to light in release by Human Rights Campaign.
49. Prop. 8: Gay-marriage ban unconstitutional, court rules
50. Supreme Court to Hear Gay-Marriage Cases
Film documents Mormon role in gay marriage debate
By Jennifer Dobner (AP)
SALT LAKE CITY -- Reed Cowan's reasons for making a film about the Mormon church's activism against gay marriage in California are personal.
Himself gay and Mormon, Cowan clashed with his family over his sexual orientation and the beliefs of their faith, but it was a conversation between him and a sibling about her support of Proposition 8 cemented his commitment to make the film: "8: The Mormon Proposition."
"I thought, if this is the dialogue in my Mormon family, then what is like in other Mormon households," the Miami-area filmmaker and former Utah television journalist said. "If this is the pain I feel over Prop. 8 and other Mormon efforts to quash (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights, what is the pain of others multiplied all over the world?"
While the 80-minute documentary is still in production, a trailer posted on the Internet has caught the eye of both sides of the debate, viewed by roughly 70,000 people in its first 78 hours online. And the Web site that hosts the video has had nearly 28,000 visitors since it went online last month.
Cowan contends that the church was the most influential force in the campaign and paints the faith's theology and culture as historically anti-gay.
Internet commentary on the trailer is divided.
Depending on the source, the movie is either an emotional and scathing indictment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or an unfair characterization of the Utah-based church's beliefs and motivation for political involvement. The church was part of a coalition of faiths and conservative groups that pushed for approval of a gay marriage ban in California's constitution.
Church officials have seen the trailer and other online materials about the film, LDS spokeswoman Kim Farah said, and "it is obvious that anyone looking for balance and thoughtful discussion of a serious subject will need to look elsewhere."
Like many faiths, Mormonism defends traditional marriage as an institution ordained by God that is central to a healthy society. The church has consistently worked against legislation to legalize gay marriage since the 1990s. Last week, however, church leaders endorsed a pair of Salt Lake City ordinances that make it illegal to discriminate against LGBT persons in employment and housing.
Narrated by Academy Award winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black â€” also gay and raised Mormon â€” the film chronicles the campaign and includes personal stories from straight and gay Mormons, including newlyweds Tyler Barrick and Spencer Jones, who married in San Francisco on June 17, 2008, the first day same sex marriage was legal in California.
The film touches on gay suicide and homelessness, which many believe occur at higher-than-average rates among gay Mormons and highlights the strong opposition to gay rights from the Utah Legislature and lobbyists who are predominantly Latter-day Saints.
It also draws on past statements of former leaders and efforts to cure homosexuality with electroshock therapy at the church-owned Brigham Young University.
Mormon church officials appear in the film in footage obtained through other filmmakers, media outlets and in a church-produced video that appeared on the Web.
Cowan said he "begged" for church participation â€” through both official channels and personal connections â€” but was rejected. "I got an immediate no," he said.
Alex Nibley, a Utah filmmaker and digital media instructor said the trailer's powerful, high-quality footage promises an emotional look at it subject. Still, he said, it appears to fit within the typically polaraized spectrum of film takes on the Mormon church â€” most either that promote the faith or attack its views.
"I suspect that the impact will be to confirm certain ideas that people have about the church," Nibley said. "It may expand some perceptions in the public at large, but it will probably not shake the faith of a lot of those who aren't going to pay much attention to it."
Cowan said his goal for the film was to document what he believes is a crusade against gay people and to illustrate that the faith operates as both a church and a political action committee.
A release date for the film, believed to be the first about Prop. 8, is uncertain. Cowan is shopping the film to festivals.
Orange County Register, November 15, 2009
When Mormons Mobilize: Anti-Gay Marriage Prop. 8 Effort ‘Outed’?
By Joanna Brooks
New documents introduced in the challenge to Prop. 8 reveal that the LDS Church sought to create “plausible deniability” in its role in supporting the Yes on 8 campaign. Why would the LDS hierarchy want to deny Mormon involvement?
On Wednesday, January 20, in a federal courthouse in San Francisco, plaintiffs in the Perry vs. Schwarzenegger trial challenging the legality of California’s Proposition 8 introduced two documents (over strenuous objections from the defense) indicating close but cautious coordination between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Yes on 8 campaign.
The documents, according to plaintiffs’ witness Gary Segura, a professor of political science at Stanford University, indicated a desire on the part of the Church to create “plausible deniability or respectable distance between the church organization per se and the actual campaign.”
Segura’s words soon rippled across the gay blogosphere, as trial watchers from The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan to Julia Rosen of the California-based Courage Campaign latched onto the phrase “plausible deniability” as an “explosive” indictment of the Mormon Church’s allegedly behind-the-scenes relationship to the Proposition 8 campaign.
But to Mormons in California (both those who supported the Yes on 8 campaign and those who opposed it), the relationship between the church and the Proposition 8 campaign has always been undeniable.
Mormons Account for 75% of Donations
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has stated in its official news releases that it acted as part of a “coalition” of faith groups supporting Proposition 8, which amended the California State Consitution to eliminate civil marriage rights for gays and lesbians.
Says Laura Compton, spokesperson for Mormonsformarriage.com: “I’ve always said that it’s a coalition and the Mormons are Goliath.”
Documents compiled by Mormon supporters of same-sex marriage—including campaign time lines and donor profiles—show that LDS Church ecclesiastical structures, resources, and relationships were fully mobilized to generate the majority of volunteers and donations for the Yes on 8 campaign, even as Church members were coached to handle their Mormonism carefully in campaign contributions and activities.
There was nothing plausibly deniable about the Church’s relationship to the Proposition 8 campaign when, in Sunday meetings on June 29, 2008, a letter from Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Thomas Monson was read over the pulpit of every Mormon congregation in California urging Church members to “do all you can” to support the ballot measure.
Early donations from Mormons were solicited in July, when letters read in Sunday meetings of men’s and women’s church auxiliaries conveyed a $10 million fundraising goal for July and August and instructed Church members to donate exclusively to protectmarriage.com. Donors were asked to identify their home congregation on donation forms, according to campaign observers, so that Mormon congregations could track their progress towards meeting fundraising targets set for each congregation based on their ability to pay as assessed from records of church offerings.
The Church-coordinated fundraising drive intensified in late August, when select LDS Church members identified as potential large donors were invited to participate in conference calls with members of the Quorum of the Seventy, a high-ranking Church leadership body. (Mormon Yes on 8 campaign observers believe that tithing records were used to identify call participants.) On the conference calls, high-ranking church leaders encouraged potential large donors to individually contribute $25,000 to protectmarriage.com.
That’s when Nadine Hansen, a Mormon veteran of the campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment, initiated an effort to document the extent of Mormon funding for the Yes on 8 campaign. During the ERA campaign, Mormon feminist Sonia Johnson had shared with Hansen fundraising disclosure sheets from an anti-ERA group that had raised money in California. Using church directories, Hansen was then able to identify “all but one or two” of the ERA donors as Mormon. Sensing that the Church was pressing ERA-era strategies into service once again, she prepared to undertake the same donor-identification project for Proposition 8 at the Web site mormonsfor8.com.
In early September, a surge of $25,000 donations began to appear in campaign finance records compiled by the California Secretary of State. Hansen and a crew of Mormon supporters of same-sex marriage began to comb large donor records to identify Mormon Church members. By Election Day, mormonsfor8.com volunteers had successfully identified more than 50% of the large donors as members of the LDS Church. “And we know that we did not identify all of the Mormon donors,” Hansen relates. “You can see that in some places virtually all the money that came in came from Mormons. It’s a safe bet to say that Mormons contributed over half the money. It might be as high as 75%.”
Don’t Dress Like a Missionary
Mobilizing highly centralized and hierarchical ecclesiastical structures, Mormons also contributed as much as 80-90% of the volunteer labor for the campaign.
Implementation of a statewide grassroots volunteer structure began in late July, with volunteers coordinated through geographically-organized Mormon ecclesiastical units called “wards” and “stakes.” Church members received “callings,” or ecclesiastical assignments understood by orthodox church members to be divinely inspired, from their local church leaders to serve as regional (or “stake”-level) directors and zip code (or “ward”-level) supervisors for grassroots campaigning. One LDS zipcode supervisor reported that the Mormon Church was “the only member of the Protect Marriage coalition” to participate in the Yes on 8 ground campaign.
On August 16, the Yes on 8 ground-campaign began its voter-identification phase, with a reported 15,000–30,000 Mormon precinct walkers knocking doors each weekend in August to identify “yes,” “soft yes,” “undecided,” “soft no,” and “no” voters and to commit “yes” voters to display “Yes on 8” lawn signs. The door-to-door voter identification campaign continued through September.
Mormon volunteers were coached to avoid disclosing their ties to the LDS Church. “When we went to our training meetings, they said, don’t bring up the fact that you’re Mormon. Don’t wear white shirts and ties; don’t look like missionaries. When you go out [canvassing], bring a non-member friend. When you’re calling people, don’t say I’m a Mormon,” says Laura Compton.
On October 8, LDS Church members in California attended a special meeting broadcast from Salt Lake City by satellite to wards and stakes throughout California and to BYU students with California ties. Encouraging Church members to think of the satellite broadcast as though they were “sitting in [a] living room having a confidential talk,” high-ranking LDS Church officials, members of the Quorum of the Twelve and the Quorum of the Seventy, introduced Church members to the final voter persuasion and get-out-the-vote “phases” of the campaign, asking members to use social networking technology to “go viral” with their support for Proposition 8 and commit four hours each week to the ground and phone campaign.
A primary source of Mormon messaging during the Proposition 8 campaign was the anonymously-authored “Six Consequences if Prop 8 Fails” document, which went viral across Mormon social networks after its introduction by email in mid-August and was utilized as a training document and handout in the Mormon-coordinated ground campaign. The document alleged that the legalization of same-sex marriage would eventuate in the teaching of same-sex marriage in public schools and the elimination of religious freedoms. Mormon legal scholar Morris Thurston described this as “untrue” and “misleading” and urged the LDS Church to discontinue its further dissemination.
Even as some Mormons urged the LDS Church to dissociate itself from questionable tactics of the Yes on 8 campaign, the profound connection between the Church and the campaign was obvious to insiders. As Laura Compton of mormonsformarriage.com relates, “Anybody who was part of the process knew exactly where they were getting their marching orders from.”
Highly centralized and hierarchical LDS institutional structures, widespread experience with door-to-door proselytizing, disciplined messaging among former missionaries, and extensive social networks that facilitated viral messaging, combined with a religious and cultural tradition that assigns enormous value to obedience to church authorities, service, discipline, and sacrifice to create a potent political force that was no secret to those within the culture.
According to Laura Compton, the LDS Church provided the “backbone of leadership, flesh of volunteers, blood of money” for the Yes on 8 campaign. “When there’s a natural disaster, Mormons are among the first to mobilize with resources and volunteers, and they get a lot done very fast. This time they applied their talents to what they perceived to be a political disaster. They’re good at mobilizing and they work hard.”
Still, Compton and other Mormon observers of the Proposition 8 campaign continue to wonder why the Church has been reticent to acknowledge the extent of its influence.
“They did not want to be outed,” Hansen relates. “And yet they were with ones with all the organizational skills. And whether its because [the Church] is concerned about tax-exempt status or they want to avoid bad publicity... they want to do it and not have anyone know they do it at the same time.”
One cultural factor contributing to this apparent two-mindedness is the continuing insularity of Mormon culture. Mormon studies scholars suggest that Mormons living outside of Utah (like other minorities) have developed a “divided sense of self” and a related tendency to adopt a self-monitored or “coded” form of speech with outsiders.
Hansen recalls this same insider-outsider mentality from the political struggle over the Equal Rights Amendment, recalling that a man from her Mormon ward “called me, upset because I had written this letter to the editor... ‘You’re making the Church look bad,’ he said. But I said, ‘I’m not making the Church look bad. I’m telling what the Church is doing. If it looks bad, it’s because it is bad.’”
Religious Dispatches, January 31, 2010
A year of scrutiny for the LDS Church
Challenges -- A tumultuous year, from politics to polygamy
By Peggy Fletcher Stack
If 2002 was Mormonism's debutante ball, 2008 may go down as its first semester of college.
The Utah-based church made new friends, endured back-stabbing from would-be friends, joined some clubs, got a taste of fame and had a few wrenching exams.
From the possibility of a Mormon in the White House to a stream of Latter-day Saints on reality television, from being attacked as belonging to a cult (or mistaken for a polygamous sect in Texas) to participating in California's bitter battle for traditional marriage, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would see their faith in the nation's mirror. To many, such scrutiny was unlike any they had seen in their lifetime.
"The church emerged on the center stage of public consciousness in a way we hadn't seen before," says Chase Peterson, former University of Utah president and lifelong Latter-day Saint. "The full consequences of this new public awareness probably will not be understood for some time."
Indeed, it was a "wild, eventful year for the church," says Philip Barlow, Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, "quite beyond its perpetual efforts in spreading its message, looking after its members, managing its vast resources, building its facilities and addressing catastrophes at home and abroad."
The crucial question is: How will the LDS Church and its individual members respond to the year's events?
For example, Mormons, who in recent decades have been staunchly Republican, were cast as pariahs during Mitt Romney's presidential campaign by controlling sectors of the Republican Party. Though he had won widespread political and financial support across the nation, most Evangelicals in the party bitterly opposed him, and between 37 percent and 43 percent of Americans said they would never vote for a Mormon, any Mormon.
Even after Romney bowed out of the race, many Mormons continued to smart from the accusations and misrepresentations of their faith that flourished during his run. They developed a serious distaste for Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who, they believe, fueled anti-Mormon hostility while playing innocent.
Others were more straightforward. The Rev. Robert Jeffress repeatedly called Mormonism a "cult," and evangelist Bill Keller famously said, "A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for Satan."
Will Latter-day Saints now begin to question their allegiance to the Republican Party, Barlow wonders, or even move into the Democratic Party in the future, especially if Barack Obama is successful in his first term?
Life was changing inside the church as well.
LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley died at the end of January.
At 97, Hinckley was Mormonism's oldest prophet and the most vigorous to the end. He had transformed the church's public image, giving interviews to reporters everywhere he went.
Hinckley's longtime associate, Thomas S. Monson, ascended to the LDS presidency, choosing Dieter Uchtdorf, a German member, as a counselor. The leadership focus began to shift.
Where Hinckley met with the media and immediately traveled outside the country, Monson held an awkward, scripted news conference and stayed closer to home, running the church from its Salt Lake City headquarters. He dedicated four temples and announced eight more, while also opening a new welfare services compound and sending humanitarian aid across the globe.
Despite such goodwill efforts, conflicts occasionally erupted.
In March, Mormon leaders were chagrined by news accounts of three Mormon missionaries in Colorado who apparently desecrated a Roman Catholic shrine. Though the Catholics ultimately forgave the missionaries for their vandalism, a month later the Vatican issued an order, blocking LDS access to Catholic parish records because of the Mormon practice of baptism for the dead. The move caused widespread hand-wringing among genealogists everywhere, including Catholics.
Catholics and Mormons later put aside their differences to become allies on a different political issue -- gay marriage.
In June, Mormons joined the Preserve Marriage Coalition at the request of Archbishop George Niederauer, the San Francisco Catholic leader who had previously led the Diocese of Salt Lake City. The First Presidency sent a letter to all California Mormons, urging them to support a ballot measure known as Proposition 8, which defined marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman.
The same Evangelical groups that had demeaned Mormonism as a cult during Romney's campaign were now the LDS Church's allies in the California fight.
"These new defenders of the Mormon faith have long been the most prolific Mormon-bashers in the nation," said Wayne Besen, executive director of the Brooklyn-based gay-rights group Truth Wins Out. "[The two groups] have nothing in common but their anti-gay rhetoric."
The measure passed on Nov. 4, and in the ensuing days, angry supporters of gay marriage protested outside LDS temples across the nation.
"The church's support of Proposition 8 created a loud backlash and may make the church a symbol for the constriction of civil rights," Barlow says. "Will the church dig in on what it sees as a moral and constitutional issue or will common cause help repair or forge new allegiances with Evangelicals?"
Not many years from now, 2008 may be seen as a turning point for the LDS Church in addressing the reality of homosexuality, he says.
The church's theology was formed at a time when homosexuality could only be construed in biblical terms as "abomination," he says. "Because of experience and science, today church leaders see the issue in a more complex light. They distinguish between feelings and actions, and they acknowledge that we do not know the originating causes of same-sex attraction."
LDS founder Joseph Smith once said that " 'by proving contraries, truth is made manifest,' " Barlow says. "As is the past, this may be a painful but auspicious moment in LDS history."
The Salt Lake Tribune, December 27, 2008
Gay marriage advocates bristle at religion's role in Prop. 8 win
Religious activists fueled campaign and while they were within their rights, foes are complaining.
By Martin Wisckol
Mormons, Catholics and evangelicals were responsible for last month's passage of Proposition 8 - and many opponents of the gay-marriage ban are denouncing that participation as inappropriate religious intrusion into government.
"There is no religious freedom in America when any religious group can impose their dogma on any person that disagrees with that dogma," said Newport Beach's Paul Fitz-Gibbon.
He acknowledges that efforts by Prop. 8's religious activists are allowed by law.
"But I believe it shouldn't be," said Fitz-Gibbon, a retiree whose ex-wives include a Mormon. "Religious zealotry by well-intentioned persons is the greatest unnatural threat to well being in the world today."
However, John Eastman, dean of the Chapman University School of Law and a supporter of Prop. 8, said it's a fundamental right for people to apply their religious beliefs to political campaigns.
Tax codes prohibit churches from endorsing or contributing to candidates, but not issues or ballot measures. And the First Amendment's protection of religious freedom is widely interpreted as protecting religions from government interference - but not banning religious activists from the electoral process.
"It would be wrong and discriminatory to prohibit them from being involved," Eastman said. He also pointed out that the phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear in the U.S. Constitution itself.
The religious campaign
Jeff Flint, a principal political consultant for the Yes on 8 campaign, says virtually all its volunteers and donors had religious ties, and were involved "either because they were encouraged by religious leaders or because of their own beliefs."
He estimates that members of the Mormon church - from California and elsewhere - contributed "at least 40 percent" of the $40 million raised by the campaign.
The volunteer effort also got off to a strong start because of the rapid mobilization of Mormons. The first statewide precinct walk was Aug. 16 and included about 30,000 volunteers. Flint estimated 25,000 of those were Mormons, although he said the ratio shifted as the campaign picked up non-Mormon volunteers.
The rallying of Mormons was due, in part, to a June 29 letter sent by the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, and read to local congregations.
"We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donation of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman," the letter read in part.
Additionally, the church filmed professional-quality videos advocating Prop. 8, and posted them on a Web site available to church members and the general public.
Catholics also made substantial contributions to the campaign, while evangelical Christians rallied to the polls and were key to the measure winning 52 percent of the vote. A study by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 85 percent of "evangelical or born-again Christians" voted for the measure, while just 42 percent of non-evangelical voters favored it.
Flint said the initial campaign strategy projected the need for a $22-million budget. But opponents' fundraising soared past that amount, and faith-based backers came through with more money each time it was requested.
"It was always forthcoming," Flint said. "To see so many people motivated for a reason other than financial self-interest was extraordinary and exciting."
The 'separation' issue
Political activism by religious leaders has a rich history throughout the last half century. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. famously blended religion and politics in the civil rights movement. Other religious leaders have rallied followers in opposition of the Vietnam War, nuclear arms, and abortion, among other issues. Pastor Rick Warren of Lake Forest's Saddleback Church has made combating AIDS a major mission, and has engaged dozens of political leaders in the effort.
But the magnitude of religious involvement in the Prop. 8 campaign and the emotional intensity of the gay marriage issue have brought that religious involvement to the forefront.
There have been no formal legal claims that religious activists violated the law with their campaign tactics. The legal challenges now before the state Supreme Court question the constitutionality of the gay-marriage ban, not the legality of church involvement with the campaign.
A complaint against the Mormon church's involvement is being investigated by the state Fair Political Practices Commission. However, the complaint does not allege that the church's involvement was illegal. Rather, it argues that the church activity went beyond permissible "member communication" and was actual campaigning, requiring campaign finance reports that were not filed by the church.
Many proponents of Prop. 8 have said that it was their freedom of religion that was impinged by the gay marriage ban, expressing worries that all churches would be forced by the state to perform gay marriages whether they liked it or not.
"There is no constitutional basis for states to do that," said Kareem Crayton, who teaches law at the University of Southern California. Churches and pastors have been given latitude by government to marry - or refuse to marry - whoever they choose.
Irvine's Mitch Goldstone, for instance, was married to his longtime partner in 1996 by his rabbi. The nuptials were not legally recognized, but the couple fixed that with a civil union following the May court ruling that said gays could legally marry in the state. They and other gay spouses remain legally married at least until the state Supreme Court decides on whether Prop. 8 legally overrides the earlier ruling.
Goldstone is among those miffed at the religious aspect of the Prop. 8 campaign.
"Churches and religious institutions should not be involved in politics for the same reason people left England and founded our nation - freedom from state religion," he said. "Gay marriage is nothing more than a legal contract."
The Orange County Register, December 5, 2008
The New Religious Right
Does the organizational and fund-raising prowess displayed by the LDS church during California's Proposition 8 campaign augur future political might?
By James Kirchick
In June the governing body of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent a letter to every Mormon congregation in California asking that a message be read to members at Sunday services stating that "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God," and "local church leaders will provide information about how you may become involved in this important cause." The cause was Proposition 8, and church members were implored to "do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time."
