Proposition 8 may have passed in California (at least for now), but the consequences have been disastrous for the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints aka the LDS Church aka the Mormons, who donated the largest chunk of the $70 million which won the the homophobic Yes On 8 campaign:
In the coming days, a string of protests are planned across California, as campaigners mount a robust PR war against the Utah-based church. Many will picket services tomorrow.
“We should have got nasty a long time ago,” said Mr Lindsey, who is originally from a Mormon family. “I’m not going to be polite any more, I’m not going to step around my belief that this is a nasty church with disgusting views which managed to buy an election. I don’t care if it’s people’s religion. I’m going to stand up and fight it.”
For the Mormon Church, it threatens a PR nightmare. The gay rights lobby boasts scores of prominent celebrity supporters who have already pledged vociferous support to the campaign to overturn Proposition 8.
Behind the scenes, the mood is turning increasingly ugly. “If they’re going to vote away my rights based on fear and ignorance and prejudice, I’m going to give them something to be fucking scared of,” read a message posted on the online bulletin board Queerty.
The Mormon Church is in damage limitation mode. “No one on either side of the question should be vilified, harassed or subject to erroneous information,” it said in a statement.
Noone should be vilified eh? So your church, which was directly responsible for the rescinding of people’s rights, should in turn not face any consequences for its actions? I wonder how many times the LDS Church thinks it can get away with this type of behaviour – the ERA in the 70s and now this:
The LDS Church’s campaign to pass Proposition 8 represents its most vigorous and widespread political involvement since the late 1970s, when it helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. It even departs from earlier efforts on behalf of traditional marriage, in which members felt more free to decide their level of involvement.
It’s ironic that the Mormon Church should set itself against gay rights in such a big way, because it really is a power struggle by one minority against another, which will only end up in causing damage to them both:
Affirmation assistant executive director David Melson says the church has done damage to its own members and its reputation. “Win or lose, the actions of the church over the past 90 days will result in damage to the LDS Church in California and beyond from which it may take a generation or longer to recover,” he says.
It’s a religious attack on the secular position of the state in people’s lives, and Bishop Gene Robinson reveals the new president-elect, a religious man, does not support such intrusions by organised religion into civil society:
“He and I would agree about the rightful place of religion vis-a-vis the secular state. That is to say, we don’t impose our religious values on the secular state because God said so. Our faith informs our own values and then we take those values into the civil market place, the civil discourse, and then you argue for them based on the Constitution. You don’t say to someone, you must believe this because this is what God believes.
“I think God gives us our values and then we argue for those on the basis of the Constitution and care of our neighbour.”
The common refrain however is the irony of how a church which was historically picked on for being different, and a minority, is now picking on another minority for being different:
Mormons understand a little bit about getting picked on for being different.
Tales of Haun’s Mill, Reed Smoot and Mitt Romney fill Sunday School and Family Home Evening lessons. Years of violence and lampooning and soft bigotry drive The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ historical narrative. Persecution is in the psyche of the people.
But now the victims seem to have turned into the aggressors – and over, of all things, an alternative definition of marriage.
“This is a church that has been persecuted for its flavor of Christianity, for its past marriage practices, for its past religious practices. And here they are turning around and persecuting another group of people,” says Jay Redd, a gay lapsed-Mormon movie director whose San Francisco marriage ceremony was featured last week in Salon. “I feel like it’s very shortsighted, and it’s not a very Christian way of treating people.”
It is indeed hugely ironic that a sect which once championed an alternative to ‘traditional’ marriage is now attacking others exercising their constitutional (in California) rights to do just that. Others however argue that the LDS Church is being quite consistent in other respects:
“I don’t think the church ever compromised on its sense that marriage is the institution through which families are formed and people are saved,” says Sarah Barringer Gordon, a scholar of the law of church and state who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.
Comparing polygamy to gay marriage, she says, “in many church members’ eyes is comparing apples and oranges. You can’t compare gay marriage to polygamy.”
The LDS Church though is hardly united in its anti-gay campaign:
Mormons, who make up just two per cent of California’s population, have raised nearly half of the $22.8 million collected in support of Proposition 8. Conversely thousands of their fellow church members have asked that their names be removed from church records so as not to be involved with an organisation that is perceived as being anti-gay.
There are so many issues in play it’s no wonder that the argument is now being fought between the gay community and Mormon Church on the streets. One minute the issue is religious – that because Mormons believe marriage is for procreation, same-sex marriage being amalgamated within the model of marriage used by heterosexuals is unacceptable. It’s not just narrow-mindedness about sexual orientation, it’s narrow-minded about the role of sex within marriage. But above all it’s a case of religion trying to influence secular civil society, to make government responsive to the church, which (a bit late) gay rights groups are now attacking in the numerous protests spiralling out against the LDS Church because of their bankrolling of Prop 8.
This was a general election fought on social change – the emergence of a black president is evidence of that. And it’s interesting to see a religious organisation at the tail end of social change suffering from having seemingly pushed too hard and one too many times against equal rights for minorities and social change. It feels very much like a Stonewall riots moment – the gay community has taken one substantial hit too many and society as a whole is rejecting it. While large scale demonstrations continue in California and increasingly throughout the United States against Prop 8, the case against it in the Californian Supreme Court continues, The Governator speaks out against it, as do a substantial number of state legislators. Arnie’s suspicion is that the state Supreme Court will simply strike Prop 8 down, or pass the responsibility for changing the constitution to the legislature, which will decline to do so. Let’s not just hope they do, but watch a malicious religious organisation tear itself apart because of what it tried to do. Keith Olbermann is right: