Mormons and California’s Proposition 8
Review articles and analysis regarding California's Proposition 8 and the involvement by the Mormons (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), as well as the short- and long-term impacts of such involvement at prop8-lds.com and prop8-lds.com/page2.html. A sample of these articles is included below.
1. Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage
2. Gay marriage fight, 'kiss-ins' smack Mormon image
3. Prop 8 involvement a P.R. fiasco for LDS Church; The campaign offered fuel for critics
4. Mormon Church feels the heat over Proposition 8; The church, which has long sought to be seen as part of America's mainstream, joins with other religious organizations to back California's ban on gay marriage. But now it has become a political target
5. LDS elders showed seasoned political savvy on California's Prop. 8
6. The Mormons Are Coming!'; Supporters of Same-Sex Marriage Trumpet the Church's Work Against It
7. Mormons Boost Antigay Marriage Effort; Group Has Given Millions in Support of California Fund
8. Utah money helped push Prop 8 spending to historic level
9. LDS communications part of Prop 8 trial
10. Gay-marriage ruling brings split Utah reaction
11. Film Focuses on Mormon Role in Gay Marriage Ban; Sundance documentary examines Mormon church's role in political fight over gay marriage
12. When Mormons Mobilize: Anti-Gay Marriage Prop. 8 Effort ‘Outed’?
13. Romney under fire for PAC donation to anti-gay marriage group
14. Romney donated to anti-gay marriage effort;Four-year-old campaign donation comes to light in release by Human Rights Campaign.
15. Prop. 8: Gay-marriage ban unconstitutional, court rules
16. Mormon church is conspicuously absent in Md. same-sex marriage referendum
Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage
By Jesse McKinley and Kirk Johnson
SACRAMENTO - Less than two weeks before Election Day, the chief strategist behind a ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriage in California called an emergency meeting here.
Frank Schubert was the chief strategist for Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman in California.
"We're going to lose this campaign if we don't get more money," the strategist, Frank Schubert, recalled telling leaders of Protect Marriage, the main group behind the ban.
The campaign issued an urgent appeal, and in a matter of days, it raised more than $5 million, including a $1 million donation from Alan C. Ashton, the grandson of a former president of the Mormon Church. The money allowed the drive to intensify a sharp-elbowed advertising campaign, and support for the measure was catapulted ahead; it ultimately won with 52 percent of the vote.
As proponents of same-sex marriage across the country planned protests on Saturday against the ban, interviews with the main forces behind the ballot measure showed how close its backers believe it came to defeat - and the extraordinary role Mormons played in helping to pass it with money, institutional support and dedicated volunteers.
"We've spoken out on other issues, we've spoken out on abortion, we've spoken out on those other kinds of things," said Michael R. Otterson, the managing director of public affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormons are formally called, in Salt Lake City. "But we don't get involved to the degree we did on this."
The California measure, Proposition 8, was to many Mormons a kind of firewall to be held at all costs.
"California is a huge state, often seen as a bellwether -- this was seen as a very, very important test," Mr. Otterson said.
First approached by the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco a few weeks after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in May, the Mormons were the last major religious group to join the campaign, and the final spice in an unusual stew that included Catholics, evangelical Christians, conservative black and Latino pastors, and myriad smaller ethnic groups with strong religious ties.
Shortly after receiving the invitation from the San Francisco Archdiocese, the Mormon leadership in Salt Lake City issued a four-paragraph decree to be read to congregations, saying "the formation of families is central to the Creator's plan," and urging members to become involved with the cause.
"And they sure did," Mr. Schubert said.
Jeff Flint, another strategist with Protect Marriage, estimated that Mormons made up 80 percent to 90 percent of the early volunteers who walked door-to-door in election precincts.
The canvass work could be exacting and highly detailed. Many Mormon wards in California, not unlike Roman Catholic parishes, were assigned two ZIP codes to cover. Volunteers in one ward, according to training documents written by a Protect Marriage volunteer, obtained by people opposed to Proposition 8 and shown to The New York Times, had tasks ranging from "walkers," assigned to knock on doors; to "sellers," who would work with undecided voters later on; and to "closers," who would get people to the polls on Election Day.
Suggested talking points were equally precise. If initial contact indicated a prospective voter believed God created marriage, the church volunteers were instructed to emphasize that Proposition 8 would restore the definition of marriage God intended.
But if a voter indicated human beings created marriage, Script B would roll instead, emphasizing that Proposition 8 was about marriage, not about attacking gay people, and about restoring into law an earlier ban struck down by the State Supreme Court in May.
"It is not our goal in this campaign to attack the homosexual lifestyle or to convince gays and lesbians that their behavior is wrong "the less we refer to homosexuality, the better," one of the ward training documents said. "We are pro-marriage, not anti-gay."
Leaders were also acutely conscious of not crossing the line from being a church-based volunteer effort to an actual political organization.
"No work will take place at the church, including no meeting there to hand out precinct walking assignments so as to not even give the appearance of politicking at the church," one of the documents said.
By mid-October, most independent polls showed support for the proposition was growing, but it was still trailing. Opponents had brought on new media consultants in the face of the slipping poll numbers, but they were still effectively raising money, including $3.9 million at a star-studded fund-raiser held at the Beverly Hills home of Ron Burkle, the supermarket billionaire and longtime Democratic fund-raiser.
It was then that Mr. Schubert called his meeting in Sacramento. "I said, `As good as our stuff is, it can't withstand that kind of funding,'" he recalled.
The response was a desperate e-mail message sent to 92,000 people who had registered at the group's Web site declaring a "code blue" - an urgent plea for money to save traditional marriage from "cardiac arrest." Mr. Schubert also sent an e-mail message to the three top religious members of his executive committee, representing Catholics, evangelicals and Mormons.
"I ask for your prayers that this e-mail will open the hearts and minds of the faithful to make a further sacrifice of their funds at this urgent moment so that God's precious gift of marriage is preserved," he wrote.
On Oct. 28, Mr. Ashton, the grandson of the former Mormon president David O. McKay, donated $1 million. Mr. Ashton, who made his fortune as co-founder of the WordPerfect Corporation, said he was following his personal beliefs and the direction of the church.
"I think it was just our realizing that we heard a number of stories about members of the church who had worked long hours and lobbied long and hard," he said in a telephone interview from Orem, Utah.
In the end, Protect Marriage estimates, as much as half of the nearly $40 million raised on behalf of the measure was contributed by Mormons.
Even with the Mormons' contributions and the strong support of other religious groups, Proposition 8 strategists said they had taken pains to distance themselves from what Mr. Flint called "more extreme elements" opposed to rights for gay men and lesbians.
To that end, the group that put the issue on the ballot rebuffed efforts by some groups to include a ban on domestic partnership rights, which are granted in California. Mr. Schubert cautioned his side not to stage protests and risk alienating voters when same-sex marriages began being performed in June.
"We could not have this as a battle between people of faith and the gays," Mr. Schubert said. "That was a losing formula."
But the "Yes" side also initially faced apathy from middle-of-the-road California voters who were largely unconcerned about same-sex marriage. The overall sense of the voters in the beginning of the campaign, Mr. Schubert said, was "Who cares? I'm not gay."
To counter that, advertisements for the "Yes" campaign also used hypothetical consequences of same-sex marriage, painting the specter of churches losing tax exempt status or people sued for personal beliefs or objections to same-sex marriage, claims that were made with little explanation.
Another of the advertisements used video of an elementary school field trip to a teacher's same-sex wedding in San Francisco to reinforce the idea that same-sex marriage would be taught to young children.
"We bet the campaign on education," Mr. Schubert said.
The "Yes" campaign was denounced by opponents as dishonest and divisive, but the passage of Proposition 8 has led to second-guessing about the "No" campaign, too, as well as talk about a possible ballot measure to repeal the ban. Several legal challenges have been filed, and the question of the legality of the same-sex marriages performed from June to Election Day could also be settled in court.
For his part, Mr. Schubert said he is neither anti-gay - his sister is a lesbian - nor happy that some same-sex couples' marriages are now in question. But, he said, he has no regrets about his campaign.
"They had a lot going for them," Mr. Schubert said of his opponents. "And they couldn't get it done."
Mr. Otterson said it was too early to tell what the long-term implications might be for the church, but in any case, he added, none of that factored into the decision by church leaders to order a march into battle. "They felt there was only one way we could stand on such a fundamental moral issue, and they took that stand," he said. "It was a matter of standing up for what the church believes is right."
That said, the extent of the protests has taken many Mormons by surprise. On Friday, the church's leadership took the unusual step of issuing a statement calling for "respect" and "civility" in the aftermath of the vote.
"Attacks on churches and intimidation of people of faith have no place in civil discourse over controversial issues," the statement said. "People of faith have a democratic right to express their views in the public square without fear of reprisal."
Mr. Ashton described the protests by same-sex marriage advocates as off-putting. "I think that shows colors," Mr. Ashton said. "By their fruit, ye shall know them."
New York Times, November 14, 2008
Gay marriage fight, 'kiss-ins' smack Mormon image
By Jennifer Dobner, Associated Press Writer
SALT LAKE CITY -- The Mormon church's vigorous, well-heeled support for Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California last year, has turned the Utah-based faith into a lightning rod for gay rights activism, including a nationwide "kiss-in" Saturday.
The event comes after gay couples here and in San Antonio and El Paso, Texas, were arrested, cited for trespassing or harassed by police for publicly kissing. In Utah, the July 9 trespassing incident occurred after a couple were observed by security guards on a downtown park-like plaza owned by the 13 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The court case was dismissed, but the kiss sparked a community backlash and criticism of the church.
"I don't think that kiss would have turned out to be the kiss heard round the world if it were not for Proposition 8," said Ash Johnsdottir, organizer of the Salt Lake City Kiss-In.
Atali Staffler, a Brigham Young University graduate student from Geneva, Switzerland, said she joined the 200 or so people who filled a downtown amphitheater for the event because she has watched her gay father and many gay friends struggle to find their place.
The 31-year-old, who was raised Mormon but is not active in the church, said the church shouldn't be involved in Prop. 8.
"I encourage them to promote the values they believe in and to defend their religious principles in advertisements, but civil rights have nothing to do with religious principles," she said.
Twenty-two people, many of them strangers to one another, gathered under the scorching sun on Washington's National Mall to participate in the national smooch. They were gay and straight, couples and singles of all ages, with placards that read "Equal Opportunity Kisser" and "A Kiss is a Not a Crime."
"This is America. A kiss on the cheek is OK," said Ian Thomas, 26, of Leesburg, Va., who organized the Washington Kiss-In. "It's got to be OK. If not, we're in serious trouble."
About 50 people, mostly gay and lesbian couples, gathered at Piedmont Park in downtown Atlanta and kissed for about five minutes.
"You think that America is evolving into a gay-friendly nation," said Randal Smith, 42, "but what happened in Texas and Utah show us it's still a long way off."
National organizers say Saturday's broadly held gay rights demonstrations were not aimed specifically at the Mormon church. But observers say the church's heavy-handed intervention into California politics will linger and has left the faith's image tarnished.
"What I hear from my community and from straight progressive individuals is that they now see the church as a force for evil and as an enemy of fairness and equality," said Kate Kendell, executive director of the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights. Kendell grew up Mormon in Utah. "To have the church's very deep and noble history telescoped down into this very nasty little image is as painful for me as for any faithful Mormon."
Troy Williams, who is gay and grew up Mormon, said ending the tension between gays and the church requires mutual acceptance and understanding.
"For both sides to peaceably coexist, we're all going to have to engage in some very deep soul searching," said Williams, a Salt Lake City-area activist and host of a liberal radio talk show.
Church insiders say Prop. 8 has bred dissent among members and left families divided. Some members have quit or stopped attending services, while others have appealed to leadership to stay out of the same-sex marriage fight.
But church spokeswoman Kim Farah said Friday that Mormon support for traditional marriage has nothing to do with public relations.
"It's too easy for those whose agenda is to change societal standards to claim there are great difficulties inside the Church because of its decision to support traditional marriage," Kim Farah said. "In reality the Church has received enormous support for its defense of marriage."
Mormonism teaches that homosexual sex is considered a sin, but gays are welcome in church and can maintain church callings and membership if they remain celibate.
The church has actively fought marriage equality legislation across the U.S. since the early 1990s and joined other faiths in asking Congress for a marriage amendment to the Constitution in 2006.
Last year at the urging of church leaders, Mormons donated tens of millions of dollars to the "Yes on 8" campaign and were among the most vigorous volunteers. The institutional church gave nearly $190,000 to the campaign - contributions now being investigated by California's Fair Political Practices Commission.
After the vote, many gay rights advocates turned their anger toward the church in protests and marches outside temples that singled out Mormons as the key culprits in restricting the rights of gay couples.
That constituted a setback for the faith, argued Jan Shipps, a professor of religious history and a Mormon expert from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Mormonism, Shipps said, has struggled with its image since its western New York founding in 1830 for a host of reasons, including polygamy.
Leading up to Salt Lake City's 2002 Olympic Winter Games, the faith worked hard to craft a modern, mainstream image, touting its unique American history, culture and worldwide humanitarian work to thousands of reporters.
"This really undercut the Mormon image that had been so carefully nurtured during the Olympics," Shipps said.
Church representatives don't discuss public relations strategies or challenges publicly, but at a semiannual conference in April, church President Thomas S. Monson seemed to be clearly feeling a post-Prop. 8 sting.
In an era of "shifting moral footings," Monson said, "those who attempt to safeguard those footings are often ridiculed, picketed and persecuted."
That argument doesn't wash for Linda Stay, whose ancestors were early Mormon converts. Stay said she was doubly transformed by Prop. 8. She and her husband, Steve, finally quit the church - along with 18 other family members and a few close friends - and became gay right activists.
The St. George woman's family, which includes two gay children, will play a central role in a documentary film, "8: The Mormon Proposition" currently in production. Stay's son, Tyler Barrick, married his boyfriend in San Francisco on June 17, 2008, the first day gay marriage was legal in California.
Miami-area filmmaker Reed Cowan said the Stays' story is a painful representative of many Latter-day Saint families, including his own, that needed to be told.
"It used to be that I could defend my church and my heritage, but what they did here, they crossed the line and they made it very hard to defend their actions," said Cowan, whose family has cut him off since he began work on the film.
With the gay rights fight far from over, some believe Prop. 8 could continue to frustrate the church's image for years to come, much like polygamy - the church's own one-time alternative form of marriage - and a policy on keeping black men out of the priesthood, issues that have lingered years after the practices were abandoned.
"The church is certainly going to survive and thrive, there's no question about that," said the National Center for Lesbian Rights' Kendell, who is raising three kids in California with her partner of 16 years. "The issue is, what will be its image in the average American mindset."
To see the church characterized, because of its own actions, as one in a group of anti-gay religions and as a religion that forces members to choose faith over family is "a tragedy of generational proportion," she said. "And it seems to me, that it was entirely unnecessary."
Seattle Post-Intelligence, August 15, 2009
Prop 8 involvement a P.R. fiasco for LDS Church
The campaign offered fuel for critics
By Peggy Fletcher Stack
Although they live a continent away from California, LDS Church members Gregory and JaLynn Prince, of Washington, D.C., still have felt the backlash from their church's involvement in the traditional marriage initiative known as Proposition 8.
Their daughter, Lauren, a Boston University student, has lost friends over the issue, while their son, an LDS missionary in San Bernardino, Calif., has had a disproportionate number of potential converts cancel appointments.
About two weeks ago, during a first-ever class on Mormonism at Wesley Theological Seminary, where the Princes have built bridges for years, students pointedly asked them: "What was your church thinking?"
"We are not taking sides on the issue, but the way this was done has hurt our people and the church's image," JaLynn Prince said. "It reminds me of the naive public relations strategy we had regarding the Equal Rights Amendment."
In some minds, the so-called "Mormon moment" heralded at the start of 2008 has stopped short.
Just 10 months after the death of LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley, who spent nearly 70 years burnishing his church's public image, goodwill toward Mormonism that culminated during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games seems to have faded in a haze of misunderstanding and outright hostility.
Mean-spirited critiques of Mormonism during Mitt Romney's unsuccessful presidential campaign were followed by persistent news-media reports linking Latter-day Saints to the FLDS polygamous sect raided by Texas authorities. Now, angry opponents of Proposition 8 are demonstrating at Mormon temples, accusing the church of being anti-gay.
New President Thomas S. Monson faces a daunting public-relations challenge. He follows the well-respected Hinckley, who observers say had an intuitive gift for balancing the church's need to speak out on moral issues with the need to avoid appearing too extreme.
"The Olympics had this nice afterglow for Mormons and, boy, is that gone," said Sarah Barringer Gordon of the University of Pennsylvania, who studies LDS history and culture.
LDS Church apostles declined to be interviewed for this story, but the public affairs office did respond to questions.
"All in all, 2008 has been a particularly good year for the church," LDS spokesman Scott Trotter said. "The church dedicated four temples and announced eight more. Membership topped 13 million worldwide with over 52,000 missionaries in the field. While some of the protest activity we have seen has been deplorable, there are others who have taken the time to fully understand the church's position on marriage and home to respect this principled stand."
Gary Lawrence added his own optimistic view.
"These protests will help us. It puts a spotlight on us," said Lawrence, a leader in the Proposition 8 campaign and author of How Americans View Mormonism: Seven Steps to Improve Our Image.
"Which is worse -- antagonism or apathy? I believe apathy is our bigger enemy."
Following the pattern --- In a 1997 memo about the LDS Church's involvement in the campaign against gay marriage in Hawaii, the late Loren C. Dunn, then a general authority, noted that Hinckley approved Mormon participation but said "the church should be in a coalition and not out front by itself."
In the case of the Proposition 8, which supported a constitutional amendment to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman, the LDS Church only joined the Coalition to Protect Marriage in June after being asked by Catholic Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco, who presided over Utah Catholics for 11 years. The LDS First Presidency in a letter urged all California Mormons to give their time and money to the effort.
Ostensibly just part of a broad-based coalition, the Mormon faithful soon led the drive. They donated nearly half of the $20 million raised by Yes on 8, canvassed neighborhoods and staffed phone banks. Because the LDS Church routinely asks its members to give time and money, Mormons are "uniquely situated to be mobilized into politics," said David Campbell, a political science professor at the University of Notre Dame. "But they only get mobilized when a match is lit, and that doesn't happen very often."
The Mormon push for Proposition 8 reinforces what people already think of Mormons, he said, "that they have a lot of money and are willing to work for a socially conservative cause."
That image may hurt the LDS Church with a wide swath of the American public.
Mark Silk, professor of religion in public life at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., thinks the visceral opposition to Proposition 8 is much more consequential for the LDS Church than either the Romney campaign or the perceived association with polygamy.
LDS officials decided to inject themselves in the fight to protect traditional marriage "in a big money way," Silk said. "That raises the specter not just of Mormon weirdness but also Mormon power as far as cash on the barrel."
Mormons could be forgiven for underestimating the opposition, he said. They likely thought they were on the winning side. After all, marriage initiatives have passed in about 30 states. But California is not an average state.
"People expect anti-gay referendums to pass -- and they do -- but it's California, for crying out loud," Silk said, ". . . not Zion."
Benefits of battle -- On the opposite side, are observers such as Kirk Jowers of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, who think the LDS Church actions may help it win friends among Evangelicals.
"Other members of this coalition may realize the significant role that LDS Church members played," and see that it took a disproportionate share of the opposition's arrows, he said.
The Rev. Jim Garlow is one of those evangelical allies.
Last week, Garlow, of Skyline Church in San Diego, was so outraged by the protests against Mormons that he e-mailed 7,200 California pastors urging them to "speak boldly" in defense of the LDS role in passing Proposition 8.
"We were not going to stand by and be silent while there was anti-Mormonism in the streets," Garlow said Friday. "Our theological differences with Mormonism are, frankly, unbridgeable, but these are our friends and neighbors and attacks on them are unacceptable."
The Proposition 8 campaign deepened his relationship with Mormons, he said, and the protests have solidified it.
It is not clear, however, whether the LDS Church will soon jump into another political fray.
"Politics is a tough game, especially at this visceral level where one side is talking about religion and the other about rights, " said Gordon, the Penn scholar. "I would be surprised to see them do this again. They really need to heal some wounds."
The Salt Lake Tribune, November 22, 2008
Mormon Church feels the heat over Proposition 8
The church, which has long sought to be seen as part of America's mainstream, joins with other religious organizations to back California's ban on gay marriage. But now it has become a political target
By Nicholas Riccardi
In June, leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made a fateful decision. They called on California Mormons to donate their time and money to the campaign for Proposition 8, which would overturn a state Supreme Court ruling that permitted gay marriage.
That push helped the initiative win narrow passage on election day. And it has made the Mormon Church, which for years has striven to be seen as part of the American mainstream, a political target.
Protesters have massed outside Mormon temples nationwide. For every donation to a fund to overturn Proposition 8, a postcard is sent to the president of the Mormon Church. Supporters of gay marriage have proposed a boycott of Utah businesses, and someone burned a Book of Mormon outside a temple near Denver.
"It's disconcerting to Latter-day Saints that Mormonism is still the religious tradition that everybody loves to hate," said Melissa Proctor, who teaches at Harvard Divinity School.