Mormons heeded the call. Not only did they donate what appears to be a majority of the funds raised by the Yes on 8 campaign -- an estimated $20 million, according to Prop. 8 opponents, much of it from out of state -- but church members also volunteered thousands of man-hours in support of the amendment. Though the Mormon Church avoided a visible public role in the campaign, it did formally join the coalition of religious groups supporting the amendment, and a prominent member, Mark Jansson, served on the Yes on 8 executive committee. (Jansson was one of four signatories to a public letter threatening a boycott of businesses whose owners contributed to No on 8.)
Mormons make up only 2% of California's population, so the fact that they played such an outsize role in the Yes on 8 campaign testifies to their rigid and efficient organization as a religious community. Because the church requests that members tithe 10% of their annual income, LDS leaders are able to gain an accurate picture p of how much their congregants earn. With this information in hand, bishops in local communities went from house to house in California asking for specific amounts of money for the Yes on 8 campaign -- an incredibly effective fund-raising tactic. Mormons boast high rates of involvement in church-related activities, including commitments that can be quite demanding, such as missionary work, whereby members spend up to two years proselyting, often in far-flung overseas locations.
This individual discipline, obedience to hierarchical authority, and experience in exhorting people to join the faith comes in mighty handy for mass political organizing. Indeed, Mormons campaigned heavily for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid, especially in the key first primary state of New Hampshire. And it's Romney's potential future presidential aspirations, as well as Mormonism's tortured history in America, that has led some to speculate that the church wasn't just advocating for "traditional" marriage in the Prop. 8 fight. Perhaps it was also deliberately flaunting its power as a force to be reckoned with --showing both the broader religious right and the Washington political scene what it can do.
Ever since its inception in the early 19th century, Mormonism has been derided as a cult by other Christians, especially evangelicals. "They're very insecure people," says Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. And the reaction to Romney's campaign showed why this anxiety might be justified. From the start, Romney had difficulty attracting the much-needed support of evangelicals and was shocked at the level of anti-Mormon sentiment he experienced campaigning in heavily Protestant areas. "There's a lot of resentment amongst members of the church," says Clayton Christensen, a Mormon and professor at Harvard Business School, about the level of hostility that materialized during Romney's candidacy. "Christ actually said you should love your enemies and do good to people who spitefully use you. And yet, with the evangelicals in the presidential campaign, those guys really showed that they are the ones that aren't Christian."
Mormons have expressed similar disbelief at the level of anger voiced by the gay community in the wake of Prop. 8's success. In response to nationwide protests staged outside Mormon temples, the church released a statement bemoaning that it had been "singled out for speaking up as part of its democratic right in a free election." Church members feel "genuine alarm" at the hubbub created by their efforts, according to Damon Linker, a former editor of the conservative Christian public policy journal First Things and the author of The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege. And that's not surprising, considering that Mormons have long been involved in the movement to ban same-sex marriage -- and yet are only now facing massive scrutiny for it.
Ascribing cynical motivations to the LDS church's behavior is intriguing, but the contention that it became involved in the fight over Prop. 8 as a way to impress is belied by Mormon history. First, Mormonism has never been particularly welcoming of gays and its doctrine proscribes homosexuality as a sin. Nor is it the case that the church ignored same-sex marriage until this past summer. The day before Prop. 8's passage, a seven-page internal LDS memo was posted online showing just how prescient the church was on the issue. Addressed to M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (men regarded as living prophets by LDS members), the memo presents a thorough argument for why and how the church should become involved in the movement to prevent same-sex couples from marrying.
The memo, dated March 1997, was written in response to continuing developments in Hawaii, where in 1993, the state's supreme court ruled that the denial of marriage to same-sex couples was discriminatory. Anticipating a national legal and electoral fight over the issue, its author supported the involvement of the church in fighting back attempts to legalize marriage equality. The memo not only stressed the importance of working with other religious groups but also cautioned that more mainstream Christian denominations ought to be the public face of the campaign due to concerns that Mormonism was still viewed with suspicion by the general public. Describing a meeting that then-LDS president Gordon Hinckley attended, the memo states that Hinckley "said the church should be in a coalition and not out by itself," and cites a poll conducted by Richard Wirthlin, a former senior adviser and pollster for Ronald Reagan and a leading LDS figure, which found that "the public image of the Catholic Church [is] higher than our church." The conclusion of the memo's author: "If we get into this, they are the ones with which to join." The church had been nominally involved in the marriage debate prior to the writing of this memo; in 1994 it issued a formal statement against gay marriage, and in 1996 local congregations across Texas urged members to join an antigay organization called the Coalition for Traditional Marriage.
A great deal of the intellectual work of the traditional marriage movement was done at Brigham Young University, which is owned by the Mormon Church. James Ord, a gay Mormon living in California who describes his status with the church as "inactive," graduated in 2004 from BYU's law school, where he worked alongside professors Richard Wilkins and Lynn Wardle. The two have been prominent players in the anti-gay marriage movement and, according to Ord, began crafting the legal strategy to oppose same-sex marriage almost immediately after Canadian courts in Ontario issued a series of rulings in 2002 that laid the groundwork for marriage equality in the province and, eventually, the country. For the next two years Ord "attended meetings, forums, and academic discussions where the language for these amendments was floated and debated."
A rapprochement between mormons and the religious right at large does not appear to be in the offing, despite the LDS Church's hard work on Prop. 8. With marriage, there is "far more at stake for Mormons than there is for a Catholic or evangelical," Linker says. Ironically, in light of Mormonism's polygamist history, he points to its contemporary emphasis on the heterosexual family structure as the primary reason for its involvement. "Mormons are different than other factions on the religious right because their theology emphasizes a traditional male/female family with kids in a way that goes far beyond most other groups, whether they be evangelical or Catholic," Linker says. According to Mormon dogma, marriage extends into the afterlife and couples continue to have "spirit children" who populate extraterrestrial worlds.
The church is also selective in the battles it fights. For instance, Christensen says, the church stayed out of the dispute over same-sex marriage in Massachusetts because it didn't think it could defeat the measure in one of the country's most liberal states, even though then-governor Romney was leading the effort to do just that. Contrast the church's judicious decision in the Bay State with its 2000 campaign in support of California's Proposition 22, a statute defining marriage as between a man and a woman. That measure passed with 61% of the vote, its success was never in doubt, and it occurred a full three years before Massachusetts ruled in favor of marriage equality. Given the uphill environment activists faced then, their outcry was understandably muted compared to the devastating sense of loss felt in November's bruising. And since the church didn't face any backlash in 2000, according to Ord, its leaders felt confident about rejoining the fight this time around.
But while Mormons may be bewildered at the outrage directed their way now, it would be wrong to conclude that the church has been so chastened by the reaction that it will stay out of future political battles. For one thing, Mormon doctrine remains steadfastly opposed to same-sex marriage. "To allow gay marriage is to fundamentally misconstrue what [they] are ordained by God to become," Linker says. And Mormons have suffered far worse in their history than mere protests or the occasional anthrax scare. "I think we attempted to work in the process to do what we think is right in society and in the eyes of the Lord," Christensen says. "I don't feel any kind of sense that we made a mistake."
The Advocate, December 3, 2008
State officials to investigate Mormon Church's Prop. 8 campaign activities
By Mike Swift
The chief of a state commission that enforces election law says that it will launch an investigation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding alleged violations in the Proposition 8 campaign.
The Fair Political Practices Commission has notified the Mormon Church that it will investigate a claim that the church did not disclose the value of non-monetary campaign activities, including alleged phone bank operations from Utah and Idaho that targeted California voters. The complaint was filed Nov. 13 by Fred Karger, an activist who opposed the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage approved by 52 percent of voters on Election Day.
There is no timetable for the investigation, and the commission has made no determination about the validity of Karger's sworn complaint, filed with the commission under penalty of perjury.
"We'll be looking into the allegations," Roman Porter, the commission's executive director, said Tuesday. He said the timetable for the investigation would depend on a host of factors, including whether or not the commission would have to subpoena records and the cooperation of the complainant and those named in the complaint.
A spokeswoman said the LDS Church would cooperate fully and that the church is confident it had not violated state elections law.
"We will be sending information to the FPPC and believe that any investigation will confirm the church's compliance with applicable law," the spokeswoman, Kim Farah, said in a statement.
If violations are found, the commission has the ability to assess penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, and in certain cases to file civil lawsuits for up to three times the amount of unreported or inaccurately reported contributions. Porter declined to say whether the commission is investigating any other alleged violations in the Prop. 8 campaign.
The LDS church made only a relatively small donation to the Yes on 8 campaign ï¿½ $2,864 on Nov. 1, according to reports filed to date with the California Secretary of State. However, church members contributed up to 40 percent of the more than $40 million raised to back the same-sex marriage ban, including individual donations as large as $1 million, Yes on 8 campaign officials have said, and a surge of large donations late in the campaign may well boost that percentage when final reports are filed.
The latest filings with the state show that the two sides raised more than $82 million for the battle over Prop. 8. Over the last two and half weeks before Election Day, the Yes on 8 campaign pulled in $10.5 million in out of state donations from large donors alone, with $5 million coming from the state of Utah, according to state records.
Those donations are not part of the allegations being investigated by the commission. But the role of the Mormon Church and other religious organizations, including large monetary contributions by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus, a Connecticut-based Catholic fraternal organization, have sparked a debate about whether the principle of the separation of church and state was eroded during the Prop. 8 campaign. Some churches also made donations to the No on 8 campaign.
At issue in Karger's complaint is the disclosure of non-monetary contributions, including telephone bank operations allegedly organized by the LDS Church in Rexburg, Idaho, where Brigham Young University has a campus, and in Utah. Karger, a former political consultant who helped organize boycotts against Yes on 8 donors, said Tuesday that he learned about those operations by reports in local newspapers in those areas.
Karger said he was pleased the commission would investigate.
"Once you go out of the church membership and contact voters, that becomes a non-monetary contribution" that must be reported to the state, Karger said.
The Mercury News, November 26, 2008
Hurtful comments based on ignorance can run both ways
When Mitt Romney ran for president last year, his Mormon religion became a lightning rod for critics from both the left and the right who characterized the LDS Church as an anti-Christian cult and a threat to the fabric of America.
Florida evangelist Bill Keller claimed a vote for Romney "is a vote for Satan." Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, told journalists at the Religion Newswriters Association annual meeting that Romney was not a Christian, but a member of a cult. "I believe we should always support a Christian over a non-Christian," he said.
Jacob Weisberg of the online magazine Slate wrote that he "wouldn't vote for someone who truly believed in the founding whoppers of Mormonism."
Religion writer Ken Woodward, in a New York Times op-ed piece, said that Romney had to publicly explain why Mormons are so clannish and secretive, and why The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has "the soul of a corporation."
Mike Huckabee, a Romney opponent for the Republican nomination, had the press scrambling to explain arcane theological differences when, with a smirk, he asked a New York Times reporter if Mormons believed that Jesus and Satan were brothers.
To Mormons, Huckabee, a Southern Baptist pastor whose church has labeled Mormonism a non-Christian cult, was taking an element of the church's theology out of context to mislead the public into thinking Mormons are devil worshippers.
Huckabee's remarks prompted several of my Republican acquaintances to tell me that if Huckabee ended up on the GOP ticket, for president or vice president, they would vote for the Democrat. They said they were hurt by anti-Mormon rhetoric that betrayed an ignorance of what their religion is all about. Throughout the campaign, Republican Mormons in Utah complained about vicious remarks from people who knew nothing about the LDS community.
All of the above illustrates why it's a shame that many of these same acquaintances who complained of being victimized by ignorant zealots are saying now that they agree with many of the hateful comments that state Sen. Chris Buttars made the other day about gays and lesbians.
Like the anti-Mormons, Buttars, in his ignorance, was condemning a community he knows little about with the invective of a political and religious zealot. The gay-rights movement, he said, is "probably the greatest threat to America," gay activists are akin to Muslim radicals and same-sex relationships are "abominations."
The LDS Church permits gay members full fellowship if they remain celibate. The church and its members strongly supported California's Proposition 8 banning gay marriage, but the church said its "position has always been to engage in civil and respectful dialogue on this issue. Senator Buttars does not speak for the church."
Gays and Mormons, then, have this in common: Both have been demonized by a large swath of folks who have no understanding of who and what they are. Unfortunately, many Mormons who were hurt by the cruel rhetoric aimed at their church last year apparently don't get that they are doing the same to a community of people that far outnumbers Mormons in this country.
I wrote last week about Evan Twede and Gary Watts, who once shared the beliefs that Buttars espouses but since have broken with the LDS Church and the Republican Party over gay rights.
Twede and Watts both have children who are gay and that, they said, is what opened their eyes to the humanity of the people they formerly thought were inhuman.
The Salt Lake Tribune, March 1, 2009
LDS Church urges pro-Proposition 8 calls
By Scott Taylor, Deseret News
California-citizen members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints currently living out of the state are being organized by the LDS Church to make phone calls -- if needed -- in support of California's Proposition 8.
Responding to a request from the Protect Marriage Coalition, the LDS Church is making arrangements for these members to call friends, family and fellow citizens in California "to urge support of the effort to defend traditional marriage," stated a Tuesday church-issued news release.
On the Nov. 4 state ballot, the proposition calls for an amendment to the California state constitution that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
The LDS Church also announced a satellite broadcast tonight to be received in California meetinghouses.
Elders M. Russell Ballard and Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy are to address the LDS Church's doctrine of marriage and its participation in the Protect Marriage Coalition.
Several Institutes of Religion in Utah told the Deseret News on Tuesday they would pick up the broadcast for California students attending colleges and universities locally.
Elder Clayton, who also serves as president of the church's North America West Area, said in the release the out-of-state efforts help on two fronts.
"We are looking at options to fulfill a request from the coalition to help with phone calls to encourage support of Proposition 8," he said. "We're also responding to the many requests we have had from students and others who want to help. Making phone calls is something they can do."
He added the coalition hasn't decided on whether to activate any additional phone volunteers outside of California.
While many LDS Church members outside of California have expressed a willingness to help, the out-of-state efforts for now will focus on willing Californians.
Out-of-state calls have yet to start, but the church anticipates a small test of its planned call system soon.
California members and leaders of the LDS Church have long been involved in coalition efforts in that state to protect traditional marriage, including what started as a grass-roots effort nearly a decade ago to help voters there in the November 2000 election pass Proposition 22.
That proposition resulted in a state law with similar language ï¿½ only marriage between a man and woman is valid or recognized in California.
However, within a half-dozen years, lower courts were suggesting the law might be unconstitutional.
"That's when the coalition saw the handwriting on the wall, that this would make it all the way up to the (California) Supreme Court," said Ron Prentice, founding director of the California Family Council, an organization for the protection and promotion of Judeo-Christian principles in California culture.
Prentice described the Protect Marriage Coalition as a cooperative effort headed by leaders and members of the state's Evangelical Protestants, Catholics and Latter-day Saints, with other religious and community groups throughout the state participating.
The coalition benefitted from established relations between the LDS Church and two of California's prominent leaders, Archbishop George Niederauer of the San Francisco Archdiocese and Archbishop William Weigand of the Sacramento Archdiocese. Both had previously lived and worked in Salt Lake City and had worked closely with LDS Church leaders in past projects.
"It just jump-started the level of trust that needed to be built," said Prentice of the cooperative efforts.
"That was either providential or fortuitous, depending on your faith," said Ned Dolejsi, executive directory of the California Catholic Conference, the Sacramento-based public-policy arm of the Catholic Church in the state.
The coalition needed to regroup quickly after the California Supreme Court ruled last May to allow same-sex marriages in the state and the issue was then put before the public as a constitutional amendment on the November ballot.
"Certainly coming out of the blocks was the LDS Church, proving that they were organized," said Dolejsi, adding it provided "an early boost."
He said the LDS Church's announced involvement of more members "is a reflection on the passion and conviction of the LDS Church members here."
And like the LDS Church, the Catholic Church is receiving large and small donations and offers to help from out-of-state Catholics and Catholic-aligned organizations.
"It's an issue that obviously affects more than just California," Dolejsi said.
Deseret News, October 9, 2008
Mormons Outside California Recruited For Prop. 8
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Senior elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made a televised appeal to Mormons in California Wednesday night to step up their already considerable efforts to pass a ballot initiative that would ban same-sex marriage in the state.
Two members of the church's second-highest governing body, the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, quoted from Mormon scripture on the sanctity of marriage as they laid out a week-by-week strategy for boosting Mormon involvement before the Nov. 4 election in voter registration efforts, phone banks and distributing campaign materials.
"What we're about is the work of the Lord, and He will bless you for your involvement," apostle M. Russell Ballard said during the hourlong meeting, which was broadcast to church buildings in California, Utah, Hawaii and Idaho.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is part of a coalition of conservative groups backing Proposition 8, which would overturn the California Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in the nation's most populous state by amending the state constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman.
Mormons have been active participants in the campaign both as volunteers and financial contributors, giving an estimated 43 percent --some $8.4 million -- to the Proposition 8 campaign, according to the Web site mormonsfor8.com. There are about 770,000 Mormon church members in California, but Mormons from outside the state have been encouraged to give money and time to help pass the measure.
During Wednesday's taped satellite broadcast, church leaders asked for 30 members from each California congregation to donate four hours of week to the campaign. They also called on young married couples and single Mormons to use the Internet, text messaging, blogging and other forms of computer technology to help pass the initiative, saying the church has created a new Web site -- PreservingMarriage.org -- with materials they can download and post on their own social networking sites.
Church elder L. Whitney Clayton, who has been working as a liaison between the LDS leaders and the Proposition 8 campaign, said before the event that it was meant to energize Mormons for the weeks remaining before Election Day.
"It's a political campaign, and time is short and there's a lot to do."
Along with recruiting Mormons to work in California, church members from outside the state have been asked to call friends and family at home in California to encourage support for the measure, according to Clayton. He said many students attending church-owned universities have asked how they might help and could be enlisted to make calls.
"In California, the phone trees are up and running. We just want to be able to help, and one of the things we can do is we can organize," Clayton said in an interview Wednesday.
Officially, the Mormon church is politically neutral and does not endorse individual candidates or political parties. The church does, however, weigh in on issues it considers morally important. The church holds traditional marriage as a sacred institution ordained by God and has actively fought efforts to legalize same-sex marriage across the United States since the 1990s.
Its involvement in the California same-sex marriage debate this year began with a letter from church President Thomas S. Monson asking California Mormons to give their time and money to pass Proposition 8. Monson's letter has been read repeatedly in Mormon churches, and opponents of the forthcoming initiative have credited LDS members with giving the Yes on 8 camp an edge in donations and volunteers.
Some Mormons have criticized the church for wading so heavily into the political realm.
"We know that it is not without controversy, yet let me be clear that at the heart of this issue is the central doctrine of eternal marriage and it's place in our Father's plan," Ballard said.
Besides Clayton and Ballard, the broadcast featured Quentin L. Cook, another member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
cbs5.com, Oct 9, 2008
Too complicated to find common ground
By Rebecca Walsh, Tribune Columnist
In October, Sutherland Institute President Paul Mero clapped gay attorney Stephen Clark on the back.
"This at times might sound like a little lovefest here," Mero said as the men discussed "Out of the Closet," a collection of their e-mails debating gay rights.
Four months later, Mero warned the crowd at his debate with Equality Utah members at the University of Utah Law School that he might be offensive, or, as he put it, "intentionally provocative."
And he was. He said gay and transgendered people come from a "very immature emotional frame of reference," pick from a menu of "umpteen" gender options, "play house," live an "illusion."
"The gloves must come off," he said.
The question is: Why?
Proposition 8, apparently.
Angry about the gay community's protests, boycotts and "extortion" of the LDS Church, Mero turned condescending and nasty, steaming with the emotion he so despises in the other side. Still, the next day, he sent an e-mail to his opponents inviting them to "continue to talk."
Mero insists his behavior is consistent. He's a self-styled compassionate conservative who thrives on heady debate with the other side. Certainly not a homophobe or a "gay-hater."
But you'll understand if gay-rights activists feel burned.
"The anti-church stuff after Prop 8 really set him off," says Sen. Scott McCoy, a Salt Lake City Democrat. "He is like a totally different person."
As the president of Utah's most powerful right-wing think tank, Mero wields unusual influence on Capitol Hill and throughout the state. He's the mastermind of Kanab's "natural family" manifesto and wrote an infamous op-ed in support of private school vouchers comparing "inflexible" public schools to slavery.
Still, he seems conflicted. Every so often he veers from the conventional conservative canon. He supports immigration -- illegal or otherwise. He believes polygamists should be allowed to "live and let live."
Marriage Law Foundation Director Bill Duncan says Mero is a traditional conservative, not a partisan.
"Paul's conservatism is more reflective, less talking-pointy." he says
Mero's theory turns on the question: Does it benefit society? As in: Gay sex doesn't benefit society, so there's no point in debating gay rights.
A little biography might be helpful here:
As a kid, his family trekked from Chicago to California to northern Virginia, following his father's jobs as his parents struggled to reconcile and finally divorced. He married at 18. Two years later, Mero converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He studied at BYU and then worked for two conservative California congressmen. Mero took the job at Sutherland eight years ago.
Mero's wife Sally home-schooled their six children. His mentally disabled sister lived with them for 20 years. There were no Boy Scouts, girls' camps or "Simpsons" in the household. "We wanted to raise good children," he says. But years later, they watch "Family Guy" together. He has five grandchildren. Through that prism, he sees Sutherland as the guardian of Amendment 3, Utah's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Its author, former legislator LaVar Christensen, sits on the board.
The cause is not personal, Mero says.
"I run an organization that tries to affect public policy," he says. "I see this in public policy terms. They take it in very personal terms."
For gay rights advocates, it is personal. They say Mero is cloaking theology in pseudo-intellectual language. Equality Utah Public Policy Manager Will Carlson says Mero uses his encounters with them to grandstand. Sutherland taped that debate last month and Mero offered Equality Utah a copy he hasn't delivered yet. But while his opening comments are posted on YouTube, Equality Utah's are not.
