Friday, May 29, 2009
Subject: Washington Post Story - MUST READ!
'The Mormons Are Coming!'
Supporters of Same-Sex Marriage Trumpet the Church's Work Against It
LINK : Washington Post
By Karl Vick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 29, 2009
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.' "
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The San Francisco Chronicle: "The marriage rights of Californians now fall into three categories. Heterosexual couples have access to all rights, responsibilities - and the name - of marriage. Gays and lesbians who were married between May 15 and Nov. 4 can remain so - but cannot remarry in the event of death or divorce. And all other gays and lesbians are prohibited by law from marrying the partner of their choice. There is a word for this type of unequal treatment: Discrimination."
Two very well-known lawyers that once fought each other over the Bush-Gore election result have announced that they will join forces to file a federal challenge to yesterday's California Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8.
Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson and David Boies, who represented then-Vice President Al Gore in the contested election, have joined forces to tackle the same-sex marriage issue, which has deeply divided Californians and left 18,000 gay couples married last year in legal isolation. In a project of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, Olson and Boies have united to represent two same-sex couples filing suit after being denied marriage licenses because of Proposition 8. Their suit, to be filed in U.S. District Court in California, calls for an injunction against the proposition, allowing immediate reinstatement of marriage rights for same-sex couples.John Aravosis at Americablog has this to say about Ted Olson taking on gay marriage:
Now I've seen everything. Ted Olson. Also known as George Bush's Solicitor General. Also known as the guy who represented George Bush at the Supreme Court in the Bush v. Gore case. Also known as Mr. Burns. The man is pure evil. And he's now representing a gay couple in a legal challenge in federal court to overturn Prop 8. Just called Joe. We're both speechless. It's difficult to explain in words how much each of us loathes Ted Olson. Of course, not any more. But you get the picture. It doesn't get any more conservative and nasty than Ted Olson. And now he's supporting gay marriage. And not just supporting it, but putting his legal muscle behind it. First off, thank you Mr. Olson. Seriously. And to our readers, this just goes to show you that even I can be fooled into thinking that some people are too far gone. As I've written on this blog many a time: Don't write people off, and don't mock people who reach out to the enemy. You'd be surprised what sometimes happens when you treat even bad guys with a modicum of decency.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Filed by: Karen Ocamb
May 26, 2009 7:00 PM
I'm trying to pull together a wide selection of reactions to the Prop 8 ruling - - but this just landed in my email and I wanted to share it right away.
This is from Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors and Marc Solomon, Director of EQCA's Marriage Project:
Here is their press release:
This memo lays out our thinking and approach to restoring marriage equality in California. A copy can be found online.
Karen Gullo, Bloomberg News: "The California Supreme Court [Tuesday] upheld Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex weddings, a practice that is now legal in four other states. The court legalized gay marriage a year ago before California voters overruled it in November. Fifty-two percent of them approved the ban, amending the state constitution to recognize only marriages between a man and a woman. The court ruled 6 to 1 today in favor of upholding Proposition 8, saying it was ruling only on the ability of voters to pass a ballot measure rather than whether gay marriage should be legal."
Monday, May 25, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Please visit Melanie Nathan's page for Q&A and live coverage of the upcoming Uniting American Families Act hearing in Congress. If you are in a binational relationship, make sure you go to the Page 2 link, follow Melanie's instructions, and send your form to her right away:
Page 1: "http://oblogdeeoblogda.wo
Page 2: http://oblogdeeoblogda.wor
Please network this information to any binational couples you know, especially to those who may not be aware of the recent good news about the scheduled hearing. And help as much as you can to generate positive support so that we can all have a big celebration in 2009!
William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: President Obama gave a speech on Thursday praising the excellence of the American experiment, and claimed his own life was made possible by the promise of the documents and the ideals that founded this nation. As usual, his delivery and diction was perfect. Unfortunately, his behavior of late has fallen far short of the ideals he has given such eloquent lip service to. Two thousand pictures of Americans performing acts of savage torture on prisoners will not be released to the general public if Mr. Obama gets his way. Military commissions will continue to try prisoners outside the scope of American law, and will be free to use brazen hearsay as "hard" evidence against defendants. Mr. Obama continues to cleave to the most abhorrent aspects of Bush-era secrecy policies."
THE MORNING BUZZ
Sunday, May 24Frank Rich Says It's Time for Change in D.C.: Gay Rights Deserve Their Day