As an indication of how seriously the Mormon leadership takes the recent criticism, the council that runs the church -- the First Presidency --- released a statement Friday decrying what it portrayed as a campaign not just against Mormons but all religious people who voted their conscience.
"People of faith have been intimidated for simply exercising their democratic rights," the statement said. "These are not actions that are worthy of the democratic ideals of our nation. The end of a free and fair election should not be the beginning of a hostile response in America."
Jim Key, a spokesman for the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, said barbs by gay marriage activists were directed at church leadership, not individual Mormons.
"We're making a statement that no one's religious beliefs should be used to deny fundamental rights to others," he said.
Proposition 8 opponents estimate that members of the Mormon Church gave more than $20 million to the effort to pass the measure, though that is difficult to confirm because records of campaign donations do not include religious affiliation.
For years, church leaders have tried to blunt the assertion that Mormonism is somehow out of the political and cultural mainstream. The backlash over gay marriage carries risks and rewards toward that goal.
To support Proposition 8, the Mormon Church entered into a coalition with other religious organizations, including evangelical groups that have tended to view Mormons warily. It was a Catholic bishop, Mormon officials said, who requested the Mormon Church bring its members into the fight. Now those groups are rallying behind the embattled church.
"Being against gay marriage puts the church right in the mainstream of American religious behavior," said Quin Monson, a political science professor at Brigham Young University.
But the outrage directed toward the church could hurt its efforts to expand.
"The backlash is going on all over the country," said Jan Shipps, a prominent scholar of modern Mormonism who is an emeritus professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. "There are people who had a lot of respect for the Mormons who now say, "Well, they're just like the Christian right." "
That's ironic, Shipps said, given that the Mormon Church has a more tolerant stance on homosexuality than some evangelical groups. The church has pointedly declined to state that homosexuality is a choice. And it has cautioned against programs that purport to "cure" same-sex attraction, even though Mormon theology holds that marriage is a divine relationship between men and women that continues into the afterlife.
Also, Shipps said, though the church had been riding high ever since the successful 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the gay marriage fight and other recent setbacks have forced the church to deal with skepticism over its faith and history.
First there was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's unsuccessful run for the Republican presidential nomination. Many in the church were shocked that Romney's Mormon faith was a source of discomfort for some voters.
"Latter-day Saints were just amazed to think there was such bigotry in the country," church spokesman Michael Otterson said.
And a raid on a polygamous breakaway sect in Texas last spring was a reminder of the church's practice of multiple marriages in the 19th century, even though the Mormon Church has long renounced polygamy.
"That whole story in Texas was probably much worse for the church's image than Proposition 8," Monson said.
Some have suggested that Mormons might have been eager to cement partnerships with other churches, especially because evangelical voters were particularly distrustful of Romney's faith.
But Otterson dismissed that possibility. "That kind of thinking would never even factor into the thinking of church leadership," he said. "The church couldn't remain silent on a pivotal issue like this."
Los Angeles Times, November 17, 2008
LDS elders showed seasoned political savvy on California's Prop. 8
Rebecca Walsh, The Salt Lake Tribune
At post-election rallies in California, protestors passed out IRS complaint forms.
The paperwork for reporting a tax violation by a nonprofit was already filled out -- with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' name and address. People simply had to sign the bottom.
The Internal Revenue Service ultimately will decide whether the Mormon church crossed a line in U.S. tax law when it funneled at least $190,000 of its own resources and directed individual members to give and give often in the $83 million campaign to ban gay marriage in California.
I doubt it. South Temple and their attorneys are too careful for that.
Documents leaked to Californians Against Hate show in fascinating detail the calculated way Mormon spiritual leaders spearheaded Hawaii's gay marriage fight 10 years ago. The handful of memos from then-Elder Loren C. Dunn to various members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reveal a political machine within a patriarchy of faith:
Richard Wirthlin, not yet a general authority, polled the relative popularity of Mormons versus Catholics. When results showed Catholics had a better image in Hawaii, Mormon leaders decided to stay in the background. They hired a Hawaiian advertising firm, McNeil Wilson, on a $250,000 retainer. They tacked on gambling and legalized prostitution to give the anti-marriage front group "room to maneuver in the legislature" and "broaden our base and appeal," Dunn wrote. They searched for an "articulate middle-age mother" who was neither Mormon nor Catholic to be the face of the campaign.
The documents are old -- mostly updates and memos dated between 1995 and 1998. And the church won't say they're real or acknowledge they were leaked.
"We are unconcerned about these documents," says spokesman Scott Trotter. "The Church's position on the importance of traditional marriage has been consistent over the years."
There's no reason to think the internal political organization built by Dunn and Wirthlin and others has been dismantled. If anything, the political fight to amend California's constitution shows LDS elders have learned from their mistakes and honed their campaign strategy. Rather than financing the crusade themselves as they did in Hawaii, giving $400,000 in church funds, leadership decided to call on members nationwide for financing.
Californians Against Hate Director Fred Karger is trying to make the case that the Mormon church violated California's Political Reform Act by obscuring the institutional money spent on advertising, phone banks and sending elders to the state to supervise and rally the faithful.
"They started this in 1988, putting together this plan to bring the church into a major role in opposing same-sex marriage," he says. "You kind of have a boilerplate."
Aside from financial disclosure discrepancies, the IRS is another matter. U.S. tax code prohibits churches and other nonprofits from spending "substantial" amounts of money on lobbying. Ultimately, IRS investigators will decide whether the Mormon role in Yes on 8 qualifies as substantial.
Watching from a distance, Salt Lake City tax attorney Bill Orton doesn't think so.
"I can't imagine that [church attorneys] Kirton & McConkie would miss something in tax law," says the faithful Mormon and former congressman. "I would not have injected the church into [the Proposition 8 fight] to the extent that they did. But I don't see that they've done anything unlawful. I don't think the church is in any trouble whatsoever."
Legal or not, the handful of documents Karger has posted at CaliforniansAgainstHate.com reveal the dual roles played by Mormon leaders. For faithful church members who still see the apostles as simple grandfatherly gurus of the spiritual, this is an awakening.
They're also canny political hands.
Salt Lake Tribune, March 26, 2009
'The Mormons Are Coming!'
Supporters of Same-Sex Marriage Trumpet the Church's Work Against It
By Karl Vick, Washington Post Staff Writer
LOS ANGELES -- As more states take up the debate on same-sex marriage, some advocates of legalization are taking a very specific lesson from California, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dominated both fundraising and door-knocking to pass a ballot initiative that barred such unions.
With the battle moving east, some advocates are shouting that fact in the streets, calculating that on an issue that eventually comes down to comfort levels, more people harbor apprehensions about Mormons than about homosexuality.
"The Mormons are coming! The Mormons are coming!" warned ads placed on newspaper Web sites in three Eastern states last month. The ad was rejected by sites in three other states, including Maine, where the Kennebec Journal informed Californians Against Hate that the copy "borders on insulting and denigrating a whole set of people based on their religion."
"I'm not intending it to harm the religion. I think they do wonderful things. Nicest people," said Fred Karger, a former Republican campaign consultant who established Californians Against Hate. "My single goal is to get them out of the same-sex marriage business and back to helping hurricane victims."
The strategy carries risks for a movement grounded in the concept of tolerance. But the demographics tempt proponents of same-sex marriage: Mormons account for just 2 percent of the U.S. population, and they are scarce outside the West. Nearly eight in 10 Americans personally know or work with a gay person, according to a recent Newsweek survey. Only 48 percent, meanwhile, know a Mormon, according to a Pew Research Center poll.
Many Mormons also acknowledge a problematic public profile that could make it difficult for them to lead the fight against same-sex marriage. A 2008 poll by Gary C. Lawrence, author of "How Americans View Mormonism: Seven Steps to Improve Our Image," found that for every American who expresses a strong liking for Mormons, four express a strong dislike. Among the traits widely ascribed to Mormons in the poll were "narrow-minded" and "controlling."
"We're upside down on our image," said Lawrence, who organized Mormon volunteers in California, where on a typical Saturday 25,000 turned out to knock on doors. "People have misperceptions of us because of ignorance, because of the history of polygamy, and because we organize quickly, which scares some people."
Mormon officials have tried to stay out of the controversy that followed the California vote, when the church's prominent role in the marriage fight became clear. A spokeswoman in Salt Lake City declined to say whether the church is involved in debates going on in states such as New Jersey and New York, except to say that leaders remain intent on preserving the "divine institution" of marriage between man and woman. The faith holds that traditional marriage "transcends this world" and is necessary for "the fullness of joy in the next life."
The church has a top-down hierarchy that answers to the First Presidency, who also holds the status of prophet. Last June, congregations were read his letter urging that "you do all you can" to pass the California initiative, known as Proposition 8. Lawrence, who like Karger worked as a Republican political consultant, professed no concern about the effort to shift the focus away from the definition of marriage.
"He is demonizing the opposition. It's Political Consulting 101," Lawrence said of Karger. "The average guy does not know the extent to which the Mormon Church was involved on Prop. 8."
The proponents' strategy is grounded in a stubborn reality: While the number of states legalizing same-sex marriage is slowly increasing -- Maine recently became the fifth -- in every case the agent of change was either a court or a legislature. Voters have rejected the idea wherever it has appeared on a ballot.
The election results track public opinion nationwide. Polls consistently show that while a majority of Americans support some legal recognition of gay unions, more want to keep marriage reserved for a man and a woman.
The disparity is narrow and shrinking, however, and in California, Mormons may well have made the difference on Proposition 8, which nullified a decision by the state Supreme Court that legalized same-sex marriage.
A torrent of last-minute contributions from church members across the country financed well-framed TV ads in the final weekend of the campaign. Opponents' analysis of campaign-contribution reports indicated that Mormons contributed more than half of the campaign's $40 million war chest.
"The church's position on the issue of same-sex marriage is well known and well documented," church spokeswoman Kim Farah said by e-mail. She declined to comment on estimates from individual Mormons but emphasized that the church itself made no cash contribution. It reported "in-kind" contributions of $190,000, mostly in the form of staff members' time.
Rick Jacobs, director of the Courage Campaign, an advocacy group that produced a TV ad drawing attention to the Mormons' role in the campaign, said, "We have zero interest in demonizing anybody who believes in any religion."
In the spot, a pair of Mormon missionaries knock on the door of a lesbian couple, rifle their drawers and shred their marriage certificate in front of them.
Mormons "exist and flourish in this country because of the concept of equal protection," Jacob said, noting the persecution that drove members of the church to Utah in the 19th century. "I find it just an irreconcilable hypocrisy that a group that rightly thrives within the essence of the American system would seek to repress and deny rights to another. And it's even a little worse, because I certainly didn't choose to be gay. People make choices to be Mormons, or any other religion."
Mormon officials issued statements calling for "civility" in the wake of Proposition 8. "The Church has refused to be goaded into a Mormons versus gays battle and has simply stated its position in tones that are reasonable and respectful," one statement said.
Suspicions that the church may be working behind the scenes in other states are encouraged by documents showing efforts by the church to cloak its participation in a late-1990s campaign that led to a ban on same-sex marriage in Hawaii.
"We have organized things so the Church contribution was used in an area of coalition activity that does not have to be reported," a senior Mormon official wrote in one document Karger posted on his Web site, and the church has not disputed.
Mormon headquarters contributed $400,000 in an effort to persuade Hawaiians against same-sex marriage but urged the Roman Catholics to take the lead in a group dubbed Hawaii's Future Today after polls showed that the other church had better public acceptance. A decade after the 1998 Hawaii vote against gay marriage, Lawrence wrote that the image problem remained: "The collection of negatives they are willing to apply to us suggests that they view us as a growing threat."
That works for Karger, whose specialty at his consulting group was opposition research. "People will vote for someone because they like so and so, or because they don't like the other guy," said Karger, who entered gay activism to preserve the Boom Boom Room, a gay bar in Newport Beach, Calif.
And favorability ratings declined for Mormons over the last year, Lawrence said, from 42 percent to 37.
"Is it fruitful to use the Mormon bogey?" said Mark Silk, a professor of religion and public life at Trinity College in Connecticut. "My sense is that there aren't great risks to it. Once a religious institution is going to inject itself into a public fight, which the LDS did in a straight-up way, then I think people are prepared to say, 'Well, okay, you're on that side and we're against you.' "
Washington Post, May 29, 2009
Mormons Boost Antigay Marriage Effort
Group Has Given Millions in Support of California Fund
By Mark Schoofs, Wall Street Journal
Mormons have emerged as a dominant fund-raising force in the hotly contested California ballot fight to ban same-sex marriage.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have contributed more than a third of the approximately $15.4 million raised since June 1 to support Proposition 8. The ballot initiative, if passed, would reverse the current right of same-sex couples to marry.
The tally of Mormon contributions was provided by Frank Schubert, campaign manager for ProtectMarriage.com -- Yes on 8, the initiative's primary backer. A finance-tracking group corroborated Mormon fund-raising dominance, saying it could exceed 40%.
The Mormon Church decision to enlist members on behalf of the same-sex marriage ban has given supporters of Proposition 8 a fund-raising lead. The campaign to defeat the initiative has collected around $13 million so far, said Steve Smith, a top campaign consultant for No on 8, Equality for All. Both sides raised roughly equal amounts in the early stages, said Mr. Smith, but "all of a sudden in the last few weeks they are out-raising us, and it appears to be Mormon money."
The top leadership of the Mormon Church, known as the First Presidency, issued a letter in June calling on Mormons to "do all you can" to support Proposition 8.
Mormon donors said they weren't coerced. "Nobody twisted my arm," said Richard Piquet, a Southern California accountant who gave $25,000 in support of Proposition 8. He said Mormon Church leaders called donating "a matter of personal conscience." Some Mormons who declined to donate said their local church leaders had made highly charged appeals, such as saying that their souls would be in jeopardy if they didn't give. Church spokesmen said any such incident wouldn't reflect Mormon Church policy.
Same-sex marriage was legalized in California after the State Supreme Court ruled in May that an existing ban, enacted by referendum in 2000, was unconstitutional. That prompted opponents to organize the current ballot initiative to amend the state constitution, banning same-sex marriage.