Even Clark, Mero's gay "friend," is fed up with Sutherland's Sacred Ground Initiative. Mero criticizes Equality Utah for quoting LDS Church statements and then co-opts religion for his own cause, says Clark, legal director of Utah's ACLU. "It's a "profound betrayal of the tenor, tone and spirit" of their e-mail exchange.
"At least Equality Utah has intellectual honesty," he says.
At that debate, where Mero acknowledged he was posturing, he said: "We really do live in separate realities. And in our separate realities, there is no common ground."
A moment of real honesty.
Salt Lake Tribune, March 1, 2009
Mormon church reports $190,000 Prop. 8 expenses
John Wildermuth, Chronicle Staff Writer
Mormon church officials, facing an ongoing investigation by the state Fair Political Practices Commission, Friday reported nearly $190,000 in previously unlisted assistance to the successful campaign for Prop. 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California.
The report, filed with the secretary of state's office, listed a variety of California travel expenses for high-ranking members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and included $20,575 for use of facilities and equipment at the church's Salt Lake City headquarters and a $96,849 charge for "compensated staff time" for church employees who worked on matters pertaining to Prop. 8.
"This is exactly what we were talking about when we filed the suit," said Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate, which opposed the same-sex marriage ban. "They spent money on the campaign and were supposed to report it."
Church officials were not available for comment Friday night.
Karger filed his complaint with the FPPC on Nov. 13, alleging that the Mormon church had produced commercials, set up Web sites, conducted simulcasts and sent church leaders to California to support Prop. 8 without filing any of the required reports.
Up until Friday, the Mormon church had denied any direct financial support for the campaign beyond a reported $2,078 spent for bringing church Elder L. Whitney Clayton to California.
Church officials complained that Karger's complaint was full of errors and that the church had "fully complied" with California law.
The report filed Friday contained few details about how the money was spent. It did list $26,000 for audio-visual production and travel expenses for a number of Mormon leaders other than Clayton.
It also reported a number of expenses in the Bay Area, including $122 for a meal at Nonna Rose Restaurant in San Francisco, and $133 spent at the 3-Zero Cafe in Half Moon Bay.
While the deadline for the report, which covers the period from July 1 to Dec. 31, is Monday, many campaign contributions by major donors and independent committees must be reported within days after they're made.
Roman Porter, the FPPC's executive director, declined to discuss the case directly, saying only that it remained under investigation. In general, however, "cases like these hinge over what had to be reported and when it had to be reported," he said. A late report covering disputed filings "wouldn't remove the obligation to file on time" but would be considered by investigators.
The proposed ban on same-sex marriage was called the second most-watched campaign in the nation last November, behind the presidential race. While Mormons gave millions of dollars to the "Yes on Prop. 8" campaign, church leaders insisted that the contributions came from individual church members, not the church itself, so the church was not required to file reports with California.
San Francisco Chronicle, January 31, 2009
The Prop 8 Campaign Money
California's fair-elections commission is investigating a complaint against the Mormon Church's role in campaigning for Proposition 8, which made marriage illegal between people of the same sex. Based on the facts that have come out so far, the state is right to look into whether the church broke state laws by failing to report campaign-related expenditures.
Proposition 8, which California voters passed on Nov. 4, overturned a ruling by the California Supreme Court and wrote discrimination against one particular group of people into the State Constitution. After it passed, tens of thousands of people rallied in cities across the country in support of same-sex marriage. The California Supreme Court said recently that it would review whether Proposition 8 was constitutional.
Mormons were a major force behind the ballot measure. Individual church members contributed millions of dollars and acted as campaign foot soldiers. The church itself also played an unusually large role. Michael R. Otterson, the managing director of public affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - the full name of the Mormons' church - said that while the church speaks out on other issues, like abortion, "we don't get involved to the degree we did on this."
Fred Karger, the founder of a group called Californians Against Hate, who filed the complaint, contends that the Mormon Church provided significant contributions to the pro-Proposition 8 campaign that it did not report, as state law requires. The Fair Political Practices Commission of California is investigating, among other things, commercials, out-of-state phone banks and a Web site sponsored by the church.
If the commission finds that the church violated state reporting laws, it could impose penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, and sue for additional amounts. The Mormon Church, which says it is sending information to the commission, says it did nothing wrong.
Churches, which risk their tax-exempt status if they endorse candidates, have more leeway in referendum campaigns. Still, when they enter the political fray, they have the same obligation to follow the rules that nonreligious groups do.
New York Times, November 29, 2008
Calif. gay marriage ban backers target businesses
By LISA LEFF, Associated Press Writer
San Francisco, CA (AP) -- Leaders of the campaign to outlaw same-sex marriage in California are warning businesses that have given money to the state's largest gay rights group they will be publicly identified as opponents of traditional unions unless they contribute to the gay marriage ban, too.
ProtectMarriage.com, the umbrella group behind a ballot initiative that would overturn the California Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage, sent a certified letter this week asking companies to withdraw their support of Equality California, a nonprofit organization that is helping lead the campaign against Proposition 8.
"Make a donation of a like amount to ProtectMarriage.com which will help us correct this error," reads the letter. "Were you to elect not to donate comparably, it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition to traditional marriage. ... The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to ProtectMarriage.com but have given to Equality California will be published."
The letter was signed by four members of the group's executive committee: campaign chairman Ron Prentice; Edward Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference; Mark Jansson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and Andrew Pugno, the lawyer for ProtectMarriage.com. A donation form was attached. The letter did not say where the names would be published.
The unusual appeal reflects the increasing tension surrounding the tight race over Proposition 8, which would change the California Constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman. In recent days, both sides in the debate have accused their opponents of threatening their respective campaign volunteers and misleading voters.
San Diego businessman Jim Abbott, who owns a real estate company and is a member of Equality California's board of directors, received one of the letters late Wednesday afternoon. His adult son called Abbott to read it to him.
"He characterized it as a bit 'Mafioso,'" Abbott said. "It was a little distressing, but it's consistent with how the 'yes' side of this campaign has been run, which is a bit over the top."
Abbott, who married his same-sex partner at the end of August, estimated that over the last decade he has given $50,000 to Equality California, including a recent $10,000 gift to underwrite a San Diego event that raised money to defeat Proposition 8.
When asked whether ProtectMarriage.com planned to name businesses that have supported the No on 8 campaign, Prentice initially said he was unaware of any such effort.
"I'm not familiar of any organized attack against organizations that have given to No on 8," he said Thursday.
But when asked about the letter to Equality California donors, Prentice confirmed they were authentic and said the ProtectMarriage.com campaign was asking businesses backing the other side "to reconsider taking a position on a moral issue in California."
Prentice said it was his understanding it was intended for large corporations such as cable operators Time Warner and Comcast instead of small business owners like Abbott. Both Time Warner and Comcast are listed on Equality California's Web site as corporate sponsors that gave $50,000 each to the group.
Companies that have contributed directly to one of the campaign committees collecting cash to fight Proposition 8, including one set up by Equality California, also were recipients of the letter, Prentice said. That list includes companies such as Pacific Gas & Electric, Levi Strauss and AT&T.
"I think the IDing of, or outing of, any company is very secondary to the question of why especially a public corporation would choose to take a side knowing it would splinter it's own clientele," he said.
Equality California executive director Geoffrey Kors said Thursday he has heard from two other business owners besides Abbott.
"It's truly an outrageous attempt to extort people," Kors said.
While an anti-Proposition 8 group called Californians Against Hate has posted lists of gay marriage ban donors on the Internet and even launched boycotts of selected businesses, Kors said that work has been independent of the official No on 8 campaign.
"They are going after our long-term funding and trying to intimidate Equality California donors from giving any more to the No on 8 campaign and from giving to Equality California ever again."
While corporations often give to rival candidates for public office as a way of preserving their government access no matter who wins, tit-for-tat solicitations are almost unheard of in ballot initiative campaigns, said Robert Stern, president of the nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies.
"This is a proposition where you are on one side or the other. You vote yes or no, not yes and no," Stern said.
Though unusual and disturbing, Stern said there was nothing illegal about ProtectMarriage.com hitting up Equality California supporters for money.
Sonya Eddings Brown, a ProtectMarriage.com spokeswoman, estimated that 36 companies were targeted for the letter and said those that do not respond with a contribution would be highlighted in a press release and on the campaign Web site.
She called the tactic "a frustrated response" to the intimidation felt by Proposition 8 supporters, who have had their lawn signs stolen and property vandalized in the closing days of the heated campaign.
San Francisco Chronicle, October 23, 2008
Gay-rights advocates' plan for LDS conference: Service, not protests
Volunteering -- Activists opt for kinder, gentler approach than post-Prop. 8 rallies
By Rosemary Winters
Far from the post-Proposition 8 protests that ignited outside of LDS temples in November, gay-rights advocates are taking a gentler tack during next week's LDS General Conference.
Instead of pickets and chants, members and supporters of Utah's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community plan to take up garden tools and medical-supply kits for "General Service Weekend" on April 4 and 5.
Some of the hard feelings from the LDS Church's backing of Prop 8 -- the November ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in California -- appear to have dissipated. But LGBT activists remain motivated in their pursuit of marriage equality and other legal protections, said organizer Jacob Whipple.
"We wanted to harness that energy for productive means," he said. "We don't feel that there is a need to protest [the LDS Church] further."
Whipple launched the Salt Lake City protest that drew 3,000 people to Temple Square thee days after the November election.
Salt Lake City police Sgt. Robin Snyder said Thursday that no permits for protests outside of general conference have been requested -- the deadline to apply is today, although a permit is not required. In recent weeks, a viral e-mail spread false rumors about a massive and violent gay-rights rally planned near the conference, a semiannual event that features speeches from prominent LDS leaders.
Whipple said Thursday he knows of no plans by gay-rights supporters to
demonstrate during the conference. Instead, he has arranged several service projects in Ogden and Salt Lake County, including cleanups at Dimple Dell Park and the Jordan River Parkway, gardening for the nonprofit Utah G.A.R.D.E.N.S. and social-work visits to refugee families. He expects 300 to 600 volunteers to participate.
"Service to others is always a good idea," LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said via e-mail in response to the LGBT event.
Eric Ethington, who plans to pitch in on service weekend, hopes that seeing gay and transgender Utahns giving back to society will increase awareness and understanding of LGBT issues.
Since November, Ethington has organized a series of service events -- including delivering pumpkin bread to gay-rights foe Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan -- through his grass-roots group Pride in Your Community.
"Quite often, people just see the rallies and the pride parade ... and maybe get a little scared of that," he said. "We are people just like anybody else. We care about our neighbors."
Salt Lake Tribune, March 27, 2009
Prop 8 inspires new army of Utah activists
Post-election push -- Groups enlist new soldiers in the battle for gay rights.
By Rosemary Winters
Utahns split about post-Prop 8 temple protests. Crushed by the defeat of same-sex marriage in California, Jacob Whipple fired off text messages to everyone he knew the day after Election Day. Two nights later, more than 3,000 people joined him at a rally outside of Salt Lake City's Temple Square.
"It was exhilarating," says first-time organizer Whipple.
The 29-year-old is part of a national phenomenon Proposition 8 backers likely didn't see coming. The ballot measure, eliminating the right of gay couples to marry in California, succeeded, but it also ignited a furor among gay-rights supporters, forging and fortifying a new generation of activists who could fuel the movement for years to come.
"People thought that Prop 8 would fail, considering it was in California, which most people think of as this very liberal, very pro-gay state," says Doug Jennings, the Utah Pride Center's media coordinator. "It moved people to say, 'What's wrong with our organizations right now? What are they not doing that we can do?' "
Whipple staged a protest. A week later, so did University of Utah student Elaine Ball: About 2,000 people rallied at Salt Lake City Hall, where speaker Jeff Key declared Utah's capital "ground zero" in post-Prop 8 activism.
As headquarters of the LDS Church, which prodded its members to give substantial time and cash to prop up Prop 8, Utah has drawn a national backlash, including calls to boycott the Beehive State.
"When [Prop 8 passed], I realized that, yes, for years, people have been voting to take away our rights," says Whipple, who plans to marry his boyfriend, Drew Cloud, in California this April, even though the ceremony now will not be legally recognized. "If no one in Utah was going to stand up and fight for change, I was going to be a big part of it."
But the east Millcreek resident wasn't alone. By mid-December, Whipple had to convene an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) town-hall meeting so the community could work to coordinate all of the new political efforts. Many new activists were cultivating grass-roots groups on the social-networking Web site Facebook.
Whipple launched the All for One Initiative and sponsored a Christmas toy drive for Primary Children's Medical Center.
Ball, a Salt Lake City resident, and Eric Ethington, of Murray, hatched Pride in Your Community, with the goal of boosting awareness of LGBT issues through service. Ball and Ethington, both 24, are bisexual.
In December, they shuttled 20 people to Cottonwood Heights during a snowstorm to shovel driveways and sidewalks. Last week, Ball and Ethington baked pumpkin bread to deliver to Republican Sen. Chris Buttars and his neighbors in West Jordan.
"We really want to get out to those [conservative] districts to show there are people who care [about gay rights] in their community," says Ball, who is married and wants "everyone" to have that right.
Michael Mueller, a 34-year old straight and married Salt Laker, became an organizer the month before Prop 8 passed, throwing a benefit for the "no" campaign. He launched Utahns for Marriage Equality, drawing more than 1,000 members on Facebook.
"The thought of 16,000 marriages in California being rescinded," Mueller says, "struck me not as a gay-rights issue, but as a human-rights issue."
Earlier this month, he gathered 60 people in view of Delicate Arch in southeastern Utah for a rally in support of marriage and other legal protections for same-sex couples. He wanted to cast the iconic, red-rock span as a symbol for all Utahns -- not just the straight ones.
Established advocates have benefited from a post-Prop 8 push, too.
Equality Utah crafted the Common Ground Initiative, a collection of bills that would extend some legal protections to same-sex couples, such as hospital visitation and probate rights. The LDS Church has said it does "not oppose" such rights, but it has not responded to a request to endorse the initiative itself or the particular bills.
More than 3,000 people have signed a petition backing the effort. Seventy percent of them are brand-new names to Equality Utah's database, said executive director Mike Thompson.
"That's a significant increase," he says. "We're interested, ourselves, to see if this kind of new wave of activism is going to translate into focused efforts during the legislative session."
Already, there are indications that LGBT Utahns and their straight allies could lobby Capitol Hill in greater numbers this year. The session starts Jan. 26. Last week, close to 120 people showed up for Equality Utah's "citizen lobbyist" training -- double the usual number.
Nikki Boyer, chairwoman of Utah's Stonewall Democrats and a lesbian involved in the movement for more than 40 years, compares the post-Prop 8 surge to earlier rallying points for the LGBT community, including the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and Anita Bryant's drive for anti-gay legislation in the 1970s.
"What's different with this [burst in activism] is now there are organizations and people in place who can carry on the message," Boyer says.
For the 66-year-old, it was inspiring to look over the crowd at the Temple Square rally and see so many young faces.
"I just hope it keeps up," she says. "I would like to see -- in my lifetime -- our civil rights given to us."
Salt Lake Tribune, January 17, 2009
Opponents file suit to annul gay marriages in California
SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) -- Opponents of same-sex marriage in the US state of California, who won a referendum blocking the unions last month, filed suit to annul thousands of gay marriages conducted in the state this year.
Californians in a November 4 referendum on "Proposition 8" voted 52.1 percent in favor of a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which the state Supreme Court had ruled permissible in June allowing some 18,000 gay couples to wed.
Also on Friday, California's Attorney General Edmund Brown called on the Supreme Court to invalidate Proposition 8 on grounds it deprives people of a right the high court deemed was guaranteed by the state constitution.
"Proposition 8 must be invalidated because the amendment process cannot be used to extinguish fundamental constitutional rights without compelling justification," Brown said in a statement.
Proposition 8 was backed by Christian conservative groups intent on reversing the Supreme Court decision that struck an article from the state constitution defining marriage exclusively as between a man and a woman.
Referendum proponents known as the "Protect Marriage" coalition on Friday took their campaign one step further, petitioning the Supreme Court to annul the gay marriages officiated so far in California.
"Proposition 8's brevity is matched by its clarity," the group said in its legal brief. "There are no conditional clauses, exceptions, exemptions, or exclusions: 'Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.'"
The anti-gay marriage initiative follows three lawsuits against Proposition 8 already filed in the Supreme Court, which last month said it would take up the issue at an undetermined date.
Two suits seeking to invalidate the plebiscite-backed constitutional amendment were filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the non-profit, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender agency Lambda Legal.
A third lawsuit has been filed by the cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Santa Clara.
Gay activists and officials in Los Angeles and San Francisco have said Proposition 8 implies a major constitutional revision requiring a more complicated process than a simple amendment, which is how the proposition advocates define their initiative.
Neither the ACLU nor Lambda returned AFP calls Friday for comments on the latest court filing.
Proposition 8 advocates on Friday also announced they had beefed up their legal team with former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who investigated the Monica Lewinsky affair during former president Bill Clinton's tenure.
Starr, dean of Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, California, will plead Proposition 8's case before the Supreme Court, the activists said.
After Proposition 8 passed, only two US states now allow marriage between people of the same gender: Massachusetts and Connecticut. Many other states expressly ban gay marriage in their constitutions.
Gay activists have been on the move since Proposition 8 was passed, organizing several demonstrations chiefly against the Mormon Church, which provided crucial funds for the California proposition campaign.
On December 10, gays across the United States held a "Day Without a Gay" demonstration, urging homosexuals to skip work as part of a protest against growing anti-gay sentiment.
Among the thousands of gay couples who tied the knot since June are talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres who married partner Portia de Rossi, and Japanese-American actor George Takei, better known as Star Trek's Mr Sulu, who married longtime partner Brad Altman.
AFP, December 20, 2008
California's Legal Tangle
The approval of Proposition 8 in California, a constitutional change designed to prohibit marriage between couples of the same sex, was not just a defeat for fairness. It raised serious legal questions about the validity of using the Election Day initiative process to obliterate an existing right for a targeted minority.
These deeper questions were largely lost during the expensive campaign by proponents of Proposition 8. Essentially, in their rush to enshrine bigotry in the State Constitution, they circumvented the procedure specified in that same document for making such a serious change. Now, the state's top court, which has agreed to hear the legal challenge to Proposition 8, has the unpleasant duty of tossing out a voter-approved ballot measure.
The case turns on whether Proposition 8 is a constitutional amendment, requiring only approval by a bare majority of voters, or a more far-reaching constitutional revision, requiring a two-step process: either a constitutional convention or a two-thirds vote of the State Legislature followed by voter ratification. The court, which has struck down several measures before, should not lightly overturn the will of the people. But it has not confronted a revision this far-reaching in terms of upsetting basic rights and the state's constitutional structure.
The court has correctly determined that the equal protection clause prohibits governmental discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which extends the right of marriage to same-sex couples. But the issue goes well beyond gay rights. Allowing Proposition 8 to stand would greatly limit the court's ability to uphold the basic rights of all Californians and preclude the Legislature from performing its constitutional duty to weigh such monumental changes before they go to voters.
Treating Proposition 8 as a mere amendment would set a precedent that could allow the rights of any minority group to be diminished by a small majority. The measure passed 52 percent to 48 percent.
In California, sitting judges are subject to elections, and some supporters of Proposition 8 raise the threat of trying to oust justices who do not go along with trouncing on people's rights and proper constitutional procedure. We trust the court will not be intimidated. The justices' job is to protect minority rights and the State Constitution - even when, for the moment at least, it may not be the popular thing to do.
New York Times, November 24, 2008
Uncivil Union: Catholic Prelate Says He Wooed Mormons For California Marriage Battle
By Joseph L. Conn
Mormons, Catholics and fundamentalists more or less regard each other as heretics but they put those differences aside temporarily to form a theocratic alliance.
The more you learn about California's Proposition 8, the more it raises church-state concerns.
When well-funded sectarian allies manipulate the democratic process to take away the civil rights of a small minority of Americans, fundamental constitutional safeguards are gravely jeopardized. Conservative religious forces wanted to write their theological viewpoint about marriage into civil law, and they didn't mind trampling on the rights of same-sex couples in the process.
In his column this week in Catholic San Francisco, Archbishop George H. Niederauer says his archdiocese didn't donate any funds to the campaign in favor of Prop. 8, but did pay for, and appropriately disclose, printing and distribution of flyers to parishes. He also casually reports that it was he - a Roman Catholic prelate - who recruited the mega-bucks Mormon Church into the battle over Prop. 8.
"Last May," recalls Niederauer, "the staff of the [state Catholic] Conference office informed me that leaders and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) had given their support to the campaign for Proposition 22 in the year 2000, and were already considering an involvement in connection with Proposition 8. Accordingly, I was asked to contact leaders of the LDS Church whom I had come to know during my eleven years as Bishop of Salt Lake City, to ask them to cooperate again, in this election cycle. I did write to them and they urged the members of their Church, especially those in California, to become involved."
As numerous news media accounts testify, wealthy Mormon Church members around the country subsequently poured millions of dollars and work-hours into the pro-Prop. 8 campaign. They did much of the heavy lifting while the Catholic hierarchy and evangelical and fundamentalist Protestant churches helped man the battle stations.
Mormons, Catholics and fundamentalists more or less regard each other as heretics - and ironically have significantly different theologies about marriage - but they put those differences aside temporarily to form a theocratic alliance.
Archbishop Niederauer brushes aside any church-state concerns with all of this.
"Some would say that, in light of the separation of church and state, churches should remain silent about any political matter," he asserts. "However, religious leaders in America have the constitutional right to speak out on issues of public policy."
But that comment just scratches the surface of this issue.
Of course, churches have a right to speak out on religious, moral and political issues. But Niederauer and his cronies did much more than that: they orchestrated a massive national political campaign to write their church teachings into civil law at the expense of a vulnerable minority.
