Mormons’ $22M Backing of Prop. 8 Incites Critics

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday November 4, 2008

A married lesbian couple answer a knock at the door and find two Mormons standing on their front porch.

"We're here to take away your rights," the Mormons announce, before shoving their way into the house, stripping the wedding rings off the womens' fingers, and ransacking their belongings.

"You can't do this!" one of the women cries, to which one of the Mormons answers with a low, evil chuckle.

"We have rights!" they protest as the Mormons rip their marriage license in half.

"Not if we can help it," the Mormons reply.

Strolling out of the women's house, the Mormons jauntily trade remarks: "That was too easy," says one.

"What should we ban next?" the other one asks.

That's a basic description of a TV ad produced by activists Dante and David Atkins and paid for by Courage Campaign Issues Committee to warn California voters that a yes vote for the anti-gay ballot initiative Proposition 8 is, in effect, a vote for a church-sponsored re-writing of California's government.

Members of the Mormon church from around the country have funneled $22 million into the state of California in order to revoke the existing right of gay and lesbian families to marry, reported a November 4 article at The Huffington Post written by Rick Jacobs.

Moreover, the article recalls attempts made by a prominent member of the Mormon faith to extort money from businesses that have supported GLBT equality and marriage equality in particular.

The article also said that the Mormon church had helped to create TV ads that spread untruths.

The Huffington Post article mentioned a letter signed by 17,000 people which called on the President-Prophet of the Mormon church to decry such conduct, but when an attempt was made to deliver the letter, those carrying it--including the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of California, Rev. Eric Lee--were turned away.

Later on, the letter was delivered, the article said, thanks to the efforts of gay ex-Mormons still living in Salt Lake City.

The article said that in addition to the TV ad showing the married lesbians coming under attack in their own home, the contents of a memo were published in the Daily Kos that demonstrated that the campaign to roll back civil rights for gays and lesbians in California is one early step in a long-planned campaign.

The memo, dated March 4, 1997, talks about strategizing to oppose "H.L.M." (Homosexual Legal Marriage) in Hawaii, one of the first states to amend its constitution to prevent marriage equality from being extended to gay and lesbian families.

The Huffington Post reported that the Mormon church did release a statement about the TV ad.

Read the statement, "The Church has joined a broad-based coalition in defense of traditional marriage.

"While we feel this is important to all of society, we have always emphasized that respect be given to those who feel differently on this issue. It is unfortunate that some who oppose this proposition have not given the Church this same courtesy."

Wrote Jacobs in the Huffinton Post item, "Then, late Monday, the Yes on 8 'coalition'--which is really a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Mormon Church with token investors from other right wing outposts--issued a statement decrying the ad as 'bigotry and intolerance.'"

Yes on 8 was not alone in attacking the ad as being bigoted and anti-Christian. An article posted Nov. 3 at the right-wing Christian news site Christian News Wire described the ad so: "[It] depicts supposed missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day [sic] Saints conducting a home invasion of a lesbian couple's home to steal their wedding rings and rip up their marriage license."

The Christian News Wire item quoted the chairman of Yes on 8, Ron Prentice, as saying, "This ad reaches new lows of religious bigotry and intolerance."

Prentice called on the No on 8 campaign, and on several prominent California politicians, including San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom and California senator Dianne Feinstein, to join him in decrying the ad.

"After all, the No on 8 campaign has been running their own television commercials saying we must all oppose discrimination and intolerance whenever we see it," Prentice said.

"The bigotry this ad shows to members of the LDS church demands action now."

Christian News Wire reported that Frank Schubert, the campaign manager for Yes on 8, sent his opposite number at No on 8, Steve Smith, an email urging the same thing.

As reported by Christian News Wire, Schubert's email read, "This [ad] is a blatant display of religious bigotry that has no place in political discourse."

The view expressed in the article at The Huffington Post was somewhat different. Wrote Jacobs, "The Mormon Church and its very junior partners in California owe all of us an apology.

"They seek to use the constitution to strip fundamental rights--in this case of same-sex couples to marry--away from millions of people.

"They lie in television ads. They blackmail.

"And then they invoke their religion to say that they are allowed to lie and hurt people, but not if they are caught."

Added Jacobs, "It's simply too much."

Jacobs continued, "Thirty years ago, the Mormon Church at last decided that it was okay for African Americans to join its priesthood.

"Maybe, as we see real change in Washington, the Church will understand that it's time now to welcome all people into its vision of America and thereby join America as well."

In Utah County, Utah, reported the Daily Herald on Nov. 4, about 70 supporters of California families gathered for a candlelight vigil in opposition to Proposition 8.

The article quoted organizer Melissa Poole as saying, "My main purpose in doing this, in light of Proposition 8, is that I want our gay and lesbian friends to know there's a base of support for them here in Utah County."

Added Poole, "Everyone deserves love and tolerance and to be able to make choices that are best for their lives."

Fellow organizer David Whitlock added that marriage equality was a matter of civil rights and cited Martin Luther King's efforts on behalf of African Americans.

Said Whitlock, "Different cause, same mission."

View the anti-Mormon video here:

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.