Since then, the fight over the initiative has come to be seen as a crucial battleground: If voters uphold the right of gay couples to marry in the nation's most populous state, it could give momentum to efforts to legalize same-sex marriage elsewhere.
Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is bucking the conservative wing of his party to campaign against the initiative. The latest statewide poll, taken at the end of August, shows that 54% of the state's likely voters oppose the initiative while 40% support it.
The battle has drawn in money from around the country. The Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic group, has given more than $1.25 million to support Proposition 8. Focus on the Family, a nonprofit organization composed mainly of evangelical Protestants, has given more than $400,000. The Yes on 8 campaign has received "more proportionally from the Latter-day Saints Church than from any other faith," said Mr. Schubert, 35% to 40% of the total.
The Mormon Church encouraged its members to send their donations to a separate post-office box set up by a church member, said Messrs. Schubert and L. Whitney Clayton, a senior Mormon Church official involved in the campaign. Mr. Clayton said the church didn't keep track of how much individual Mormons donated, just the cumulative total. He said members bundled the donations and forwarded them to the campaign.
A Web site run by individual Mormons, Mormonsfor8.com, has tracked all donations to the Yes on 8 campaign of $1,000 or more listed on the California secretary of state's Web site. The site's founder, Nadine Hansen, said they have identified more than $5.3 million given by Mormons but believe that donations from church members may account for far more than 40% of the total raised.
Robert Bolingbroke, a Mormon who lives near San Diego, said he and his wife decided on their own to donate $3,000 in August. Later, he was invited to participate in a conference call led by a high church official, known as a member of the Quorum of Seventy. Mr. Bolingbroke, a former president and chief operating officer of The Clorox Co., estimates that 40 to 60 Mormon potential donors were on that call, and he said it was suggested that they donate $25,000, which Mr. Bolingbroke did earlier this month. Mr. Bolingbroke said he doesn't know how he or the other participants on the call were selected. Church leaders keep tithing records of active members, who are typically asked to donate 10% of their income each year to the Mormon Church.
Same-sex marriage hits at the heart of Mormon theology, said Terryl Givens, a professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond. According to scholars and documents on the Mormon Church's official Web site, couples married in a Mormon temple remain wedded for eternity and can give birth to spirit children in the afterlife. Most importantly, Mormons must be married to achieve "exaltation," the ultimate state in the afterlife. Mormons also believe they retain their gender in the afterlife.
"This all explains the Mormon difficulty with homosexuality," said Mr. Givens. In a theology based on eternal gender, marriage and exaltation, "same-sex attraction doesn't find a place."
The church, which typically stays out of political issues, has occasionally entered the fray. In the 1970s, for example, it opposed the Equal Rights Amendment.
The prominence of Mormon donors in the Proposition 8 fight has also led to alliances with evangelical Protestant groups and other Christian religions, some of which have deep theological differences with Mormons.
Jim Garlow, pastor of the evangelical Protestant Skyline Church near San Diego and a leading supporter of Proposition 8, said, "I would not, in all candor, have been meeting them or talking with them had it not been for" the marriage campaign. Rev. Garlow said he had developed a "friendship" with the Mormons he met, although he feels the theological differences remain "unbridgeable."
But he noted how Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants have formed tight bonds through their joint work against abortion, and he said a similar process might occur with Mormons.
Asked if working on Proposition 8 might improve the standing of Mormons in the eyes of evangelicals, Mr. Whitney said, "That's just not been on our radar."
He said he would be happy to work with "anyone else who would be willing to roll up their sleeves and go to work to try to preserve marriage between a man and a woman. That's our interest."
Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2008
Utah money helped push Prop 8 spending to historic levels
Donations -- Utahns contributed heavily to both sides
By Tony Semerad
The torrent of money that poured into campaigns for and against California's Proposition 8 may make it the costliest state ballot measure ever.
Contributions to both sides of the successful ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage have already topped a total of $75.2 million, according to disclosures filed with the California secretary of state. And almost 5 cents of every dollar came from Utah.
The picture may change when full financial reports are filed in late January, but documents now show Proposition 8's unsuccessful opponents actually out-raised supporters by about $1.9 million, yet still lost by 504,853 votes, a 4 percent margin.
''It was the most expensive social issue on a ballot anywhere,'' said Fred Schubert, a spokesman for ProtectMarriage.com, by far the biggest official fundraising group in favor of Proposition 8.
''I believe it simply reflects the passions people have surrounding the issue of marriage, on both sides,'' he said.
Those passions ran deep for Utahns, judging from the $3.6 million state residents contributed to the California campaigns. Fully 70 percent of Utah donations, or $2.58 million, went in support of the same-sex marriage ban, while $1.1 million was given to oppose it.
Utah ranked second only to California itself for total donations in support, while it ranked sixth for opposing donations, behind California and such heavily populated states as New York, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan.
Utah's big-dollar involvement can be linked to the LDS Church, the state's dominant institution, which urged churchgoers in a variety of ways to support the measure with their time and money. While Catholic and Evangelical churches and affiliated groups gave cash directly to support Prop 8, official Mormon involvement centered on nonmonetary and organizational aid, in addition to rallying church members, documents show.
''Mormon members were instrumental in the campaign, there's no question,'' Schubert said from his Sacramento office. ''They donated far in excess of their representation in the population.''
Utah's numbers also were pushed dramatically skyward by a public-giving duel between former Word Perfect executives Bruce Bastian and Alan Ashton, estranged friends on opposite sides of the issue who each threw $1 million into the fray.
Bastian, of Orem, is gay and has given to similar causes in the past. Ashton, a Lindon resident, is an active member of the LDS Church, former mission president and grandson of the late LDS Church President David O. McKay. After initially giving $5,000 to the anti-Prop 8 Human Rights Campaign in May, Bastian gave $1 million in July. Ashton countered with a $1
million donation to ProtectMarriage.com in October.
''I gave my money because I was fearful, when the church stepped in, of what would happen, and it happened,'' Bastian said. ''And I think other people like me were trying to counter what they saw the church doing.''
Bastian said Prop 8 and the LDS Church's involvement had pitted family members, churchgoers and work colleagues against one another across the country. ''There is a lot of anger and hurt and it's not going away.''
Ashton did not return calls seeking comment.
At least 720 Utahns donated to the Prop 8 battle between Jan. 1 and Election Day, reports show, with about 78 percent of them supporting Prop 8. Utah donors on both sides work from a diverse range of jobs, from software millionaires, engineers and attorneys to ranchers, housewives, retirees and self-employed filmmakers.
While the majority of Utah donors did not list their employer on California financial disclosures, the top employers among those who did were Brigham Young University, the LDS Church and the University of Utah.
Donations came from residents in 80 different Utah cities and towns, spanning 16 of Utah's 29 counties. Opponents tended to live in Utah's 26 largest cities, while supporters were spread among 76 communities, large and small.
A majority of Utah contributors to the opposing side came from Salt Lake City. Supporters were more widely dispersed around the state, with concentrations in Provo, Salt Lake City, Orem, Bountiful, St. George and Sandy.
Excluding the Bastian-Ashton donations, the average donation by Utah supporters was $2,792, while opponents averaged $440 apiece.