The pro-Prop. 8 advertising campaign was divisive and often deceptive. Voters certainly were never told that church hierarchs were plotting behind the scenes to impose church dogma on the state through constitutional fiat.
Many Americans, both gay and straight, are outraged at this sequence of events, and the more they learn, the madder they get. Some of them are even protesting outside Mormon, Catholic and evangelical congregations that spearheaded the Prop. 8 drive.
That upsets Niederauer. In his column, he deplores the heated dialogue and grouses, "We need to be able to disagree without being disagreeable."
Easy for him to say: Nobody manipulated the political process to remove his civil rights. Frankly, when churches plunge into politics, they have to expect the give and take that goes on in the public square. If you can't stand the heat, as Harry Truman put it, get out of the kitchen.
Proposition 8 is now before the California Supreme Court. Here's hoping the justices examine the issues carefully - and keep church-state separation in mind.
The blog of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, December 4, 2008
Why we're mad at the Mormon church
A Times Op-Ed columnist defended a religious group that worked tirelessly to trample on the rights of same-sex couples.
By Rick Jacobs
Leading up to the Nov. 4 vote, the Courage Campaign Issues Committee bought time on cable television to air an advertisement against Proposition 8 entitled "Home Invasion." The hard-hitting ad depicted two arrogant Mormon missionaries invading the home of a lesbian couple, stripping them of their wedding rings and shredding their marriage license.
The dramatic visuals were designed to call attention to two issues: Proposition 8 sought to take away the legal rights of same-sex couples all across California, and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had contributed an enormous amount of money and manpower to the campaign.
Since the election, this ad has drawn the ire of religious groups and pundits across the country, including Times Op-Ed columnist Jonah Goldberg ("An ugly attack on Mormons," Dec. 3). But amid the uproar over the ad, there was very little discussion about something very important: the truth.
And the truth is very simple: Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints campaigned vigorously to strip rights from gays and lesbians. They contributed a staggering amount of money to pass Proposition 8 -- a figure estimated to be at least $20 million (and potentially much higher) to fund a fear-mongering, truth-distorting campaign whose only objective was to outlaw same-sex couples from getting a marriage license. Proposition 8 now threatens to invalidate the same-sex marriages already in existence, pending future rulings from the California Supreme Court. There is an old saying: Truth can't be libel.
Goldberg claims that the ad focused on the Mormons because they were an easier target, one of many faiths that supported Proposition 8. In reality, the Yes on 8 campaign might as well have been a wholly owned subsidiary of the LDS Church. Many estimate that members of the LDS Church gave more than half of the total amount raised by the Yes on 8 campaign. In addition, the LDS Church ran large call centers supporting Proposition 8 and encouraged its members to travel to California to support the campaign. These efforts were only scaled back after California voters started to become more aware of the massive role that the LDS Church was playing in the campaign. They may also be putting the LDS Church into some legal peril as well: It is being investigated by the California Fair Political Practices Commission for failure to report expenses related to these, as well as other, campaign activities on behalf of Proposition 8.
Unfortunately, this failure to take public responsibility for leading the fight against same-sex marriage, as well as the masking of its efforts behind the shroud of an interfaith coalition, is nothing new for the LDS Church.
An LDS Church internal memo from 1997 regarding strategies to oppose same-sex marriage explains that although the LDS Church may be able to put together the funding for a citizen referendum in California, "The public image of the Catholic Church [is] higher than our Church. In other words, if we get into this, they are ones with which to join." This is exactly the strategy the LDS Church used to mask its involvement in Proposition 8 until the final weeks before the election.
The LDS Church or any other organization has every right to use its power to influence elections to any extent that is legal. What it doesn't have a right to do is claim persecution when other organizations do nothing but expose the church's forays into the political arena before a discerning public.
While the backlash against the LDS Church has made some of its members uncomfortable, they have nobody to blame but their leadership who dragged them into this mess. In an effort to repair its public image, the church has said that it wants to begin a "healing process" and has claimed support for equal rights for gays and lesbians, except for using the word "marriage" to describe unions between same-sex partners. The church now has an opportunity to demonstrate that support: Utah state Sen. Scott McCoy has introduced legislation that would provide gays and lesbians in his state with all rights that straight people enjoy except marriage.
If the LDS Church were to support McCoy, it would show that it really does believe in love, compassion and equal rights. If it does not, the church's supposedly conciliatory stance would simply be one more obfuscation in support of truly bigoted intentions.
Rick Jacobs is the founder and chairman of the Courage Campaign, a progressive online organizing network.
Los Angeles Times, December 8, 2008
LDS stand on Prop. 8 oozes irony
By Rebecca Walsh, Tribune Columnist
Mormons understand a little bit about getting picked on for being different.
Tales of Haun's Mill, Reed Smoot and Mitt Romney fill Sunday School and Family Home Evening lessons. Years of violence and lampooning and soft bigotry drive The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' historical narrative. Persecution is in the psyche of the people.
But now the victims seem to have turned into the aggressors - and over, of all things, an alternative definition of marriage.
"This is a church that has been persecuted for its flavor of Christianity, for its past marriage practices, for its past religious practices. And here they are turning around and persecuting another group of people," says Jay Redd, a gay lapsed-Mormon movie director whose San Francisco marriage ceremony was featured last week in Salon. "I feel like it's very shortsighted, and it's not a very Christian way of treating people."
In a four-month offensive, the LDS Church has deployed its faithful as partisans for California's Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that would ban gay marriage - the largest mobilization since the faith fought the Equal Rights Amendment three decades ago. In June, members were asked to "do all you can." And they have.
As a result, the Salt Lake City-based church gets the credit and the blame for leading the cause. According to Californians Against Hate, Mormons
have donated more than $19 million to the cause - nearly four out of five dollars raised.
At the same time, wards are splitting as members' beliefs about gay rights become a litmus test of righteousness. Families are also divided between the ï¿½ber-faithful and the conflicted.
Church leaders insist there is a higher cause: "Freedom of religion is at risk," says L. Whitney Clayton, a member of the LDS Presidency of the Seventy.
The irony is thick here. But it seems lost on church leaders and many members.
More than 150 years ago, Mormon settlers were driven from their homes and their prophet was killed, in part, because of their polygamous definition of marriage. After years of isolation and marginalization in the desert, the church abandoned the practice to achieve statehood, political legitimacy and validation in American society.
Now, Mormons are using the same words that were used against their ancestors. It's not completely inconsistent with a history and doctrine centered on procreation.
"I don't think the church ever compromised on its sense that marriage is the institution through which families are formed and people are saved," says Sarah Barringer Gordon, a scholar of the law of church and state who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.
Comparing polygamy to gay marriage, she says, "in many church members' eyes is comparing apples and oranges. You can't compare gay marriage to polygamy."
Still, in this electrified climate, the church can't escape legitimate reminders of its muddled history. Officially, Mormon polygamy is now a quandary for heaven. But California bloggers speculate that the church's support is really a ploy to legalize polygamy. After all, the thinking goes, the initiative language says "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." But what about one man and two women?
On the other side, a whisper campaign speculates that if the initiative fails, church elders will be forced to marry gay couples in the temples. Others bring up the faith's embarrassingly tardy decision to give black men the priesthood and marry interracial couples. This scrutiny is the price of leading the campaign against gay marriage.
Apostle Dallin H. Oaks rejects the notion that the church's history of polygamy conflicts with its judgment of homosexuality. Many 19th century Mormons, he says in a 2006 interview on the church's Web site, were reluctant to live polygamy.
When a new revelation ended the practice, "I think the majority were greatly relieved and glad to get back into the mainstream of Western civilization," Oaks says. "If you start with the assumption of continuing revelation, on which this church is founded, then you can understand that there is no irony in this."
But that still seems to leave the door open. If polygamy can end with a revelation, wonders Washington Post columnist David Waters, what about Mormon opposition to gay marriage?
Given the LDS Church's reliance on procreation theology - the role of the traditional family in salvation - Gordon says that's unlikely.
"There's an awful lot of theology involved - the centrality of the family and the ways families are created and perpetuated," she says. "It seems a significant hurdle."
If anything, the church may be left behind as other conservative congregations soften and adapt.
Affirmation assistant executive director David Melson says the church has done damage to its own members and its reputation. "Win or lose, the actions of the church over the past 90 days will result in damage to the LDS Church in California and beyond from which it may take a generation or longer to recover," he says.
The ERA failed. But feminists still went to work.
Salt Lake City Tribune, November 2, 2008
Prop. 8 divides Mormon family during the holidays
By Herman Wong
In fewer than five months, Billy Hutchinson's parents went from smiling at his wedding to voting against his marriage. Raised as Mormons, neither Hutchison nor his longtime partner, Scott Wilkinson, was surprised when the Church of Latter-Day Saints came out in support of Proposition 8. But Hutchinson never anticipated that his parents would donate $200 to support California's gay marriage ban. Now Wilkinson wants nothing to do with his in-laws. The annual Christmas visit to see the folks in Calaveras County is off, and Hutchinson feels caught in the middle. "I don't know what to do now," he says.
The couple's gay and Mormon lives have come into conflict before. Wilkinson says Brigham Young University expelled him for being homosexual (in an et tu moment, he says he was turned in by a "reformed lesbian";). Hutchinson, meanwhile, came out to his parents when he opted out of going on the customary mission, worried he'd fall in love with one of his fellow missionaries.
The two men, who live in San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood, met on a day trip organized by mutual friends to see the Calaveras sequoias in 1993. Mormon talk was an icebreaker, and their religion wound up playing a key role in their relationship. "We're monogamous because of [Mormon values] and the example of our parents," Hutchinson says.
The partners have made trips to the altar several times now. The first time was in Vermont in 2000. They got hitched again at San Francisco City Hall on Valentine's Day in 2004, only to have the union disqualified by the courts. Their most recent wedding came in June, and was their best-attended ceremony: 20 friends came to celebrate, as did Hutchinson's father, Jack, and sister, Rose. His mother, Billie, had difficulty getting time off work, but there she was on his doorstep the night before the nuptials. "This time in June felt the best because my family was there," Hutchinson says.
Then Prop. 8 happened. Billie pushed for the donation, believing it was what her religion wanted, Rose says. Hutchinson and his partner say they found out about the campaign contribution (made in September) only when Wilkinson stumbled upon Jack's name while scanning donor lists for his old church friends. Hutchinson says his parents explained that it was about protecting the church from lawsuits for refusing to allow gay weddings in their chapels. Rose says her family would love to support gay marriage, but that marriage doesn't belong to them, but to God.
Hutchinson and Wilkinson intend to officially leave the church, but familial wounds linger. Deluged by work, Hutchinson hasn't yet had time for the inevitable long conversation. So his family waits. "I don't want to lose my brother," says Rose, on the verge of tears.
Prop. 8 sold itself as pro-family: Its signs feature the silhouettes of a man, woman, and two children holding up the words "Yes on 8." But for the Hutchinsons, Prop. 8 detonated the nuclear family.
SF Weekly, December 17, 2008
Readers have choice words (pro and con) on Prop. 8
When you write a column for a living, you get called lots of names on a regular basis. Moron, liar and sellout, to name a few.
I'm in no position to complain, though, since I occasionally use the same words to describe public officials and captains of industry.
But I've never been called a bigot so many times as I have since I wrote in my Sunday column about the boycott of El Coyote, the Los Angeles cantina whose Mormon manager donated $100 to Proposition 8, the successful November ballot initiative to ban gay marriage.
"Your article defending" the manager "is making the rounds on gay boards, which means that you're becoming notorious for your bigotry," wrote someone named Laight.
"You should be ashamed of yourself," wrote Amy.
About two-thirds of the roughly 400 readers who sent e-mails took similar positions. They said I was too sympathetic to Margie Christoffersen in writing about how business at her mother's margarita mill is way down, thanks in part to an organized boycott, and how Christoffersen is so distraught she has taken a leave of absence.
"Oh, poor Margie," was a popular line among angry readers, as was, "Cry me a river."
So did I get it wrong?
To summarize the column, I said I was opposed to Prop. 8 and to the ugly campaigns against gay marriage by organized religion. I also wrote that Christoffersen is entitled to her views no matter how objectionable they are to me or anyone else, and that 89 El Coyote employees shouldn't be hurt by their manager's politics.
I'm not taking any of it back, and that goes for my comments about organized religion, which ruffled the feathers of another flock of readers. But there's room for honest disagreement on the many issues wrapped into this story, and I thought a lot of responses from readers were worth sharing.
T. Miyashiro-Sonoda wrote: "All couples (of any combination) should apply for a civil union license and have a civil ceremony. This would have all of the legal rights that are now granted by what we recognize as a 'marriage.' If the couple would like this union blessed or recognized by a church, synagogue, temple or any place of worship as a 'marriage,' another ceremony could be performed there. That way, any church, synagogue, temple or place of worship would have the right to recognize the union or not. What do you think?" I think I like it.
Marc Pattavina wrote: "Saying that she has no problems with gay people and loves them like everyone else but donates money to [Prop. 8] is no different than me saying I have no problems with Mexicans or blacks and then giving money to the Minutemen or the KKK. . . . If Margie was a real friend to the gay community she'd step up for her friends and not let herself be herded like a sheep by the Mormon Church. If they told her to jump off a bridge would she do that as well?"
My guess is yes.
Tim O'Shaughnessy wrote: "Those who supported this proposition for religious reasons committed the ultimate betrayal of Jesus Christ's prime directive: 'Judge not lest ye be judged.' They reap what they sow."
OK, Tim, but doesn't that work both ways?
Jeff Dannels wrote: "Homophobia is not just another point of view. It's not some harmless 'I like Coke, he likes Pepsi' difference of opinion. It is hateful and it is harmful."
Agreed. But there's been steady progress, and one day in California, gay marriage will be legal. It doesn't surprise me that at least half the population isn't there yet, and I don't think blacklisting those who still aren't comfortable with gay marriage advances the cause. But don't take my word for it.
J. Greg Veneklasen wrote: "As a gay man I am VERY unhappy with reverse discrimination of the anti-8 crowd. Their reactionary strategy is definitely too much, too late. Where was this organization before the election, when it could have had an impact...Not a way to win over hearts and minds, guys."
Good point. If the yes-on-8 campaign seemed unconscionable, the no-on-8 campaign seemed uninspired.
John A. Blue wrote: "I went to three same-sex marriages last summer, and the joy I saw at each is just indescribable. It absolutely boggles my mind that anyone, let alone any persons claiming to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, could want to destroy that joy. . . . In civil society, actions have to have consequences. Otherwise we are in a Malthusian world where life is nasty, brutish and short. I contributed to the No on 8 campaign, and if that persuades some Christians that they should not patronize me or my law firm, well, I will live with it. . . . I'd just as soon not provide my legal services to someone who thinks it's OK to take away civil rights from a fellow citizen."
A noble position.
April (no last name) wrote: "The issue is that she likes to make money from gays and anyone else willing to spend a buck in her restaurant. Despite being a Mormon, she serves alcohol -- to make money. Guess her faith is kinda flexible, but it's okay when she's anti-gay rights because of her faith?"
Also a fair point.
Maria Elena Hernandez wrote: "Tell Ms. Christoffersen to save her hankies and tissues for those of us whose wedding vows may be negated and to those who will have to wait until we have equal rights across the nation. My years of tears certainly outweigh hers."
Hard to argue.
Richard Adkins wrote: "I am disappointed in our gay leaders who failed to identify the Mormon component in this election and use it to assist in the proposition's defeat. . . . I will go to El Coyote on a Thursday night because I don't think anyone should lose their livelihood over an opinion. . . .
Any supporters of a political ideal need to be aware that they can become what they oppose."
Don't eat your fajitas in silence, Richard. Tell Margie how you feel about that opinion of hers.
Robert Barrone wrote: "Although I voted against Prop 8, and can only hope to understand the frustration in the gay community, I am reminded of [the famous quote]: 'I disagree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it.' "
That was Evelyn Beatrice Hall describing the French philosopher Voltaire's beliefs. And speaking of Voltaire, isn't he the one who said: "Prejudices are what fools use for reason?"
Los Angeles Times, December 17, 2008
Mormons and Proposition 8
By Lola Van Wagenen
Of all people, Mormons should be sensitive to those seeking nontraditional unions.
Reports that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a big supporter of Proposition 8 should sadden all Mormons. Based on the unique history of Mormons, there is no religious group in our country that should be more tolerant of "nontraditional" forms of marriage than those of us whose ancestors were polygamist Mormons, who were persecuted because of their "nontraditional" marriages.
Have today's Latter-day Saints forgotten that in the 19th century, our ancestors were violently and relentlessly attacked for their "peculiar institution"? Have they forgotten that they pleaded for understanding and tried in vain to prove that they were good parents? Have they forgotten that Utah territory gave our great-great-grandmothers the right to vote in part to prove that they were not downtrodden, and that these ancestors prayed to the Lord for the protection of "celestial marriage" against the hatred directed at Mormons?
Our polygamous ancestors were accused of being incapable of providing loving homes for their children. Who knows better than we do that this was untrue? Who can deny that our "nontraditional" ancestors left a heritage of hardworking, high-achieving progeny. And yet the fallacy that "nontraditional" marriages erode and destroy family values is one of the main attacks being used against gay and lesbian couples by LDS proponents of Proposition 8.
Most Mormons today would concede that much of the continuing prejudice against the LDS church persists because of our history of "nontraditional" marriage, even though 118 years have passed since the church abandoned polygamy. Still, what religious group has known more hatred and persecution in America than our families? And it lingers. Have today's Mormons not learned to fight against prejudice and the vilification of people who happen to be different?
Returning to my Mormon roots as a historian has deepened my appreciation for, and gratitude to, my ancestors -- for their struggles and their sacrifices that living in "nontraditional" marriages demanded. My great-great-grandfather was jailed for his marriage, a history that I share with so many practicing Mormons. Given the Mormon experience, why are today's Latter-day Saints not in the vanguard of pleading for acceptance, equal rights and compassion for all Americans? They should be standing up in opposition to Proposition 8, knowing that loving homes and good parenting can come equally from "nontraditional" or "traditional" marriages.
Los Angeles Times, November 1, 2008
LDS Church Can't Hide Behind A Temple
"The Mormon church doesn't like the attention it's getting in the wake of California's Prop 8. Church leaders released this statement yesterday [November 7, 2008]:
It is disturbing that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is being singled out for speaking up as part of its democratic right in a free election.
Members of the Church in California and millions of others from every faith, ethnicity and political affiliation who voted for Proposition 8 exercised the most sacrosanct and individual rights in the United States - that of free expression and voting.
While those who disagree with our position on Proposition 8 have the right to make their feelings known, it is wrong to target the Church and its sacred places of worship for being part of the democratic process.
Once again, we call on those involved in the debate over same-sex marriage to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other. No one on either side of the question should be vilified, harassed or subject to erroneous information.
Once again, we call on those involved in the debate over same-sex marriage to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other. No one on either side of the question should be vilified, harassed or subject to erroneous information.
Well, the Mormon leadership is right on their last sentence. If only they had heeded that advice during the campaign. Gay couples throughout the state were vilified, harassed and subject to dump truck loads of erroneous information during the campaign that the Mormon church itself played an enormous role in waging. There was no sense of civility during their campaign. Why should they not expect to reap the seeds that they sow?
The leadership of the LDS Church has their hand prints all over the campaigns in Arizona and California:
* We know Arizona state Senators who didn't want to be present for the vote to place Prop 102 on the ballot, but were coerced and harassed by their bishops and other church members into cutting short their vacations to cast their vote.
* Once on the ballot in California and Arizona, we know that Mormon prophets called on their followers to give of their "time and means," and that this call went out to all Mormons in California and Arizona, as well as in Utah.
* We also know that the Arizona anti-gay campaign was under the direct leadership of some of the most prominent LDS members in the state.
* By some estimates, more than $20 million of Mormon money went to fund the $36 million California campaign, while an additional estimated $3-7 million funded Arizona's $8 million campaign.
One thing must be made clear: the leadership of the LDS church has every right to do this. Churches are barred by IRS regulations from endorsing political candidates, but they are fully free to participate in the political process on the issues - including ballot propositions. To claim otherwise would be to deny the LDS Church's right to speak out on what it sees as important moral issues. It would also deny the rights of LDS members to fully participate in the democratic process.
But exercising those rights in the democratic process brings with it public scrutiny and criticism. That, too, is an integral part of the democratic process from which no one is exempt.
When the Mormon church chose to enter the political sphere, the fact that they are a religious institution became irrelevant. They led non-Mormons in their political campaign, and they exhorted everyone - regardless of their religious affiliation - to vote on amendments which affected everyone, Mormons and non-Mormons alike. This was a democratic political campaign, not a religious one. We were voting on constitutional amendments, not theology.
Mormon leaders were acting in their role as citizens in the democratic process, a role that they have every right to be proud of - at least from their particular point of view. After all, their political campaign was successful. I don't like how it all turned out, but such is politics. There are always, by the nature of the beast, winners and losers. And their side won this time in the end.
But as citizens leading a political campaign, they cannot escape public accountability for their public actions, especially when their political actions were seen by many as dirty, degrading, dishonest, and most definitely un-Christian. After all that, the leadership of the LDS cannot suddenly change roles, toss up their hands and say, "You can't criticize us! We're a religion!" They forfeited that right when they threw themselves enthusiastically into a non-religious, political campaign. They forfeited that right when they left the temple and entered the world of Caesar. They are politicians now, and they deserve the same scrutiny and criticism due to any other political leader or movement.
It is not scapegoating to point out the facts, nor is it Mormon-bashing to criticize their agenda and tactics. This is all fair game in politics - politics which the Mormon church eagerly entered. Andrew Sullivan is right: gays and lesbians now have every right to regard the LDS leadership as their enemy. After all, gays didn't wage a campaign to strip Mormons of their civil rights. It was the Mormon leaders who have successfully removed a civil right which had already been granted to gays and lesbians.