Opponents of Prop 8 have been combing through donation reports since their defeat, seeking in some cases to publicize and target big-ticket supporters with calls of business boycotts. Several Utah donors contacted by The Salt Lake Tribune refused to comment, citing fear of retaliation. One rural Utah business owner who made a five-figure donation in supporting the measure said he had received harassing calls.
Another donor, Janna Morrell, a homemaker from Providence, gave $15,000 to ProtectMarriage.com in the closing days of the campaign. Later, when one California-based anti-Prop 8 group began posting names of large contributors on its Web site, instead of worrying, the 42-year-old mother of 12 called to insist they include her.
''I'm going to stand up even in the face of danger," said Morrell, who is LDS and learned about the measure from her brother, a California resident active in the campaign. ''I believe strongly that Proposition 8 is not meant to be anti-gay but it is meant to be in favor of marriage.''
Salt Lake Tribune, November 22, 2008
For searchable index of contributors, click here,
LDS communications part of Prop 8 trial
The LDS Church's role in passing Proposition 8, California's 2008 ballot measure that banned gay marriage in the Golden State, took center stage during Day 7 of a federal court case in San Francisco.
Two same-sex couples -- represented by Ted Olson and David Boies, famously known for defending opposite sides in the U.S. Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore -- are suing to overturn Prop 8. If the case makes it to the nation's high court, it could have national implications for gay marriage.
On Wednesday, an attorney for the plaintiffs called on witness Gary Segura, a political science professor at Stanford University, to articulate the relative powerlessness of gays and lesbians in the Prop 8 fight. Segura read aloud documents that revealed the extent to which powerful, religious organizations -- including the LDS Church, Roman Catholic Church and evangelical group Focus on the Family -- worked together to pass Prop 8.
Here are some tidbits from the Day 7 court transcript about the extent of LDS participation in the Prop 8 campaign led by ProtectMarriage.com:
* The LDS Church organized "grass-roots leaders" of the Prop 8 campaign by calling on members to be "area directors" over 17 regions, coinciding with the church's mission boundaries, and by designating "prop coordinators" for every ZIP code in California.
* About 20,000 Mormons volunteered to walk neighborhoods on two Saturdays.
* Latter-day Saints were encouraged to donate to ProtectMarriage.com -- $30 was the suggested amount -- with a fundraising goal of $5 million.
* "This campaign owes an enormous debt to the LDS Church. I will comment specifically at a later time, under separate cover, about their financial, organizational and management contribution to the success of the effort." -- Ned Dolejsi, executive-committee member of ProtectMarriage.com, in an e-mail to Catholic leaders.
* "As you know from the [LDS Church] First Presidency letter [sent to California congregations in summer 2008], this campaign is entirely under priesthood direction -- in concert with leaders of many other faiths and community groups forming part of the ProtectMarriage.com coalition. " -- Mark Jansson, a member of LDS Church public affairs, in an internal e-ail.
* "Salt Lake City conducted a teleconference with 159 of 161 stake presidents in the state of California and told the presidents LDS are involved in this issue but are not to take the lead. " -- minutes of a meeting of LDS officials in California.
Salt Lake Tribune, January 21, 2010
Gay-marriage ruling brings split Utah reaction
By Rosemary Winters, The Salt Lake Tribune
The LDS Church expressed disappointment at the news from California. Hundreds of jubilant gay-marriage supporters marched around the church’s Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City.On Wednesday, Utahns both panned and praised the decision of a federal judge in San Francisco to overturn Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that eliminated gay marriage in California. Two years ago, the campaign drew intense interest in Utah after the LDS Church urged its members to support Prop 8 with their cash and time. Utahns spent $3.8 million — most of it to defeat gay marriage — in the $83 million fight.
The federal ruling means, for now, gay marriage is legal — again —in the Golden State.
But Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker has put a temporary hold on issuing marriage licenses while he gives opposing sides in the lawsuit, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, time to debate whether there should be a long-term stay during appeals, which could extend for years and stretch as far as the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We have plans to go to California as soon as possible and make our marriage legal,” said Salt Lake City resident Jeff Key, who, on Wednesday, celebrated not only the ruling but the three-year-anniversary of his nonlegal wedding with his partner, Adam Nelson. “I’m feeling pretty proud to be an American right now.”
In fact, Key knelt on one knee at a Capitol Hill rally Wednesday evening and asked Nelson, “Will you remarry me?”
Nelson said “yes” to the cheers of nearly 400 supporters of gay marriage. The crowd, flying both rainbow and American flags, swelled to 600, said organizer Eric Ethington, as the group marched from the Capitol to LDS Church headquarters and around Temple Square.
“We’re all here. We’re all equal,” Ethington said before leading the march. “Get it through your head.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the LDS Church lamented the overturn of the ballot measure it helped to pass, spending nearly $200,000 on the campaign, according to campaign disclosures.
“California voters have twice been given the opportunity to vote on the definition of marriage in their state and both times have determined that marriage should be recognized as only between a man and a woman. We agree,” said LDS Church spokesman Michael Purdy. “Marriage between a man and woman is the bedrock of society.”
The church also called for “mutual respect” and “civility” in the ongoing debate over marriage.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, blasted Walker.
“This is what happens when judges make up the Constitution as they go along,” Hatch said in a statement.
Cliff Rosky, a law professor at the University of Utah, praised the analysis that went into the decision as “correct.” Walker concluded that Proposition 8 denied gay men and lesbians their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.
“Marriage is a fundamental right. The Supreme Court has made that very clear,” Rosky said. “I don’t think that same-sex marriage is so different than other forms of marriage that it becomes [excluded from] the right to marry.”
Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah, agreed.
“Equality Utah has always believed that the Constitution does cover gay and transgender people,” she said. “We support full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, which includes the right to marry.”
In 2004, Utah voters approved a state constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage and civil unions.
If the Prop 8 lawsuit eventually lands in the U.S. Supreme Court, a decision there in favor of gay marriage could create a right for gay men and lesbians to marry in every state, said Bill Duncan, director of the Lehi-based Marriage Law Foundation.
Duncan, who filed a brief in the California lawsuit on behalf of religious groups siding with the Prop 8 defendants, disagrees with Walker’s ruling. “In order for something to be a fundamental right, it has to be deeply rooted in our nation’s history and tradition,” said Duncan, who filed an amicus.
“Same-sex marriage is not deeply rooted in our nation’s history and tradition.”
Currently, same-sex marriages are allowed in Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C.
Salt Lake Tribune, August 5, 2010
Film Focuses on Mormon Role in Gay Marriage Ban
Sundance documentary examines Mormon church's role in political fight over gay marriage
By Jennifer Dobner, Associated Press Writer
The Utah-based Mormon church plays a starring role in a new Sundance Film Festival documentary about the 2008 ballot initiative that successfully banned gay marriage in California.
Miami-area filmmaker Reed Cowan's "8: The Mormon Proposition," premieres Sunday at the Park City festival.
The film contends that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints built on decades of anti-gay teachings to justify its political activism and tried to hide its role as the driving force behind the coalition of conservatives that helped pass Proposition 8. The proposition reversed an earlier court ruling legalizing gay marriage.
The film debuts just as a California federal trial over the constitutionality of the ban enters its third week.
"Karma," said Cowan of the timing and the film's inaugural screening in a theater roughly 25 miles from the Mormon church's headquarters.
"There was no other place on the planet where this could premiere," he said. "This is where the lies came from, this is where the money came from. The sharpest karma that could be leveled on the Mormon church ... it has to be leveled in their own backyard."
Church officials have not seen the film but have reviewed a trailer and other materials posted online, a spokeswoman for the faith said.
"It appears that accuracy and truth are rare commodities in this film," Kim Farah said. "Clearly, anyone looking for balance and thoughtful discussion of a serious topic will need to look elsewhere."
Narrated by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black — who like Cowan is gay and was raised Mormon — the 81-minutes film opens with footage of gay couples saying, "I do," in San Francisco's City Hall on June 17, 2008, the first day gays could legally marry and then chronicles what some say was the most expensive initiative campaign in California's history through election day and angry postelection protest marches outside Mormon church temples nationwide.
The film makes its case for Mormon dominance by relying on the investigative work of California political activist Fred Karger, who claims Mormons turned out some 25,000 members weekly as campaign volunteers and made up 71 percent of individual campaign contributions.
The church also disputes allegations in the film by Karger of inaccurate or deceptive campaign finance reporting practices and has posted its contributions on its Web site.
Shot over 19 months for less than $250,000, the film uses statements of past church leaders and personal accounts of gay Mormons and their families in an attempt to explain what Cowan contends is a culture of obedience and an entrenched anti-gay sentiment that permeates Mormonism. Those attitudes, he says, contribute to a myriad of social problems including a suicide and homelessness among young gay Mormons.
Mormon church officials do appear in the film, but only in footage obtained through other filmmakers, media outlets or in church-produced videos that appeared on the Web.
Church officials declined requests for interviews, Cowan said. In one of the film's audio clips, Farah is heard saying the church does not want to be "front and center in a battle with the gay community."
Like many faiths, Mormonism teaches that traditional marriage is an institution ordained by God that is central to a healthy society. However, church has said it does not oppose civil unions or other limited rights, such as those related to hospitalization, employment or housing, as long as they don't infringe on the constitutional rights of churches.
Steven Greenstreet, the film's editor and a co-producer, said he hopes the movie will "pull back the curtain" on the power and influence the Mormon church has amassed in the gay marriage debate.
"Voters did not go to the ballot box knowing all the information," said Greenstreet, himself a former Mormon. "I hope for non-Mormons this film pulls back the curtain on a decades long strategic implementation of a war on gays so that they are able to see who was behind the curtain. We owe to the generations of people who have suffered."
Park City Utah -- January 23, 2010
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
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 Angeles Times, February 7, 2012
Mormon church is conspicuously absent in Md. same-sex marriage referendum
By Michelle Boorstein
Maryland activists working to overturn same-sex marriage have had to get used to one surprising absence from their religious coalition: Mormons.
A huge amount of Mormon money and foot soldiers and the support of church leadership were credited with an epic win for traditional marriage in 2008 when California voters approved Proposition 8, which said that only marriage between a man and woman would be recognized in the state. And the D.C. region has one of the largest communities of Mormons outside the West.
But Mormon leaders in Maryland have been silent on the ballot measure to affirm or toss the state’s new same-sex marriage law. Activists in other states voting next month on the issue (Maine, Minnesota and Washington) say they see the same thing. The dramatic turnaround from 2008 reflects the tightrope the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is walking as it tries to maintain a generally apolitical church culture while in the global spotlight of a presidential campaign.
“It’s surprising they haven’t been in the lead on this,” said Mike McManus, head of the Potomac-based Marriage Savers marriage counseling and advocacy group and an organizer for Question 6, the November ballot measure that requires voter approval of the state’s new same-sex marriage law.
Some Mormons are thrilled to see the church publicly stay out of politics, particularly on an issue that has such strong partisan overtones. Mormon scripture calls it “unjust” to mingle “religious influence with civil government,” and politics is generally a taboo topic in church. Which is why Mormon leaders’ decision to become involved in campaigns in California and, earlier, Hawaii, was deeply divisive.
Most Mormons can name measures on which church leaders have taken clear public positions: same-sex marriage in California in 2008, a missile defense system in the 1980s, the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s — all against.
But experts and even church officials say Mormon officials are being especially cautious this year because of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign and the danger of their strongly evangelical faith becoming too closely associated with one party.
This year, for the first time in decades, church officials didn’t meet at the start of the legislative session with Utah state lawmakers.
“It’s the political climate we’re in. There was just too much over-interpreting,” said Michael Otterson, church spokesman.
Some experts say Mormonism is in a period of flux when it comes to mixing politics and faith. The community’s identity was shaped by discrimination, including in the late 1800s, when measures aimed at Mormons were passed barring polygamists from voting or holding elected office. Mormonism is also very hierarchical, and ordinary Mormons and local church leaders are discouraged from speaking as individuals. Local clergy don’t take public positions; only the church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City does. Several Mormons contacted for this story for their personal view referred a reporter to spokespeople.
Mormonism is also spreading overseas, and leaders are concerned about taking positions on issues that may seem parochial.
“I think there has been a sense that the church needs to rise above this sort of thing,” said Matthew Bowman, a Mormon and a historian of American religion at Hampden-Sydney College.
Sensitivities were clear right away in Maryland, when in March two Mormon women working to gather petition signatures sought volunteers on an unofficial church e-mail group list for a congregation in Chevy Chase. The posting was quickly taken down, and the congregation had a meeting about proper use of the e-mail group and not using it for political outreach.
Neither woman responded to requests for comment.
“A lot of people signed up with them, but a lot of people were taken aback,” said David Baker, a gay member of the congregation who is working to oppose the measure.
Baker and other advocates for same-sex marriage are glad that the church in 2012 is taking such a different tack than it did the last year there were a slew of measures on the ballot.
California, Otterson said, was an exception because it is such a large “bellwether” state and because of its large Mormon population. But the cost to the church was real in terms of the controversy generated. Protesters set up camp outside Mormon temples. Some temples were sent fake anthrax. Lists of donors were made public, and Mormon businesses were picketed. Prominent Mormon and former Olympian Peter Vidmar had to step down from a prominent position with the 2012 Olympics after it came out that he had donated to the campaign for Proposition 8.
The silence is not true on the other side. This year has been a landmark one for gay and lesbian Mormons, in good part because of gay-rights initiatives in a number of states and several years of publicity about their faith that say encouraged them to be more open. For the first time, there were Mormon contingents in gay pride parades in cities across the country this year, and advocates in the states where there are same-sex ballot measures said they feel they can speak out without being sanctioned by local church leaders.
But even from supporters of same-sex marriage, there are some mixed feelings about the church’s withdrawal from the public arena.
Spencer Clark, 29, of Takoma Park is head of his congregation’s male auxiliary and leader of the national Mormons for Marriage Equality. He wonders how Mormons can claim to be led by a prophet who receives revelation from God and yet be wary of speaking up on policy issues.
“I think there is relief and disappointment in the Mormon community that we don’t get involved politically in many issues of the day,” he said.
Washington Post, October 28, 2012
February 7, 2012 -- Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules Proposition 8 is invalid -- See entire decision here.
Disclaimer: This material is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes only. (17 U.S.C. Section 107.)