This is not bigotry or discrimination against a religion. It is criticism leveled against what is now seen as a powerful political organization. That is perfectly legitimate.
Welcome to the world of politics, LDS. There's no hiding behind a temple now."
Box Turtle Bulletin, November 8, 2008
After a vote in which a minority of two or three percent were denied civil equality under the law and in which many thousands of couples had their legal marriages voided, Jonah Goldberg thinks the real victims are Mormons:
It's just that Mormons are the most vulnerable of the culturally conservative religious denominations and therefore the easiest targets for an organized campaign against religious freedom of conscience.
He cites an ad campaign that wasn't sanctioned by the No On 8 campaign, and summarizes the wave of peaceful protests by tens of thousands across the country by picking a few of the worst incidents of the fringes as a way to discredit the civil rights movement. He cannot in any way substantiate the notion that the marriage movement amounts to "an organized campaign against religious freedom of conscience."
I know of no campaign for civil marriage equality that is not emphatic that religious dissenters retain an absolute right to refuse to recognize or perform such marriages. I for one will fight for their right to dissent just as fiercely as I will fight for my own civil right to marry.
Jonah, moreover, does not mention the fact that the Mormon hierarchy planned this campaign for eleven years, that their decision to make this a public issue is unprecedented in the history of the LDS church, and that their donations made up a huge proportion of the Prop 8 forces. He doesn't mention that their public bluff that they only care about the m-word and favor rights for gay couples has been called in Utah, where gay rights advocates are demanding the LDS church back strong civil union laws (and the LDS church is resisting). He cites no instance in which any Mormon anywhere has had any right removed or threatened by marriage equality.
Apart from that: another triumph of intellectual honesty.
The Daily Dish, December 3, 2008
The Long March to the Mormon Temple
by Patrick Range McDonald
It was a little before ten o'clock on Wednesday evening, the day after Proposition 8 appeared to be approved by the voters of California, when Levi Jackman Foster arrived at the Los Angeles Mormon Temple in Westwood. He was 22-years-old, gay, and angry. Foster, a handsome blond with short hair and a two-day beard, was also an ex-Mormon.
"I completely abandoned the church because they abandoned me," Foster explained, as he stood on the sidewalk on Santa Monica Boulevard.
Foster, who wore a gray sweater, dark jeans, and leather boots, had just walked four miles from West Hollywood. Two hours earlier, several thousand gays, lesbians, and their straight friends gathered at San Vicente and Santa Monica boulevards for a rally opposing the passage of Proposition 8, the ballot measure that eliminates the right of gays and lesbians to legally marry in California. His friend, Sean Hemeon, another ex-Mormon and a former boyfriend of Foster's, had made the march with him.
"When I heard people talking about walking to the temple," said Hemeon, "I knew I had to go."
Hemeon was also handsome, 27-years-old, and wore leather shoes, blue jeans, and a dark jacket. Both of the young men were better dressed for a night of club hopping than demonstrating on the streets of Los Angeles, but they were very serious about the long walk they had just completed with a hundred or so strangers, who carried "No on 8" signs and chanted "Equal rights!"
"Proposition 8 is tearing my family apart," said Foster, who then explained that his parents had donated money and voted in favor of Proposition 8. "They weren't going to vote on it," Foster continued, "but the church told them to, so they did. They also gave money to 'Yes on 8' because the church told them to do that." Members of the Mormon church had contributed tens of millions of dollars to the "Yes on 8" campaign.
By this time, Foster was getting antsy, and led a group away from the wrought iron gates on Santa Monica Boulevard and toward a side street and up to the gates at the front entrance. Two guards in white shirts and black jackets stood on the other side of the gates, waiting for the "No on 8" crowd.
"The Mormons have been oppressed minorities in the past," Foster said, "and now they're doing the same thing to us. It's something the church doesn't get."
Foster kept walking to the gate, and Hemeon followed. Hemeon was thinking about how things went wrong on Tuesday night.
"A lot of gay men sat back and expected other people to do the work," he said. "I was one of them."
Hemeon never would have gotten involved in the "No on 8" campaign, where he worked at a phone bank and handed out literature on Election Day, until he visited his brother in another part of California. When Hemeon drove up to the house, he saw a "Yes on 8" sign in the front yard.
"I didn't say anything at the time," Hemeon recalled, "but he knew I wasn't happy. He could see it on my face."
That happened three weeks ago. As soon as Hemeon returned to West Hollywood, where he lives, he volunteered for the "No on 8" campaign. Hemeon also sent his brother an email, telling him what he thought about the sign and that he still loved him.
"I didn't get a response back until twenty minutes after the LA Times called the vote for the 'Yes' side," he said with a bit of disappointment. "I haven't responded to him yet, but I will."
Foster stood at the gate and looked at the guards.
"Is there someone we can have a dialogue with?" he asked.
The guard told him the church was closed for the evening and no one was around. Foster stared at them. Hemeon looked at the crowd and smiled.
"In some ways, I think this thing is great," he said. "It's making us face ourselves and what we have to do for equality, and it's making my family and I talk about these things."
Foster then led the crowd back to the gates on Santa Monica Boulevard. Just before everyone started the four-mile walk to West Hollywood, he gathered them around.
"There are Mormons here tonight who have been kicked out their homes," he told them, "so we need to show up tomorrow and let them what we think!"
The crowd roared, and Hemeon said he, too, would come back to the temple for the "No on 8" rally on Thursday, even though it started in the middle of the day at 2 p.m.
"I feel like I have to be," he said. "It's a part of my healing process."
Hemeon and Foster found a ride back to West Hollywood and joined the crowd that still stood in the middle of San Vicente and Santa Monica boulevards at eleven-thirty at night. The chants, clapping, and whistles drowned out the dance music coming out from Rage, a nearby gay nightclub. People like Hemeon and Foster could be heard from several blocks away.
Los Angeles Weekly, November 6, 2008
Prop 8 Supporters Threaten Justice Recall
CBNNews.com, November 21, 2008
CBNNews.com - Supporters of California's Proposition 8 say they will attempt to recall justices of the state's supreme court if they vote to overturn the measure.
The high court agreed, Wednesday, to hear cases challenging Prop 8, which defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman.
How does the gay community's claim that this is a civil rights issue sit with the black community? Click play for more from Bishop Harry Jackson with the High Impact Leadership Coalition, following this report.
"This push-back in the last two weeks has actually mobilized the Yes on 8 people," said the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. "Yes on 8" is the name of the fundraising campaign behind Prop 8.
Rodriguez added that if the Supreme Court overturns the measure as he expects, "you will see a mobilized group like you have never seen in the state of California...there are grounds for a recall...We have an oligarchy, an oligarchy in judges' role in the state of California."
Voters in 2003 succeeded in recalling then Gov. Gray Davis, which led to the appointment of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But election expert Ted Costa says talk of actually recalling members of the state Supreme Court could be risky.
If that happens, watch out for a "barn-burner of an election -- the biggest thing this state has ever seen," he said.
Costa said several supporters of Prop 8 have already contacted him about a possible recall of justices Ronald George, Joyce Kennard, Kathryn Werdegar and Carlos Moreno.
Though he doesn't recommend a recall, Costa believes it wouldn't be difficult to remove the individuals. Signatures of 12 percent of the electorate would be needed.
Opponents of Prop 8 argue that the initiative was a revision rather than a constitutional amendment, and thus, requires a two-thirds vote by the Legislature to pass.
Meanwhile, tensions across the nation over the passage of the traditional marriage amendment continue.
Vandalisms and protests have been reported not only in California, but in Utah, home to the Mormon church-- a strong financial backer of Prop 8.
Just after the Nov. 4 election, gay rights supporters also released blacklists of those who they say are supporters of Prop 8. The Web site AntiGayBlacklist.com lists individuals, businesses and ministries along with their location and the amount they each donated.
Prop. 8 backers splinter as court fight resumes
John Wildermuth, Chronicle Staff Writer
The group that persuaded California voters this month to pass Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage, now is fighting its friends as well as its foes.
Other conservative groups that loudly backed Prop. 8 are being targeted as too extreme and off-putting by ProtectMarriage.com, which put the constitutional amendment on the Nov. 4 ballot and hopes to help persuade the state Supreme Court to uphold the measure.
"We represent the people who got things done, who got Prop. 8 passed," said Andrew Pugno, general counsel for the Yes on Prop. 8 campaign. "An important part of defending Prop. 8 is eliminating arguments not helpful to our concerns."
Pugno, for example, persuaded the Supreme Court last week to bar the Campaign for California Families from intervening in the court case over the validity of Prop. 8 and the same-sex marriage ban.
"That organization represents the extreme fringe and is not representative of the coalition that got it passed," Pugno said. "They didn't even support Prop. 8 until sometime in the summer."
People associated with the group didn't expect the Prop. 8 campaign's efforts to push them to the sidelines.
"I'm surprised, because we've litigated beside each other for 4 1/2 years" in the unsuccessful effort to keep the Supreme Court from overturning Prop. 22 same-sex marriage ban in 2000, said Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, which represents the Campaign for California Families. "We have the same goal, which is to defend Prop. 8."
The group is run by Randy Thomasson, who for years has been one of California's most visible opponents of gay rights and what he bills as "the homosexual agenda."
The people behind Prop. 8 have been butting heads with Thomasson for years, arguing that his efforts to outlaw same-sex marriage and curb domestic partnership arrangements are a long step further than a majority of California voters is willing to go.
In 2005 and again in January, Thomasson and his allies proposed initiatives that not only would bar same-sex marriage but that also "voids or makes unenforceable" rights conferred by California law on couples, gay or heterosexual, registered as domestic partners, including community property, child custody, hospital visitation and insurance benefits.
"It was like the nuclear option to obliterate the entire domestic partners law," Pugno said. "We were constantly hassled by that organization, who thought we weren't aggressive enough."
Limiting the range of the ballot measure - and making a point to avoid direct attacks on gays, lesbians and same-sex couples during the campaign - made political sense for the Prop. 8 strategists.
Of the 31 "defense of marriage" measures that have gone on ballots across the nation, the only one that lost was a 2006 Arizona constitutional amendment that also would have banned legal recognition of many domestic partnership benefits. When Arizona groups put a measure on the Nov. 4 ballot aimed solely at barring same-sex marriage, it passed easily.
A Field Poll released in May showed that nearly a third of California voters opposed same-sex marriage, but still believed gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to have civil unions granting them the rights of married couples. Surveys done earlier this year by GOP pollsters also showed that any measure attacking domestic partnership rights had little or no chance of passing in California.
"We wanted to be singularly focused on defending and protecting marriage," Pugno said.
Policy disputes shouldn't spill over into public attacks, said Staver.
"The CCF originally had a version of the marriage amendment that was much larger and comprehensive, but they abandoned that and supported Prop. 8," he said. "Different people have different views. Moving in the same direction to protect marriage is more important than singing from the same song sheet."
But the disputes between the groups have grown in the past few days, with Thomasson launching an all-out attack against the Supreme Court for accepting the challenge to Prop. 8, a court decision Pugno and others from ProtectMarriage.com had welcomed.
"If the court disobeys the constitution by voiding Prop. 8, it will ignite a voter revolt," Thomasson said in statement released after the court agreed Wednesday to hear arguments over the validity of the constitutional amendment. "The court is playing with fire by threatening to destroy the people's vote on marriage."
Pugno and others from the Prop. 8 campaign want to avoid such fiery challenges and threats to the court and keep matters on a quiet legal level until the court rules on same-sex marriage sometime after March.
"What we are not doing is discussing the possibility of recalling justices who oppose us," Ron Prentice, chairman of the Yes on Prop. 8 effort, said in an e-mail to supporters Wednesday. "Making threats to recall justices from office is counterproductive and harmful to our chances of winning in court."
Money also is part of the dispute. While ProtectMarriage.com collected almost all of the nearly $40 million raised to back Prop. 8, Thomasson's group and others gathered money to support their own efforts to pass the same-sex marriage ban.
But Prentice argued that "some other groups are attempting to use the passage of Prop. 8 for fundraising and publicity purposes," and Pugno said his group had unsuccessfully tried to stop the groups from claiming they were part of the official Prop. 8 effort.
Ballot measures don't belong to anyone or any group, Staver argued for the Campaign for Children and Families.
"There were a lot of different organizations and people that supported Prop. 8, but not through the official campaign," he said. "Did we give money directly to them? No. But did we encourage people to support Prop. 8? Absolutely."
San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, November 23, 2008
[LDS] Church Readies Members on Proposition 8
As the Proposition 8 campaign in support of traditional marriage enters its last two weeks, the Protect Marriage Coalition is encouraging its members to make phone calls in support of the measure. The Church is participating with the Coalition in support of this endeavor.
The Church has requested that phone calls made from Church members be made by California registered voters. Members of other faiths are also making phone calls at the request of the Coalition.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are California citizens currently living out of the state are being organized to make phone calls in support of Proposition 8, if needed.
At the request of the Protect Marriage Coalition, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is making arrangements for them to call friends, family and fellow citizens in California to urge support of the effort to defend traditional marriage. The coalition has asked members of the many participating churches and organizations to contribute in whatever way they can to the effort to pass Proposition 8, including by phoning.
"It is a combination of two things," said Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Church's Presidency of the Seventy. "We are looking at options to fulfill a request from the coalition to help with phone calls to encourage support of Proposition 8. We're also responding to the many requests we have had from students and others who want to help. Making phone calls is something they can do."
Elder Clayton said that no decision had yet been made by the coalition on whether to activate any phone volunteers outside of California.
Although many Church members other than Californians have expressed a desire to help, the out-of-state effort will stay focused on Californians for the time being. No calls have yet been made from outside of California other than a handful of calls to test the system.
In addition, in a satellite broadcast that took place tonight for Californian Church members, Elders M. Russell Ballard, Quentin L. Cook and L. Whitney Clayton addressed the Church's doctrine of marriage and participation in the Protect Marriage Coalition.
Proposition 8, on which Californians will vote on 4 November, defines marriage in California as between a man and a woman.
Newsroom, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, October 8, 2008
Displeased with Utah, gays cancel a big ski trip
by Jay Hamburger
Proposition 8 boycott cited in decision to nix annual visit to Park City
A group of gays had planned long ago to be on the slopes of Park City's mountain resorts last week.
They had been coming each year since early in the decade, and Park City, seen for years as one of the friendliest places in Utah to gays, had been hospitable to the group But the 2009 edition of what had been dubbed Utah Gay & Lesbian Ski Week was cancelled.
An organizer told The Park Record many of the gay skiers indicated they would not visit Utah in order to show solidarity with those who have called for a boycott of the state stemming from the passage in California of Proposition 8, the ballot measure against gay marriage supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The cancellation of the gay ski week, which had been scheduled Jan. 7-11, is the first substantive evidence of Park City's economy suffering from the boycott. There had only been scattered concern in Park City that gays would refuse to visit. Local leaders had hoped gays and their supporters would consider Park City an open-minded enclave in Utah.
One of the ski week's organizers, John Harriot, a bisexual who lives in West Hollywood, Calif., said six people had registered for the trip. Approximately 50 would have signed up beforehand in a typical year, and 150 or so people would have attended. The ski week was canceled on Jan. 2. He estimates 20 people from the group might have ended up visiting Park City last week anyway, however.
"In the mind of the boycott organizers, the Mormon Church, basically, equals Utah," Harriot said, describing that the group had "been treated well" during the past trips.
He acknowledged he was surprised the organizers were forced to cancel. He said he had expected attendance to drop by as much as 30 percent in 2009. He said the ski week could return to Park City in 2010. If people do not want to visit then, the organizers may move the event elsewhere, he said.
Had the full group traveled to Park City, Harriot estimated the visitors would have spent between $125,000 and $150,000 on lodging, lift tickets, meals and entertainment. An online itinerary for the canceled ski week lists days at each of the three local mountain resorts, organized lunches and dinners, nightlife options and a Saturday night party.
"The boycott worked and there was not enough people to do the group," Harriot said.
The skiers had planned an evening at Kristauf's Martini Bar on lower Main Street, where owner Lisa Christoffersen said they had stopped in during the 2008 trip. She said they probably would have spent a "couple grand" at Kristauf's this year.
"To me, that would provide my payroll for two weeks" and pay several utility bills, she said, adding, "They spend well and they tip well. It's a big boost for everyone."
The ski week had been scheduled to occur days before the start of the Sundance Film Festival, usually the busiest 10-day stretch on Park City's calendar. There have been calls by some gay-rights activists for a boycott of the film festival. Others have said gays should feel welcomed at Sundance, which has screened work from gay filmmakers and films with gay themes for years.
Bill Malone, the executive director of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, said the cancellation of the ski week is the first he is aware of based on unhappiness with Proposition 8.
He said he is disappointed and the boycott is "completely out of our control." Malone said he has not heard complaints from gays that they had not been welcome in Park City.
"Obviously, we hate to see groups not feel comfortable coming here as a result of the California proposition," Malone said.
Park Record, January 14, 2009
Hanks to Mormons: Sorry for Prop 8 Remark
by Marc Malkin
Tom Hanks isn't getting big love from some sectors of the Mormon community.
The Oscar winner is softening his critique of Mormons after coming under attack by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for calling supporters of California's anti-gay marriage ballot initiative "un-American."
"The truth is a lot of Mormons gave a lot of money to the church to make Prop 8 happen," Hanks said at last week's L.A. premiere of Big Love, the HBO series he executive-produces about polygamist Mormons. "There are a lot of people who feel that is un-American, and I am one of them."
A rep for the church fired back to Fox News (where else?), "Expressing an opinion in a free democratic society is as American as it gets."
Hanks issued a statement earlier today expressing regret over his choice of words. "I believe Proposition 8 is counter to the promise of our Constitution; it is codified discrimination," the statement reads in part. "But everyone has a right to vote their conscience. Nothing could be more America."
Hanks also said in the statement that using the term "un-American" creates even more unncessary division: "No one," he said "should use 'un-American' lightly or in haste."
A rep for Hanks could not be immediately reached, nor could a representative for the church.
eonline.com, January 23, 2009
Judge rejects bid to keep names of anti-gay marriage initiative backers secret
By Aurelio Rojas
A federal judge Thursday denied a request by Proposition 8 supporters to withhold disclosure of late campaign donors to California's same-sex marriage ban, saying the public has a right to know.
Claiming donors have been harassed, attorneys for Proposition 8 had sought a preliminary injunction to keep secret the identities of 1,600 donors who made contributions just before or after voters approved the measure on Nov. 4.
They asserted that First Amendment rights to be free from retaliation outweigh the state's interest in disclosure.
But U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr. sided with the state after hearing more than an hour of oral arguments in Sacramento.
"The court finds the state is not facilitating retaliation by compelling disclosure," England said.
Late donations are scheduled to be filed to the state by Monday, which Yes on 8 campaign attorneys argued will unleash a new round of retaliation against donors, including some whose businesses have been boycotted.
Lawrence Woodlock, an attorney for the state Fair Political Practices Commission, argued most of the activity the plaintiffs called harassment was actually protected free speech, such as boycotts, and those are not subject to criminal prosecution.
In denying the injunction, England said public disclosure is especially important in initiative campaigns because many campaign committees have vague names that obscure who is giving money.
"If there's ever a need to bring sunshine on a political issue, it is with a ballot measure," England said.
The Yes on 8 campaign submitted declarations by donors who claimed they have been harassed by e-mails, phone calls, postcards and even received death threats.
Richard Coleson, a Indiana-based elections law attorney hired by the campaign, told the court the harassment is having a "chilling" impact on donors.
He said some frightened donors say they will not contribute to defeat a ballot challenge to Proposition 8 that is being threatened by opponents if the California Supreme Court upholds its constitutionality.
Frank Schubert, Yes on 8 campaign manager, said he was disappointed the court did not grant a preliminary injunction.
But he said the campaign would continue to press its case in Sacramento and "possibly" appeal to the 9th District Court of Appeal in San Francisco.
Roman Porter, executive director of the Fair Political Practices Commission, called Thursday's ruling "a victory for the people of California."
"The commission," he said, "will continue to vigorously defend any suit brought against disclosure of campaign statements."
California's Political Reform Act, which voters approved in 1974, requires the name, occupation and employer of any individual who makes a campaign contribution of $100 or more.
The Yes on 8 campaign challenged the legality of the $100 limit, arguing in court that relatively small donors are being harassed because the limit has not been adjusted for inflation.
The judge declined to raise the limit, noting that most states have lower limits.
He also dismissed the campaign's contention that it qualified for a narrow exception to campaign-donation disclosure laws granted by the U.S. Supreme Court for the NAACP in Alabama and Socialist Workers Party in Ohio.
England said the thousands of donors who contributed to Proposition 8 are not members of a group or political party, but diverse individuals.
Zackery Morrazzini, an attorney for Attorney General Jerry Brown and Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who were also named in the suit, said likening the Proposition 8 campaign to the NAACP and Socialist Workers Party was a stretch.
Those groups, he said, had a long history of being harassed and threatened.
Sacramento Bee, January 30, 2009
See copy of ruling here.
Gay marriage foes want campaign contributions anonymous, citing 'harassment'
Proponents of a ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage filed a lawsuit in federal court this week seeking to overturn state campaign finance laws that require that names and personal information of donors to state political campaigns be made public.
They claimed that donors to Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California after one of the most heated campaigns in recent memory, have been the victim of threats and harassment because of their support for ending same-sex marriage was made public.
"This harassment is made possible because of California's unconstitutional campaign finance disclosure rules as applied to ballot measure committees where even donors of as little as $100 must have their names, home addresses and employers listed on public documents," Ron Prentice, head of the Protect Marriage Coalition, said in a statement.
Since 1974, state law has required that donors who give more than $100 must have their names disclosed.
The law was intended to prevent money laundering and to provide disclosure of who is making contributions to political campaigns. It has withstood several previous legal challenges. Experts on the 1st Amendment experts said they did not believe the suit stood much of a chance of success.
"This trashes the 1st Amendment and it is a thinly veiled attempt to eliminate transparency as to the role of money in state election campaigns," said Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the ACLU of Southern California. The ACLU was a major opponent of Proposition 8.
Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2009
New questions emerge about LDS Church Prop 8 contributions
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - More questions are being raised about the LDS Church's Prop 8 campaign contributions.
New California reports show the Church gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in in-kind donations to support a gay marriage ban there.
On the LDS Church's Prop 8 report, there are two contributions listed for November 4th, 2008 - election day.
One for ninety-seven thousand dollars, another for twenty thousand and five hundred.
That's a total of more than one hundred and seventeen thousand [dollars].
Fred Karger, who launched the California state investigation into the LDS Church's Prop 8 contributions, wants to know why the contributions listed by LDS Church are different than those listed by those whom the Church gave the donations to.
On the Project Marriage/Yes on 8 campaign report, there is no LDS Church contribution listed on November 4th.
There is one for November 3rd, but that's only for thirty thousand.
Karger says, "So, they're a lot of questions for the Project Marriage Committee and the Yes on 8 Committee. There are a lot of questions still for the Mormon Church that they need to answer and be forthright."
In its statement about the contributions, the LDS Church writes,
"The Church did not make any cash contribution."
But San Francisco lawyer and former Utah Mormon Kate Kendell disagrees.
She told ABC 4, "If they gave in-kind donations, it means those were contributions that the campaign itself didn't need to pay for."
What's more, Kendell believes that direct cash donations from LDS members will eventually total between $20 and $25 million.
That would be more than half of all money raised to pass Prop 8.
Kendell said, "When the dust clears, I think the Church's reputation as a force for fairness and equality and treating people equally will be tarnished for a very long time."
The LDS Church did not respond to our phone calls about this story.
abc4.com, February 3, 2009
FPPC gets new complaint over Prop. 8 campaign
By Susan Ferriss
An additional complaint about the Mormon church's support for Proposition 8 rolled into the state's Fair Political Practices Commission this week.
Roman Porter, the FPPC's executive director, confirmed Friday receiving a request for more investigation â€“ with links to alleged Mormon insider documents â€“ from Fred Karger of the group Californians Against Hate.
Karger's complaint, dated Thursday, asks the commission to look more deeply into whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spent far more staff time and money on Proposition 8 than officially disclosed. The complaint will be added to the original one that Karger filed last November, Porter said.
Karger accuses the Mormon church of setting up the National Organization for Marriage in 2007 to work to qualify Proposition 8 for the ballot last November. The group "came out of nowhere," he said, "and all of a sudden it began raising big, big money."
Karger said the alleged insider documents he obtained â€“ he would not say where â€“ reveal a pattern of the church setting up "front groups" to hide church financing to stop gay marriage.
In his complaint, he included alleged correspondence from the 1990s between Mormon church members involved in lobbying against gay-marriage proposals in Hawaii. The letters bear the signatures of then high-level Mormon representatives, and describe the need to lower the church's profile in the Hawaii effort by working with figures from other religions.
One June 1996 letter purportedly shows a Mormon church representative was aware that media were interested in probing church donations to the Hawaii coalition.
"We have organized things so the Church contribution was used in an area of coalition activity that does not have to be reported," the letter reads.
In an e-mailed statement, Mormon church spokeswoman Kim Farah denied establishing the National Organization for Marriage and said the church has reported its entire contribution of $190,000 to Proposition 8.
Farah said the church has not tried to verify the authenticity of the documents related to the Hawaii campaign against gay marriage.
Brian Brown, National Organization for Marriage's executive director and a Roman Catholic, said, "The only way to respond to Fred Karger is one word: ridiculous."
Brown said his group includes a Mormon board member and people of many other faiths. The early money used to get enough signatures to put Proposition 8 on the ballot came mostly from well-off Catholic individuals, he said.
Jeff Flint, a Proposition 8 campaign manager, accused Karger of "irrational hatred" of the Mormon church.
"I'm not exactly sure how to answer the latest conspiracy theory," Flint said.
Sacramento Bee, March 21, 2009
Gay rights group filing complaint in Prop 8 battleBy Jennifer Dobner, Associated Press Writer
SALT LAKE CITY -- The head of a gay rights group on Wednesday said he plans to file a second campaign finance complaint about the Mormon church's activities in the fall ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California.
Fred Karger, founder of Californians Against Hate, said The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints deliberately covered up its financial role in backing Proposition 8 by failing to file timely campaign finance reports as required by California law. Karger said it's possible the church spent millions more than it actually reported.
"I'm calling this Mormongate," Karger said. "I think there's been a massive cover-up."
Karger filed an initial complaint about the church with the California Fair Political Practices Commission in November. An investigation is under way.
A January 30 report shows the church gave $189,903.58 in non-monetary contributions to the Yes on 8 campaign.
The expenses included $97,000 for staff time and $21,000 for the use of church buildings and equipment. Most of the rest went for travel expenses, including airline tickets, hotels and meals.
The church reported no cash donations.
Church spokeswoman Kim Farah has said the value of the church's in-kind contributions is less than one-half of one percent of the $40.8 million raised by the campaign.
In response to the allegation that it tried to hide its support for Proposition 8, the church posted on its Web site a list of seven campaign finance reports dating back to the last summer.
According to the church, all filings went to the California Secretary of State, the Department of Elections for the City and County of San Francisco, and the Registrar-Recorder for Los Angeles.
Karger disputes the data called on the public to share any pertinent information about the church's activities related to Proposition 8. He said he's said up a Web site and a toll-free telephone number to recieve information.
Also Wednesday, Karger called for a boycott of car dealerships in Utah, California, Iowa and Texas owned by the Utah-based Ken Garff Automotive Group. Katherine Garff made an individual contribution of $100,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign, Karger said.
Garff's son, John Garff said the contribution was a personal decision made by his mother, and not a contribution from the company, which is politically neutral.
John Garff said the company has gay and lesbian employees, has a zero tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination in the workplace and offers a benefits package that is favorable to those in same-sex partnerships. In Utah, the automotive group is also a longtime contributor to the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy and education organization.
Mercury News, February 11, 2009
Utah boycott likely after LDS Prop. 8 push
By Brock Vergakis, Associated Press
Utah's growing tourism industry and the star-studded Sundance Film Festival are being targeted for a boycott by bloggers, gay-rights activists and others seeking to punish the LDS Church for its aggressive promotion of California's ban on gay marriage.
It could be a heavy price to pay. Tourism brings in $6 billion a year to Utah, with world-class skiing, a spectacular red rock country and the film festival founded by Robert Redford, among other popular tourist draws.
"At a fundamental level, the Utah Mormons crossed the line on this one," said gay-rights activist John Aravosis, an influential blogger in Washington, D.C.
"They just took marriage away from 20,000 couples and made their children bastards," he said. "You don't do that and get away with it."
Salt Lake City is the world headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which counts about 62 percent of Utah residents as members.
The church encouraged its members to work to pass California's Proposition 8 by volunteering their time and money for the campaign. Thousands of Mormons worked as grass-roots volunteers and gave tens of millions of dollars to the campaign.
The ballot measure passed Tuesday. It amends the California Constitution to define marriage as a heterosexual act, overriding a state Supreme Court ruling that briefly gave same-sex couples the right to wed.
The backlash against the church ï¿½ and by extension Utah ï¿½ has been immediate. Protests erupted outside LDS temples in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, Facebook groups formed telling people to boycott Utah, and Web sites such as mormonsstoleourrights.com began popping up, calling for an end to the church's tax-exempt status.
Church spokeswoman Kim Farah said in a statement about the temple protests last week that it is "disturbing" that the church is being singled out for exercising its right to speak up in a free election.
"While those who disagree with our position on Proposition 8 have the right to make their feelings known, it is wrong to target the church and its sacred places of worship for being part of the democratic process," Farah said.
The church had said in a statement after Tuesday's vote that "no one on any side of the question should be vilified, intimidated, harassed or subject to erroneous information."
Aravosis is the editor of the popular americablog.com, which has about 900,000 unique monthly visitors. He is calling for skiers to choose any state but Utah and for Hollywood actors and directors to pull out of the Sundance Film Festival. Other bloggers and readers have responded to his call.
"There's a movement afoot and large donors are involved who are very interested in organizing a campaign, because I do not believe in frivolous boycotts," said Aravosis, who has helped organize boycotts against "Dr. Laura" Schlessinger's television show, Microsoft and Ford over gay rights issues.
"The main focus is going to be going after the Utah brand," he said. "At this point, honestly, we're going to destroy the Utah brand. It is a hate state."
Gay rights groups did not immediately weigh in on calls for a boycott. Jim Key, spokesman for the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, said he had heard little about such an effort.
"It's not something that we have called for, but we do think it is important to send a message to the Mormon church," Key said. He noted an effort run by the center to overturn Proposition 8 that sends a postcard to the LDS Church president with each contribution made.
A Sundance spokeswoman didn't return messages. Leigh von der Esch, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism, said that she's aware there's been discussion of a boycott, but that her office hadn't received any calls about it.
"We're respectful of both sides of the equation and realize it's an emotional issue, but we are here promoting what we think is the best state in the country," she said.
What kind of economic, religious or political impact, if any, a boycott might have is unclear. The LDS Church has members all over the world and no plans to change its stance on gay marriage.
Aravosis is not calling for a boycott of California, though that state's voters actually approved the ban.
"At this point, the Californians are the victims and the Mormons are the persecutors," he said. "We had won this until they swept in. ... We need to send a message to Utah that they need to stop trying to inflict their way of life on every other state."
Bob Malone, CEO and president of the Park City Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, said it is unfair to try to punish certain industries or parts of the state over an issue it had nothing to do with.
"It's really not a Park City thing, and I don't see it as a state thing. That was more of a religious issue," he said. "To sweep people in who really have nothing to do with that issue and have no influence over religious issues ï¿½ it's sad that people kind of think that and say, 'We're going to bury you.' It's sad to hear people talk like that."
The Deseret News, November 11, 2008
LDS Church releases statement regarding Buttars
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement on Friday regarding recent comments made by Utah state senator Chris Buttars about homosexuality.
Church spokesperson Scott Trotter released the following statement:
"From the outset, the Church's position has always been to engage in civil and respectful dialogue on this issue. Senator Buttars does not speak for the Church."
Senator Buttars made the controversial comments to former ABC 4 reporter Reed Cowan, who is an openly-gay TV news anchor and reporter now living in Florida. Cowan is also working on a documentary about Proposition 8 and the role of the LDS Church in its passage. Cowan interviewed Buttars as pert of the documentary and released audio recording of the senator's statements to ABC 4 News earlier this week.
In his comments, Buttars compared gay activists to radical Muslims and called homosexuality the "greatest threat" to America.
Buttars was removed from his chairmanship of the senate judiciary committee on Friday.
abc4.com, February 20, 2009
New LDS ward email about gay civil unions attracts attention
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - It appears a LDS Church Ward in the midwest is now getting involved in another state's battle over gay rights and doing so using what might be considered very unusual language.
ABC 4 has uncovered a purported LDS Church Ward email dealing with Illinois' new proposed law dealing with civil unions.
The LDS Church, of course, played a significant role in passing Prop 8.
That California ballot measure banned gay marriage there.
And Thursday - about the same time the California Supreme Court hears a landmark case about Prop 8 - the Illinois legislature takes up the issue of gay civil unions.
Once again, the LDS Church is involved.
Reportedly, an email was sent out via a LDS Church ward website to all members of the Nauvoo, Illinois 3rd ward.
It asks Nauvoo 3rd Ward members to help defeat Illinois house bill 2234.
This bill would create legal civil unions in Illinois.
And it has a big committee hearing before Illinois legislators Thursday morning.
But what's unusual about the email is some of the strong language it uses.
"As has already been seen in Massachusetts, this will empower the public schools to begin teaching this lifestyle to our young children..."
and later the email goes on to say,
"It will also create grounds for rewriting all social mores; the current push in Massachusetts is to recognize and legalize all transgender rights (an individual in Massachusetts can now change their drivers license to the gender they believe themselves to be, regardless of actual gender, which means that confused men and women are now legally entering one another's bathrooms and locker rooms. What kind of a safety issue is this for our children?)
But what presumably was meant just for Nauvoo Illinois 3rd Ward LDS members, is now appearing on the internet.
ABC 4 will have more on this story as it develops.
abc4.com, March 4, 2009
Rolly: A Prop 8 campaign look-alike in Hawaii?
By Paul Rolly, Tribune Columnist
With all the controversy surrounding the LDS Church's involvement in the Proposition 8 election in California last fall, a more subtle dust-up was brewing at the Hawaii State Legislature last month, pretty much over the same thing.
Hawaii resident Leonor Briscoe was fired up enough over an e-mail exchange with a neighbor that she forwarded copies to her friends, including some Utah residents she believed would be interested in the issue.
The exchange began with an e-mail she got from Frank Lueder, also of Hawaii, that informed her of HB444, a bill before the Hawaii Legislature that "is attempting to once again legalize same-sex marriage but under a new term, 'civil union.' If you wish relay your OPPOSITION to it, you could do so by [calling or e-mailing] your representative. You could access the list of ... House of Representatives from the e-mail address I just gave."
Briscoe, who is LDS, responded: "In the hierarchical, authoritarian structure of the Mormon church, there's no way you would be sending out e-mails about HB444 without the implied or expressed sanction of the leaders of the Mormon Church.
"You do not know me and I do not know you, so the only way you could have gotten my e-mail address is through your stake clerk's access to church stake records, which are not supposed to be used for political or commercial purposes."
The bill, by the way, passed the House but died in the Senate.
Salt Lake Tribune, March 24, 2009
Can social conservatives assimilate the LDS into their movement?
By Michael Brendan Dougherty
In 1898, B.H. Roberts, a high-ranking member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was elected to represent Utah in the House. At the time, Americans could grudgingly accept a Mormon politician as long as he wasn't too Mormon. But Roberts still lived with the three wives he had married before the LDS church ended polygamy. Protestant ministerial associations and newspapers like the New York Evening Journal petitioned Congress to refuse Roberts his seat. The voices of rectitude delivered 7 million signatures written on 28 scrolls wrapped in the American flag to the Capitol. The House voted 268-50 against Roberts. His seat was given to a one-woman Mormon whose faith could be glossed over.
Over a century later, assertive Mormonism may find its political home in the conservative movement. The faith that once seemed like a threat to Christian values is increasingly viewed as an ally by social conservatives looking for recruits in the culture war. As Mormons have stepped forward to lead efforts against gay marriage, the enmity of liberals to the LDS church has increased. But evangelical hostility to Mormonism seems to be melting into acceptance, even admiration.
The "not-too Mormon" rule lingered from Roberts's time to Mitt Romney's recent presidential campaign, despite the impressive progress Mormons have made in politics. America's 5.5 million Latter Day Saints make up just 1.6 percent of the population yet hold over 5 percent of congressional seats. Their ranks include Republican firebrand Jeff Flake and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Church leaders like Ezra Taft Benson have served honorably in appointed office, and George W. Bush awarded LDS President Gordon B. Hinkley the Medal of Freedom.
But few elected officials have made Mormonism integral to their political identity -- for good reason. Early in Romney's campaign, USA Today reported, "as far back as 1967, only three quarters of Americans said they would vote for an otherwise well qualified person who was a Mormon. "Some 40 years later -- the results to this question are almost exactly the same." After Romney delivered his "Faith in America" speech addressing the Mormon question directly, Lawrence O'Donnell railed on The McLaughlin Group, "Romney comes from a religion that was founded by a criminal who was anti-American, pro-slavery, and a rapist!"
Though many religious conservative leaders hoped to endorse Romney, they found that a sizable portion of their flocks shared O'Donnell's sentiments. James Dobson told talk-show host Laura Ingraham, "I don't believe that conservative Christians will vote for a Mormon, but that remains to be seen, I guess." Popular evangelical radio-preacher Bill Keller warned, "If you vote for Mitt Romney, you are voting for Satan!"
Romney's campaign was derailed when Evangelicals turned to Baptist preacher-turned-politician, Mike Huckabee. His enthusiastic reception at the Values Voters conference prevented Dobson and other Religious Right leaders from endorsing Romney. Huckabee poked at Romney's faith, asking a New York Times reporter, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?" His strong showing among evangelical voters in the South doomed Romney's bid.
But evangelical hostilities don't last forever. When John F. Kennedy ran for president, many conservative evangelicals believed the Pope was the antichrist. The president of the National Association of Evangelicals warned, "Public opinion is changing in favor of the church of Rome. We dare not sit idly by -- voiceless and voteless." But two decades later, as Catholics took the lead in protesting abortion, evangelicals gradually traded theological rivalry for political co-operation. The alliance has become so natural that evangelicals were willing to reject co-religionist Harriet Miers as a nominee for the Supreme Court in favor of the more qualified Catholic Samuel Alito.
The same process of assimilation into the social conservative movement may be taking place for Mormons. Soon after the California Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage constitutional, Catholic Bishop of San Francisco George Niederauer asked the LDS church to join a multifaith coalition against gay marriage. By June, Elder Lance Wickman, a top LDS official, called Prop 8 "The Gettysburg of the culture war." Church members fell in line, ready for a fight.
The LDS church rarely involves itself directly in politics, and its effort in California's ï¿½Protect Marriage Coalitionï¿½ represented a shift in church policy. In a satellite simulcast from Salt Lake City to Californian church members, Elder Clinton Cook instructed, "Give your best to this most significant effort to support in every way possible, the sacred institution of marriage."
Mormons' best efforts proved essential. Though California's 770,000 Latter Day Saints make up two percent of the population, Mormons contributed over half of the $40 million used in the Prop 8 battle. In the last two weeks of the campaign, the Protect Marriage Coalition received a $1 million donation from Alan C. Ashton, grandson of a former president of the LDS church. Not only did Mormons give money, they gave time. One strategist for Protect Marriage, Jeff Flint, estimated that Mormons made up 80 to 90 percent of the early door-to-door volunteers. Freg Karger, a leader of Californians Against Hate and Prop 8 opponent, says, ï¿½We were surprised by how heavy they came into this. ï¿½ Without their millions of dollars and ground troops, it would have been a very different ï¿½Yes on 8ï¿½ campaign.ï¿½
Long known as reliable fundraisers and behind-the-scenes organizers in Republican politics, Mormons made Proposition 8 their coming out party as a social conservative force. But their involvement came at a price. Justin Hart, a member of the LDS church and a conservative commentator, laments, "There was this huge target put on our backs."
In the final days of the campaign, a pro-gay marriage ad, "Home Invasion," depicted Mormon missionaries ransacking the home of a lesbian couple, taking their wedding rings, and tearing up their marriage license. Tom Hanks called Mormon Prop 8 supporters, "un-American." One Utah lawyer, Nadine Hansen, set up a website, Mormonsfor8.com, which encouraged dissenting Mormons to ï¿½outï¿½ contributors to "Yes for 8" as Mormons and post information about their wards and places of work.
Because of the backlash, Mormons have shied away from media coverage they cannot control. LDS members who were directly involved with Prop 8 have been asked not to comment to the media. But the institutional church has gone on a press offensive, inviting journalists into its newest temple and discussing their involvement in politics. Shrewdly, Mormon leaders have shifted the debate about marriage to a debate about free exercise of religion. Elder Clinton Cook in an address to LDS members warned that the acceptance of gay marriage would inevitably lead to ï¿½legal penalties and social ostracismï¿½ for the religious. In this formulation, Mormons are just one of many faith groups seeking to protect their freedom of conscience.
The combination of political strength Mormons demonstrated in the campaign and their perceived suffering afterwards has bonded them to other religious conservatives. "They wanted to show other religions that they saved them," Hart says. "When we get beat up in the press, it is a badge of honor. And in the conservative movement, it has endeared us to a lot of different groups. They say, "Wow, thanks to the Mormons for making it happen."
After Prop 8, evangelical opinion leaders exhorted their audiences to stop worrying and learn to love the Latter Day Saints. John Mark Reynolds, a professor at evangelical Biola University wrote, "In the battle for the family -- traditional Christians have no better friends than the Mormon faithful." A petition to thank the LDS church for its participation in the Prop 8 campaign circulated on conservative websites, and James Dobson signed it. Presbyterian writer John Schroeder said, ï¿½We Evangelicals must thank our Mormon cousins. ï¿½ï¿½ They, along with our Catholic brethren, were better organized than us and that provided a base from which we could all work together to get this job done.ï¿½
Social conservatives stand to gain much from extending their coalition. As the Prop 8 campaign highlighted, Latter Day Saints offer resources and organization to a movement that often finds itself underfunded and adrift. But the downsides of such an alliance are significant. Though they are fast growing group, Mormons are still a religious minority, concentrated in the mountain West. Their historical and theological baggage may be too much for a mainstream political movement to bear. Evangelicals and Catholics have based their co-operation on a shared belief in the doctrines of the Nicene Creed. Mormons have a continuing revelation, one that many orthodox Christians believe to be flexible in the face of political exigencies. Polygamy was suspended in the LDS church once statehood was offered to Utah, and blacks were allowed to enter the Mormon priesthood not long after protests made Mormon beliefs in the origin of racial differences a national embarrassment. Christia ns may ask: will the LDS church eventually leave behind its current social commitments?
There are downsides to an alliance for Mormons as well. By hitching themselves to the conservative movement, Mormons risk alienating many co-religionists who have enjoyed a religious community that has for several generations remained politically diverse.
Political realities have made social conservatives open to co-operation with Mormons. Without the LDS church, gay marriage would remain settled law in California. Losing ground among the young and the educated, social conservatives need to be creative in building a constituency for their ideas. But inviting the LDS into the movement will test the limits of co-belligerence. There is something amiss about a mutable and pluralistic coalition claiming to stand against the dictatorship of relativism.
The American Conservative, February 23, 2009
What’s it like to be a Mormon progressive?
Greetings from Orem, Utah, where I'm attending a conference on "Mormonism in the Public Mind" at Utah Valley University. I'm here because I was the keynote speaker yesterday, talking about Mormonism and the media, and I'll have more to say about that, and some of my travels through Mormondom this week, a bit later. But first, some liveblogging.
This morning, a panel of three scholars took a look at Mormonism and politics, trying to extract lessons from three episodes -- the Romney campaign for president, the Proposition 8 campaign in California, and the quixotic campaign of a Utah Valley University professor, an active Mormon, who ran for the state Legislature as a Democrat in one of the most Republican areas of the country.
Boyd Petersen, the program coordinator for Mormon Studies at Utah Valley University, talked about his unsuccessful bid for the Utah Legislature, and what he learned about the close association between Mormons and the Republican Party. "Last year, I did something no sane person would do -- I ran for the state Legislature in Utah County as a Democrat -- one of the reddest county in one of the reddest states.'' Petersen described himself as "a socially conservative Democrat,'' and said his "most radical position" was that he opposed school vouchers. But what's it like to be a Mormon Democrat? This is what Petersen said:
"Many Mormon Democrats, such as me, experience frustration that we're not fully accepted into the Mormon Church tribe...Many of our fellow church members see us as apostates...Utah Mormons still ask the question, 'Can a good Mormon be a Democrat?' At times we progressive Mormons feel like we're not just a different tribe, but we're living on separate planets. The gap that divides us can seem quite unfathomable.''
Petersen argued that the strong association between Mormonism and Republicanism is not healthy for the religion, because political parties take members for granted. "Republicans know they have it in the bag, and Democrats know they don't have a chance,'' he said. Furthermore, he said, "I have known many students who have left the church because they felt excluded for progressive beliefs.''
Morris Thurston, a Mormon legal historian in southern California, talked about his experience as an active church participant who also opposed Proposition 8, the measure approved by California voters to outlaw same-sex marriage in that state. Thurston, who publicly attempted to rebut arguments in favor of Proposition 8, said that although some Mormons praised him, others "condemned me to hell for defying the prophet.'' He said there was an article in a Mormon publication that "likened those who opposed Prop. 8 to Lucifer," and said a leader in his own ward described "dissenters...like the wicked and adulterous people of Noah's Day." The campaign "was very stressful for me, and the negativity took its emotional toll,'' he said, adding, "it's difficult to be seen as a heretic.''
Thurston said he observed a very heavy involvement by the Mormon church in advocating for Proposition 8, citing meetings held in ward and stake buildings, conversations in which bishops urged members to become more active, talks in sacrament, priesthood and relief society meetings, and even commentary in fast day testimonies. "It would be difficult to understate the effectiveness of the LDS campaign,'' he said, citing doorbelling efforts, sign-holding, and election day efforts to get voters to the polls in support of Proposition 8. By contrast, he said, "the organizers of 'No on 8' came across as rank amateurs.'' Then, provocatively, Thurston noted that Brigham Young had supported slavery and opposed interracial relationships, and said, "continuing revelation sometimes results in leaders accepting conduct that earlier leaders have condemned, or condemning conduct that earlier leaders held sacred.'' Musing about the future of Mormon attitudes toward same-sex marriage, he said, "Is it possible revelation will be perceived that will change our attitudes towards our gay brothers and sisters?"
Taking a look at a different political issue, and from a different perspective, Kirk Jowers, the director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, examined the question of whether Romney's religion cost him the presidency -- an issue other scholars are also trying to evaluate. Jowers did not offer a conclusion, and did not discuss other problems with the Romney campaign, but made it clear that he believes anti-Mormonism was a key factor in Romney's disappointing performance in Iowa, which led rapidly to his withdrawal from the race. Jowers reviewed an array of anti-Mormon comments made during Romney's candidacy, and said, "religion was a critical part of his campaign...it was very difficult for him to just get a clear run.'' Jowers also said "that soft bigotry was put down with the hammer in Iowa" and "there's a great argument to be made that he lost Iowa due to his religion.''
Boston GlobeApril 3, 2009 12:48 PM
Booze, budget and Buttars highlight Utah session
By Brock Vergakis, Associated Press
An economic crisis, attempts to make Utah's liquor laws a little less odd and a state senator's comments about gay people dominated the 2009 legislative session.
The 45-day session was to end Thursday at midnight and much of the Legislature's time has been spent slashing state agency budgets.
Lawmakers had to make two rounds of cuts - one to the 2009 budget and another to the 2010 budget - to keep the state from going into the red.
All told, the state's nearly $10.9 billion budget will be about $600 million less than the one lawmakers approved last year. The gap would have been larger - the state had a $1 billion shortfall - but lawmakers are softening the cuts with federal stimulus money, allowing them to avoid raising taxes this year.
"It could've been much worse," Senate Majority Leader Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse said. "We feel encouraged that we'll experience an upswing quicker than other states because we think we're going to have some appeal to do business in Utah."
One of Gov. Jon Huntsman's primary economic development goals is to boost the state's $6 billion-a-year tourism industry, which those in the hospitality industry say has been held back by archaic liquor laws.
Utah is the only state in the country that requires customers to fill out an application and pay a membership fee - at least $4 for three weeks or $12 annually - before being allowed to walk into a bar. It is also the only state that prohibits bartenders from serving cocktails directly over bar counters, forcing servers to walk alcoholic drinks around the bar before serving them.
Huntsman pushed for the elimination of both laws to please tourists and send a message to the rest of the world that the state is welcoming to those who choose to have a drink. Surveys have shown that the state's confusing liquor laws and its teetotaling image - about 60 percent of its population is Mormon, a religion that tells its members to shun alcohol - are a hindrance to business and worker recruitment.
In exchange for loosening some of the strictest liquor laws in the country, Huntsman agreed to tougher DUI penalties and having the ID of anyone who looks younger than 35 scanned before going into a bar.
The effort was lauded by tourism leaders struggling to lure people to the state during an economic crisis.
The tourism industry's problems were exacerbated this winter by a proposed boycott of the state by some gay rights activists because of the Salt Lake City-based Mormon church's involvement in the Proposition 8 campaign to ban gay marriage in California.
During that campaign, the church said it wasn't opposed to some rights for gay people, but wanted to defend traditional marriage.
Gay rights activists in Utah had hoped to capitalize on those statements by passing a package of bills known as the Common Ground Initiative. Among other things, it would have given unmarried, financially dependent adults legal standing on inheritance matters, hospital visitation and the ability to sue in the event of a wrongful death.
However, conservative lawmakers rebuffed the package because they worried it could lead to a court recognizing gay marriages in Utah, even though the state has a constitutional amendment banning them.
One of the bills would have asked voters to repeal a ban on domestic unions, but it was pulled by the sponsor before ever getting a hearing with the hope other bills could advance.
Shortly thereafter, Huntsman publicly said for the first time he supported civil unions for gay people, although he said he wouldn't pursue making them legal in Utah.
Gay rights groups throughout the country applauded Huntsman for taking a stand in support of civil unions in one of the nation's most conservative states.
But the praise was short-lived.
Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, drew ire for saying in an interview with a documentary filmmaker that gay people lack morals and that gay activists are one of America's greatest threats.
Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, responded by removing Buttars' from a judiciary committee he chaired. Buttars frequently took pride in using his position on the committee to kill gay rights legislation.
However, Waddoups said he didn't remove Buttars' to punish him for making the comments. Instead, he said he wanted to remove a distraction.
Waddoups also said that his GOP colleagues agree with many of Buttars' statements, but he has refused to say which statements.
Among Republicans, only Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights, has publicly stated his disagreements with Buttars' statements.
"I think I could say that, to a person, everyone in our caucus supports traditional marriage. Many of us, however, feel that the tenor, the examples, some of the phrasing that Sen. Buttars used in his controversial comments, were intolerant and immoderate," Bell said during the session. "I don't believe that all gays have no morals whatsoever."
Buttars' comments led to calls for cultural sensitivity training by Democrats, but the GOP said it wasn't interested in requiring it for lawmakers.
Forbes.com, March 12, 2009
Gay or straight, commitment deserves acceptance
by Peg McEntee, Tribune Columnist
This past spring brought three weddings I was honored to attend.
In March, my sister married a New Jersey man in an azalea-ringed backyard in Orlando. In May, our niece threw herself a fabulous wedding in La Jolla, Calif., with bridesmaids and groomsmen and a riotous dinner party featuring Brazilian drummers and dancers.
Later in May, two dear friends exchanged vows in Memory Grove, where a songbird offered all the music we needed to hear.
All were joyful; only one lacked the imprimatur of church or state. In Memory Grove, it was two women who danced that first dance to "Come Rain or Come Shine" in a recording by (who else?) Bette Midler.
It was all the more poignant because it happened in a state dominated by a faith and government that evidently will never concede that gay people are entitled to the same recognition as their straight brothers and sisters.
Last weekend, LDS general authority Bruce C. Hafen told a conference of Evergreen International -- which claims to help Mormons overcome homosexual behavior and diminish same-sex attraction -- that such sexuality is not a biological phenomenon.
He also promised that if those who feel such attractions live chastely, as do unmarried straight Mormons, they can arise in the resurrection with "normal attractions for the opposite sex."
And Hafen challenged the American Psychological Association's recent recommendation that therapists steer their clients away from "reparative therapy," citing studies that indicate it just doesn't work and can do harm.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supported California's Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. In years past, it fought against gay rights in other states.
In 2004, voters amended the Utah Constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman, and the Legislature -- overwhelmingly LDS -- has dumped proposed legal protections for same-sex couples and is likely to do the same with Salt Lake City's plan to banish housing and workplace discrimination against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Paradoxically, Salt Lake has a vibrant LGBT community living and working alongside the straightest of the straight. And like our friends, many have committed to one another for life.
My question is this: Why would anyone want men and women to live without the deeply human ties of romantic and sexual love? What stronger alliance is there for a society that depends on moral, honest people doing the right thing for themselves, their loved ones and neighbors?
It's not just the LDS Church, but any number of Christian denominations, including the Catholic Church, as well as Islam. In California, the coalition for Prop. 8 included representatives of all of these.
I don't hate religion. On the contrary, I admire most religious people for their conviction and compassion. What I will never understand is how compassion can fail when it comes to gay people.
So I think about our friends, and the words of George Eliot they said to each other:
"What greater thing is there for two human souls meant to feel that they are joined for life -- to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent and unspeakable memories at the moment of last parting?"
Salt Lake Tribune, September 24, 2009
The Bigots' Last Hurrah
By Frank Rich
WHAT would happen if you crossed that creepy 1960s horror classic "The Village of the Damned" with the Broadway staple "A Chorus Line"? You don't need to use your imagination. It's there waiting for you on YouTube under the title "Gathering Storm": a 60-second ad presenting homosexuality as a national threat second only to terrorism.
The actors are supposedly Not Gay. They stand in choral formation before a backdrop of menacing clouds and cheesy lightning effects. "The winds are strong," says a white man to the accompaniment of ominous music. "And I am afraid," a young black woman chimes in. "Those advocates want to change the way I live," says a white woman. But just when all seems lost, the sun breaks through and a smiling black man announces that "a rainbow coalition" is "coming together in love" to save America from the apocalypse of same-sex marriage. It's the swiftest rescue of Western civilization since the heyday of the ambiguously gay duo Batman and Robin.
Far from terrifying anyone, "Gathering Storm" has become, unsurprisingly, an Internet camp classic. On YouTube the original video must compete with countless homemade parodies it has inspired since first turning up some 10 days ago. None may top Stephen Colbert's on Thursday night, in which lightning from "the homo storm" strikes an Arkansas teacher, turning him gay. A "New Jersey pastor" whose church has been "turned into an Abercrombie & Fitch" declares that he likes gay people, "but only as hilarious best friends in TV and movies."
Yet easy to mock as "Gathering Storm" may be, it nonetheless bookmarks a historic turning point in the demise of America's anti-gay movement.
What gives the ad its symbolic significance is not just that it's idiotic but that its release was the only loud protest anywhere in America to the news that same-sex marriage had been legalized in Iowa and Vermont. If it advances any message, it's mainly that homophobic activism is ever more depopulated and isolated as well as brain-dead.
"Gathering Storm" was produced and broadcast -- for a claimed $1.5 million -- by an outfit called the National Organization for Marriage. This "national organization, " formed in 2007, is a fund-raising and propaganda-spewing Web site fronted by the right-wing Princeton University professor Robert George and the columnist Maggie Gallagher, who was famously caught receiving taxpayers' money to promote Bush administration “marriage initiatives.” Until last month, half of the six board members (including George) had some past or present affiliation with Princeton's James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. (One of them, the son of one of the 12 apostles in the Mormon church hierarchy, recently stepped down.)
Even the anti-Obama "tea parties" flogged by Fox News last week had wider genuine grass-roots support than this so-called national organization. Beyond Princeton, most straight citizens merely shrugged as gay families celebrated in Iowa and Vermont. There was no mass backlash. At ABC and CBS, the Vermont headlines didn't even make the evening news.
On the right, the restrained response was striking. Fox barely mentioned the subject; its rising-star demagogue, Glenn Beck, while still dismissing same-sex marriage, went so far as to "celebrate what happened in Vermont" because "instead of the courts making a decision, the people did." Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the self-help media star once notorious for portraying homosexuality as "a biological error" and a gateway to pedophilia, told CNN's Larry King that she now views committed gay relationships as "a beautiful thing and a healthy thing." In The New York Post, the invariably witty and invariably conservative writer Kyle Smith demolished a Maggie Gallagher screed published in National Review and wondered whether her errant arguments against gay equality were "something else in disguise."
More startling still was the abrupt about-face of the Rev. Rick Warren, the hugely popular megachurch leader whose endorsement last year of Proposition 8, California's same-sex marriage ban, had roiled his appearance at the Obama inaugural. Warren also dropped in on Larry King to declare that he had never’s been and never will be an "anti-gay-marriage activist." This was an unmistakable slap at the National Organization for Marriage, which lavished far more money on Proposition 8 than even James Dobsonï¿½s Focus on the Family.
The Obamas' dog had longer legs on cable than the news from Iowa and Vermont. CNN's weekly press critique, "Reliable Sources, " inquired why. The gay blogger John Aravosis suggested that many Americans are more worried about their mortgages than their neighbors' private lives. Besides, Aravosis said, there are "only so many news stories you can do showing guys in tuxes."
As the polls attest, the majority of Americans who support civil unions for gay couples has been steadily growing. Younger voters are fine with marriage. Generational changeover will seal the deal. Crunching all the numbers, the poll maven Nate Silver sees same-sex marriage achieving majority support "at some point in the 2010s."
Iowa and Vermont were the tipping point because they struck down the right's two major arguments against marriage equality. The unanimous ruling of the seven-member Iowa Supreme Court proved that the issue is not merely a bicoastal fad. The decision, written by Mark Cady, a Republican appointee, was particularly articulate in explaining that a state's legalization of same-sex marriage has no effect on marriage as practiced by religions. "The only difference," the judge wrote, is that "civil marriage will now take on a new meaning that reflects a more complete understanding of equal protection of the law."
Some opponents grumbled anyway, reviving their perennial complaint, dating back to Brown v. Board of Education, about activist judges. But the judiciary has long played a leading role in sticking up for the civil rights of minorities so they're not held hostage to a majority vote. Even if the judiciary-overreach argument had merit, it was still moot in Vermont, where the State Legislature, not a court, voted to make same-sex marriage legal and then voted to override the Republican governor's veto.
As the case against equal rights for gay families gets harder and harder to argue on any nonreligious or legal grounds, no wonder so many conservatives are dropping the cause. And if Fox News and Rick Warren won't lead the charge on same-sex marriage, who on the national stage will take their place? The only enthusiastic contenders seem to be Republicans contemplating presidential runs in 2012. As Rich Tafel, the former president of the gay Log Cabin Republicans, pointed out to me last week, what Iowa giveth to the Democrats, Iowa taketh away from his own party. As the first stop in the primary process, the Iowa caucuses provided a crucial boost to Barack Obama's victorious and inclusive Democratic campaign in 2008. But on the G.O.P. side, the caucuses tilt toward the exclusionary hard right.
In 2008, 60 percent of Iowa's Republican caucus voters were evangelical Christians. Mike Huckabee won. That's the hurdle facing the party's contenders in 2012, which is why Romney, Palin and Gingrich are now all more vehement anti-same-sex-marriage activists than Rick Warren. Palin even broke with John McCain on the issue during their campaign, supporting the federal marriage amendment that he rejects. This month, even as the father of Palin's out-of-wedlock grandson challenged her own family values and veracity, she nominated as Alaskan attorney general a man who has called gay people “degenerates.” Such homophobia didn't even play in Alaska -- the State Legislature voted the nominee down --- and will doom Republicans like Palin in national elections.
One G.O.P. politician who understands this is the McCain-Palin 2008 campaign strategist, Steve Schmidt, who on Friday urged his party to join him in endorsing same-sex marriage. Another is Jon Huntsman Jr., the governor of Utah, who in February endorsed civil unions for gay couples, a position seemingly indistinguishable from Obama's. Huntsman is not some left-coast Hollywood Republican. He's a Mormon presiding over what Gallup ranks as the reddest state in the country.
"We must embrace all citizens as equals," Huntsman told me in an interview last week. "I've always stood tall on this." Has he been hurt by his position? Not remotely. "A lot of people gave the issue more scrutiny after it became the topic of the week," he said, and started to see it "in human terms." Letters, calls, polls and conversations with voters around the state all confirmed to him that opinion has "shifted quite substantially" toward his point of view. Huntsman's approval rating now stands at 84 percent.
He believes that social issues should not be a priority for Republicans in any case during an economic crisis. He also is an outspoken foe of the "nativist language" that has marked the G.O.P. of late. Huntsman doesn't share the view of some that the party was created in 1980. He yearns for it to reclaim Lincoln's faith in "individual dignity."
As marital equality haltingly but inexorably spreads state by state for gay Americans in the years to come, Utah will hardly be in the lead to follow Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont. But the fact that it too is taking its first steps down that road is extraordinary. It is justice, not a storm, that is gathering. Only those who have spread the poisons of bigotry and fear have any reason to be afraid.
Published: April 18, 2009, New York Times
Utah's Gay Rights Failure
By Austin Smith
Upon hearing about the recent defeat of a number of bills, known as the Common Ground Initiative, that would have given more rights to gay couples in Utah, many BYU students may have responded with a cursory "Good!," hastily thinking that the sanctity of marriage has been upheld and not giving the news another thought. Utahns' zeal to protect the traditional definition of marriage, however, was not under attack by these bills. Utah's Amendment 3 clearly and unequivocably defines marriage as only between a man and a woman; that was not in question. What fair-minded Utahns are challenging and disputing is the idea that being gay means you can be discriminated against without legal recourse, treated as a second-class citizen, and refused virtually any legal protections for you and your dependents. This idea is repugnant, and the fact that all of the Common Ground Initiative bills died before getting a real chance to be voted on is an abysmal failure on the part of Utah's legislature to protect its citizens and promote strong communities.
Before discussing the details of the proposed legislation, it is important to understand the background. This summer, during its involvement with the successful campaign to pass Californiaï¿½s Proposition 8, the LDS Church repeatedly emphasized that its position was not anti-gay, but rather pro-marriage as traditionally defined. The church issued a statement saying it "does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches." It was in this context that Equality Utah, a gay-rights group, proposed the Common Ground Initiative: three bills that would have given gays and lesbians in Utah these exact rights, without jeopardizing the integrity of the traditional family or churches' rights. It is not easy to strike a balance that is acceptable to the LDS church, a majority of Utahns according to multiple polls, and gay rights groups, but this initiative succeeded in doing so. Sadly, it took just under a month for Utah legislators to vote down each of the bills in committee.
House Bill 267, introduced by Christine Johnson, was killed in committee. That means it remains legal in Utah to fire an employee or evict a tenant solely because of his or her sexual orientation. To be sure, employers are allowed to fire employees, and landlords may evict tenants for many reasons; this bill would have applied only to clear situations of discrimination, when employee performance or tenant behavior is ignored and the layoff or eviction is clearly motivated only by the discovery of the victim's sexual orientation. This is not a hypothetical situation: the Utah Department of Labor receives numerous reports of this exact situation ocurring every month; however, a woman who is fired solely because she is a lesbian has no legal opportunities for recompense--her employer has acted completely legally under Utah State law. Besides the obvious miscarriage of justice, this practice of turning a blind eye to real discrimination hurts families, weakens the economy, and contributes to the conception that gays and lesbians are second-class citizens.
House Bill 160, introduced by Jennifer Seelig, was killed in committee. That means gay couples will not receive probate, hospitalization, or medical rights for their partner. Anyone who has had a loved one unexpectedly end up in the hospital understands the need to see and visit them. Far too often in Utah, hospitals have policies that only allow immediate family to visit patients, which means that committed partners in a homosexual relationship, who have shared their lives together for years, are not be able to see each other in such heart-wrenching moments. Again, gays and lesbians are relegated to second-class status, and again, the LDS church (among other fair-minded conservative organizations) is not opposed to such rights. What does society gain by keeping apart people who clearly love each other deeply in their times of greatest anguish?
Senate Bill 32, introduced by Scott McCoy, was killed in committee. That means that financial dependents of all kindsï¿½whether gay partners or a grandmother who depends on a grandson for her living--face much higher obstacles to obtaining standing in court to sue in the case of a wrongful death. This bill would have directly helped both gay and straight Utahns who for whatever reason depend on someone other than a spouse, parent, or child for their income but whose breadwinner is killed due to negligence in the workplace or elsewhere. It makes sense for those whose loved ones are wrongfully killed be given standing to ask courts for redress; it would keep more people off of welfare rolls and endow more families with a greater sense of financial security.
The most common argument agains the Common Ground Initiative was also one of the most fallacious: critics argued that enacting this legislation would lead to a slippery slope ending in gay marriage. This completely ignores the fact that the Utah constitution not only explicitly defines marriage as only between man and a woman, it also disallows any other arrangement between gay couples that even comes close to granting the same rights as marriage. There is no way a Utah court can overturn the constitution; this canard is a red-herring meant to distract conservative Utahns from granting gays and lesbians the basic human rights they should be entitled to, such as not having to fear that their employer will find out about their orientation and being able to visit their partner in the hospital.
The fact is that this legislative session, Utah's state senators and representatives have failed to protect some of the most vulnerable Utahns. We do not need to agree with every aspect of the lives of our neighbors, but we should care enough to grant everyone in our communities the basic rights to live their lives without fear, to be able to live securely and pursue happiness. By killing all of the Common Ground Initiative bills, our legislators have let ideology trumps simple human decency. I hope that we can all work harder to make Utah a better place for all of our family and friends, regardless of sexual orientation. Passing these bills next year would be a great place to start.
BYU Political Review
Reid rips LDS Church's Prop. 8 support
Politics -- Majority leader calls it a waste of church resources and good will
By Matt Canham, The Salt Lake Tribune
Washington -- In a meeting with gay-rights activists last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid criticized the LDS Church for backing a ballot measure banning same-sex marriage in California, saying the leaders of his faith should have stayed out of the contentious political fight.
Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, is the highest ranking elected official who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He previously has not commented on the flood of Mormon money and volunteers who helped propel Proposition 8 to victory in November.
But three organizers of the past weekend's National Equality March said Reid brought up the topic during a conversation in his office.
"He said that he thought it was a waste of church resources and good will," said Derek Washington, a Nevadan who worked as the outreach director for the march. "He said he didn't think it was appropriate."
Reid spokesman Jon Summers would not discuss the private meeting, but he didn't deny the conversation took place.
"While Senator Reid agrees with his church that marriage is between a man and a woman," Summers said, "he also believes that the resources that went into the Proposition 8 effort could have been put to better use."
LDS Church officials declined to comment Monday. But Frank Schubert, campaign manager for the pro-Prop 8 movement, said: "All churches have not only the opportunity to speak out on important public issues, but really a moral obligation to do so."
The Mormon Church, headquartered in Salt Lake City, repeatedly has fought attempts to legalize same-sex marriages. California's Prop 8 was no different. Church leaders announced their support in a letter that was read during Sunday services in meetinghouses throughout the Golden State. LDS officials called for financial donations and volunteers. Members of the church did not disappoint.
More than 1,000 Utahns contributed either individually or through a business to the Prop 8 fight, giving $3.8 million. More than 70 percent of that cash went to groups backing the gay-marriage ban. Utah ranked second only to California in the amount given to the ballot battle.
The LDS Church kicked in nearly $190,000 in in-kind contributions to ProtectMarriage.com, the leading pro-Prop. 8 group. In the end, Prop 8 passed with 52 percent of the vote.
Marchers in Sunday's equality rally, which drew tens of thousands to the U.S. Capitol, repeatedly referenced the Prop 8 defeat in signs, statements and even face paint. But when organizers sat down with Reid, it wasn't a topic they intended to raise. They wanted to thank him for supporting the march and push him on their desire for federal action giving gay Americans the ability to get married, serve openly in the military and fight workplace discrimination.
Reid signed a letter supporting the march and encouraged a sustained lobbying campaign.
In the meeting, those present touched on issues most important to them. Dan Choi, a veteran of the Iraq War, who was booted from the military under the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, thanked Reid for lobbying President Barack Obama on his behalf. Robin McGehee, of California, talked about her own family. Then, McGehee said, Reid brought up his LDS faith and discussed a recent meeting with Mormons in which he criticized the Prop 8 efforts.
"He personally said they needed to be focused on other things," she said, "and he felt it was harmful for the church to focus on such a divisive issue."
The Salt Lake Tribune, November 13, 2009
California Upholds Gay Marriage Ban
18,000 Same-Sex Couples Who Married Before Prop 8 Can Retain Rights, According to Ruling
By Susan Donaldson James
ABC News, May 26, 2009
The California Supreme Court has upheld Proposition 8 -- the controversial ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage in the state of California.
At the same time, the ruling allows about 18,000 same-sex couples who'd already married to retain the rights they attained during the brief six-month period that gay marriage was legal in the state.
"There it goes," said Jim Schnobrich, who married his partner of 27 years in Pasadena, Calif., last September. "We have to keep going."
Still, the couple, who have two children, ages 12 and 16, said that they are now in a "weird class," as the ruling preserved their 8-month-old same sex-marriage.
"That's good news, but the bigger thing is that now we have this weird status that other people can't have. There is this kind of equality situation where people are maybe thinking we aren't really married."
"But it's not going to change anything in our lives," he told abcnews.com. "We feel strongly about equality and will move ahead. But I worry for my kids and how they feel. I want them to be in a place like every other family at their school. It's hard to explain to them."
The announcement of the decision caused outcry among a sea of demonstrators who had gathered in front of the San Francisco courthouse to await the ruling.
Adoption, Tax Laws Could be Affected
Christian groups that applauded retention of the ban said that the ruling on those same-sex marriages could create a conflict -- not only in the marital rights of Californians but in adoption and income tax laws.
"It's disappointing that the court will continue to uphold the legality of those who married during May to November of last year," said Bruce Hausknecht, judicial analyst for Focus on the Family in Action. "We don't know what the situation will be like, but it's likely to cause havoc in the courts as they try to deal with a class of individuals that look totally different."
Gay rights advocates, disappointed with the ruling, said their next step would be to "take it back to the voters."
"Advocates for equality are convinced that Prop 8 will be overturned at the ballot," said the Family Equality Council, which fought the ban.
"Prop 8 was a sad, knee-jerk response to the sight of couples in love celebrating their happiness with family and friends," Pizer said. "It badly damaged the Constitution's equality guarantees. With today's deeply disappointing court decision, it is up to us as a caring, moral people to repair our constitution at the ballot box."
Minority, Church Groups Targeted
Lambda has already launched an educational campaign, Marriage Watch California, which will specifically target the communities of color and diverse church groups that overwhelmingly supported Proposition 8.
"We will give education and legal support as part of a broad effort all over the state to provide greater visibility on why this issue is important and why there is no basis in the fear mongering from the other side," Pizer told abcnews.com.
The contentious campaign pitted gay rights activists against Christian church groups, including the Mormons, that raised a record $83 million to pass the referendum.
Justices considered a series of lawsuits to overturn the ban, which overruled a 4-3 June court decision that briefly legalized same-sex marriage. Those suits claim Proposition 8 was put on the ballot improperly.
Gay rights marches began early this morning in California and groups have planned rallies tonight, preparing to be arrested in a mass demonstration of civil disobedience.
The Family Equality Council, which has fought to overturn the gay marriage ban, said they would be organizing national grass roots protests in Day of Decision rallies.
Putting a new question on the ballot to legalize gay marriage could take months, and many gay advocates said it might not be viable until 2010 or later.
"We have a lot of educating to do to convince [voters] that gays and lesbians are equal," said Lambda legal's Pizer. "It's very important that people agree on that point, and that the people of California share that belief."
But Focus on the Family's Hausknecht said pro-Proposition 8 groups are already preparing their "talking points" for a new referendum on the issue.
Religious Liberties Compromised
"How gay marriage affects my [tradtional] marriage is entirely the wrong question," he said. "The right question is how is gay marriage going to affect society in general and religious liberties and the rights of conscience?"
"Across the country we've seen the impact on religious freedom, not just same sex marriage but nondiscrimination statutes," he said.
Waiting for the decision "has been an absolutely gut-wrenching experience," Molly McKay, a spokeswoman for Marriage Equality USA, told The Associated Press.
"As Californians, we are all under tremendous strain worrying about the economy, our jobs and our families," she said. "On top of that, gay families have been living for months with the fear that the court will allow a bare majority of voters to strip gay and lesbian families of their constitutional protections and eliminate our marriages -- or just as bad, eliminate new couples' ability to get married."
Opponents of Proposition 8 argued that it revised the California's equal protection clause to such a dramatic degree that its sponsors needed the legislature's approval to submit it to voters.
Gay Marriage Legal in Five States
But several justices at a March hearing said they were skeptical of that argument and many legal experts said the Supreme Court would not likely undermine the state's citizen initiative process by reversing the gay marriage ban.
Since the passage of Proposition 8, gay marriage has gained momentum around the nation. Iowa, Maine and Vermont have joined Massachusetts and Connecticut in recognizing same-sex couples. Similar proposals are under way in New Hampshire and New York.
The Democratic-controlled California Legislature has twice passed measures to legalize gay marriage, but they were vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"While I believe that one day either the people or courts will recognize gay marriage, as Governor of California I will uphold the decision of the California Supreme Court," Schwarzenegger said today. "Regarding the 18,000 marriages that took place prior to Proposition 8's passage, the court made the right decision in keeping them intact. I also want to encourage all those responding to today's court decision to do so peacefully and lawfully."
With passage of Proposition 8, California amended its constitution to specify that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized.
Gay Marriage Briefly Legal
In May 2008, the state's Supreme Court overturned a gay marriage initiative. That decision allowed thousands of gays and lesbians to be legally married in that state; gay couples across the state decided not to take their chances, choosing to marry before voters took up the measure.
The passage of Proposition 8 set off a backlash that rippled across state borders. Organizers used Internet sites such as Facebook to draw huge crowds from New York to Los Angeles and cities in between.
Advocates turned the vote on Proposition 8 into a countrywide referendum on gay rights, calling it "the new frontier in the civil rights movement."
The protests lining the streets were a contrast to the joyful celebrations of same-sex weddings at city halls throughout California last summer. Those ceremonies were filled with a sense of hope and acceptance. Now that has given way to anger, defiance, and a war of words.
The Mormon Church has become one of the key targets of protestors after it was revealed that their members contributed millions of dollars to defeat gay marriage.
Many like Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobby based in Washington, joined in the fight to pass the ban, saying it was "more important than the presidential election."
"We've picked bad presidents before, and we've survived as a nation," Perkins said. "But we will not survive if we lose the institution of marriage."
Advocates on both sides of the issue spent $83 million on the ballot campaign, the most ever on a social issue in the nation's history.
"It's a staggering amount," said Matt Coles, director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposed the ban. "California is a cultural trendsetter. If voters decide same-sex couples can marry, it has an enormous influence."
Other states that had gay marriage on the ballot in 2008 included Arizona and Florida. Voters in both states passed measures to amend their constitutions to specify that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage.
In Arkansas, residents approved a measure aimed at preventing gay couples from adopting children. The measure, Proposed Initiative Act 1, goes further than just barring same-sex couples from adopting; it bars any individual cohabiting outside of a valid marriage from adopting or providing foster care to minors.
Romney under fire for PAC donation to anti-gay marriage group
By Dan Eggen
A state political action committee run by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave $10,000 to a conservative group that has come under scrutiny for plans to “drive a wedge” between African-Americans and gays, according to documents revealed Friday.
Free & Strong America PAC Alabama, one of a network of state-level PACs that has raised and disbursed money on Romney’s behalf, gave the donation in 2008 to the National Organization for Marriage, which at the time was working to pass Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage in California, disclosure records show.
The Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, argues that Romney disbursed the money through his little-known Alabama PAC in an attempt to avoid drawing national attention to the donation and said it could violate California disclosure requirements. The group said it first learned of the gift from confidential NOM tax records provided by a whistleblower, which listed the money as coming from a PAC address in Massachusetts.
The Romney campaign says the donation to NOM is hardly surprising given the candidate’s opposition to same-sex marriage and his avowed support for Proposition 8, which was approve by California voters.
“Gov. Romney believes marriage is an institution between a man and a woman and his PAC made a donation to a group supporting that view,” campaign spokesman Andrea Saul said Friday.
The Proposition 8 campaign had heavy support from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which Romney is a prominent member. California state records show that several Romney family members--his son Matt and two daughters-in-law--gave a combined $1,400 in personal donations to the effort.
NOM has come under scrutiny this week in connection with internal documents released in a Maine court case outlining its plan to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks” over the issue of same-sex marriage.
The plans also advocate “making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity--a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.”
“Mitt Romney’s funding of a hate-filled campaign designed to drive a wedge between Americans is beyond despicable,” said Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign. “Not only has Romney signed NOM’s radical marriage pledge, now we know he’s one of the donors that NOM has been so desperate to keep secret all these years.”
NOM has defended its efforts targeting racial minorities for support. “Gay marriage is not a civil right, and we will continue to point this out in written materials such as those released in Maine,” NOM president Brian Brown said in a statement this week. “We proudly bring together people of different races, creeds and colors to fight for our most fundamental institution: marriage.”
President Obama’s reelection campaign is actively seeking support from gay and lesbian donors and voters, pointing to his role in ending the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and other pro-gay policies. But Obama’s position on same-sex marriage--he has been opposed but has said he is “evolving” on the issue--has angered some gay-rights activists and prompted an internal Democratic Party debate ahead of the 2012 elections.
Washington Post, March 30, 2012
Romney donated to anti-gay marriage effort
Politics • Four-year-old campaign donation comes to light in release by Human Rights Campaign.
By Thomas Burr
The Human Rights Campaign, a group dedicated to pressing for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, revealed the donation on Friday by Romney’s Free and Strong America political action committee (PAC) to the National Organization for Marriage.
The latter group was heavily involved in the successful Prop 8 campaign in California that amended the state Constitution to limit marriage between a man and a woman.
The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined with a group called the Coalition to Protect Marriage to push the constitutional amendment, and one critic claimed Mormons donated millions to the effort, funding a majority of it.
An earlier Salt Lake Tribune review revealed that Utahns donated $3.8 million to both sides of the Prop 8 campaign — more than 70 percent of it in support of the measure. Included in that total was at least $134,774 in in-kind contributions from the LDS Church for such things as air fare, lodging and audiovisual production services and equipment.
Romney’s donation came on Oct. 14, 2008, just weeks before Californians voted to pass the measure.
“Mitt Romney’s funding of a hate-filled campaign designed to drive a wedge between Americans is beyond despicable,” Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a statement. “Not only has Romney signed NOM’s radical marriage pledge, now we know he’s one of the donors that NOM has been so desperate to keep secret all these years.”
The HRC provided a copy of a tax filing from NOM that the group said it received from a whistle-blower. The donation came through a PAC based in Alabama, one of a handful of state-based groups used by Romney to fund staff and travel between his presidential runs.
Romney’s campaign stood by the donation, arguing it underscores the candidate’s belief in marriage.
“[Former Massachusetts] Governor Romney believes marriage is an institution between a man and a woman and his PAC made a donation to a group supporting that view,” spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
LDS Church leaders had actively promoted passage of Prop 8, urging members to get involved in the campaign and at one point directed its followers to campaign for the measure.
Fred Karger, who founded the group Californians Against Hate and is now running his own Republican presidential bid, probed the Mormon influence in the Prop 8 battle and says that LDS faithful provided a majority of the funds for the Yes on 8 campaign.
Karger said Friday that Romney appears to have tried to hide his donation but Karger isn’t surprised he contributed.
“As a member of the Mormon Church, he was obligated to contribute,” Karger said. “He got off pretty easy, only $10,000, but he did it in a sneaky way.”
The Salt Lake Tribune, March 30, 2012
Prop. 8: Gay-marriage ban unconstitutional, court rules
A federal appeals court Tuesday struck down California's ban on same-sex marriage, clearing the way for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on gay marriage as early as next year.
The 2-1 decision by a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that limited marriage to one man and one woman, violated the U.S. Constitution. The architects of Prop. 8 have vowed to appeal.
The ruling was narrow and likely to be limited to California.
“Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California,” the court said.
The ruling upheld a decision by retired Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who struck down the ballot measure in 2010 after holding an unprecedented trial on the nature of sexual orientation and the history of marriage.
In a separate decision, the appeals court refused to invalidate Walker’s ruling on the grounds that he should have disclosed he was in a long term same-sex relationship. Walker, a Republican appointee who is openly gay, said after his ruling that he had been in a relationship with another man for 10 years. He has never said whether he and partner wished to marry.
ProtectMarriage, the backers of Proposition 8, can appeal Tuesday's decision to a larger panel of the 9th Circuit or go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court is expected to be divided on the issue, and many legal scholars believe Justice Anthony Kennedy will be the deciding vote.
Gays and lesbians were entitled to marry in California for six months after the California Supreme Court struck down a state ban in May 2008. The state high court later upheld Proposition 8 as a valid amendment of the California Constitution.
While the Proposition 8 case was still pending in state court, two same-sex couples sued in federal court to challenge the ban on federal constitutional grounds.
Los Angeless Times, February 7, 2012
Supreme Court to Hear Gay-Marriage Cases
By Jess Bravin
WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court for the first time entered the debate over gay marriage Friday, announcing it would accept cases from New York and California that test the rights of same-sex couples.
The move means that a defining legal moment is set to come by next June after a year in which gay marriage assumed even greater prominence in the national debate. President Barack Obama in May said he personally believed gay couples should enjoy the right to wed, becoming the first sitting president to take that stand. In November, Maine, Maryland and Washington state became the first states to approve gay marriage at the ballot box.
In the first case, the high court will hear arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 federal law denying benefits to same-sex spouses. The case was brought by Edith Schlain Windsor, whose spouse, Thea Clara Spyer, died in 2009 after more than four decades together. Ms. Windsor said she shouldn't have to pay estate tax because the surviving spouse in a marriage of a man and a woman wouldn't face the tax under federal law.
The second case involves California's Proposition 8, a 2008 state measure that barred same-sex marriages in the state. Lower courts have struck down Proposition 8.
Federal appeals courts in Boston and New York already have found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, saying it punishes a minority of lawfully married people without sufficient justification. The Obama administration, while continuing to enforce the law, has declined to defend it in court, agreeing with plaintiffs that constitutional principles of due process and equal protection don't permit such discrimination.
The Republican-controlled House stepped up to defend the law, hiring a prominent conservative litigator, Paul Clement, solicitor general in the George W. Bush administration, as its advocate.
"When Thea and I met nearly 50 years ago, we never could have dreamed that the story of our life together would be before the Supreme Court as an example of why gay married couples should be treated equally," said Ms. Windsor after the Supreme Court's announcement in a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Opponents of gay marriage said the Supreme Court's decision would be a chance to put the brakes on lower courts.
"It's the ideological blinders of judges at this point. There is immense cultural pressure to favor same-sex marriage," said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, speaking before Friday's announcement.
The organization's chairman, John Eastman, said Friday after the announcement that the high court's decision to accept the California case was "a strong signal that the court will reverse the lower courts." He said "voters hold the ultimate power over basic policy judgments and their decisions are entitled to respect."
While the cases involve same-sex marriage, they don't directly raise the core question of whether the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of equal protection, due process and individual liberty mean that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry.
Instead, the gay-marriage issue is arriving at the high court in increments. The Defense of Marriage Act cases look at instances where gay couples are already legally married under state laws and ask whether the federal government can deny them benefits to which they would be entitled had their spouse been of the opposite sex.
Before the 1996 law, the federal government simply accepted as valid any marriages authorized by states, which historically have had authority over matters of family law. Backers of the law say the federal government has legitimate reasons for denying recognition, such as saving money by not paying survivors' benefits, but lower courts have found those proposed reasons insufficient to justify discrimination.
The Proposition 8 case in California also doesn't necessarily force courts to decide on a fundamental gay-marriage right. A federal appeals court in San Francisco struck down the proposition on narrower grounds, saying the state couldn't withdraw a previously recognized right from a minority that has suffered discrimination.
Some 18,000 gay couples were married in California after the state supreme court found in May 2008 that the state constitution permitted no discrimination in authorizing couples to marry. The following November, a voter initiative amended the state constitution to limit marriage to heterosexuals.
The Supreme Court's liberal wing—Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan—is likely to treat the Defense of Marriage Act with great skepticism. Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, the court's most outspoken opponent of gay rights, is expected to be more deferential to the congressional statute, probably joined by Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Samuel Alito has no well-defined record on such questions, but typically takes conservative positions on social issues.
A larger question mark hangs over Chief Justice John Roberts, who in cases such as the June decision on Mr. Obama's health-care law has been sensitive to the court's long-term institutional interests in maintaining credibility with the public and other branches of government.
If Chief Justice Roberts votes with the opponents of gay marriage, the deciding voice almost certainly will be that of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has been the court's most impassioned defender of gay rights.
In 1996—the same year the Defense of Marriage Act was passed—an opinion by Justice Kennedy struck down Colorado's Amendment 2, a voter initiative that barred state and local government from protecting gays from discrimination. Noting that the initiative nullified antidiscrimination measures previously enacted by Denver and other cities, Justice Kennedy wrote that it seemed born of "animosity" toward gays and served no valid purpose.
Seven years later, in Lawrence v. Texas, the court overruled its own 1986 precedent to strike down a state law criminalizing gay sex. "Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct," Justice Kennedy wrote for the court.
The Constitution's framers used such broad terms as "liberty" without defining them because "they knew times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress," Justice Kennedy wrote.
In dissent, Justice Scalia accused the majority of signing on to the "so-called homosexual agenda," and he said its reasoning would likely lead to recognition of same-sex marriage.
Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2012
See http://www.mercurynews.com/samesexmarriage and http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-prop8-sg,0,3982657.storygallery
for additional news articles regarding Proposition 8.
For page one of Prop8-lds.com, see prop8-lds.com.
page 2 of prop8-lds.com
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