A couple thousand people gathered outside the Capitol in Sacramento this afternoon to rally for the legalization of same-sex marriages just days after voters imposed a constitutional ban.
The gathering follows several similar events around the Bay Area and California. Earlier today, more than 400 people gathered outside the distinctive Mormon Temple in Oakland to protest the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints‘ support of Proposition 8.
That gathering prompted the Highway Patrol to shut down two Highway 13 ramps to protect pedestrians. The ramps at Lincoln Avenue and Joaquin Miller Road reopened around 2 p.m.
And amid chants of “Stop Mormon hate” and “Enough is enough,” many protesters worried that they had been complacent before the Nov. 4 election. A previous protest outside the Mormon Temple on Oct. 25 drew only about 50 people.
“I don’t think people thought it was going to pass,” said Carrie Blanche, 52, an Alameda schoolteacher who got married Oct. 29.
In Southern California, about 1,000 gay-rights advocates gathered outside the large Saddleback Church in Lake Forest (Orange County) to protest the evangelical congregation’s involvement in passing Proposition 8. An estimated 10,000 backers of gay and lesbian marriage gathered Saturday in San Diego.
The rallies have been generally peaceful, with crowd members waving U.S. and rainbow flags and carrying signs. In Sacramento this afternoon, a few protesters said they were hopeful the courts would strike down the voter-approved ban while others said they would push for another statewide initiative.
The publishers of Religion News Blog have a theory about the reason why the Mormon Church fights gay marriage.
It should be noted that the Mormon Church is the cult of Christianity that claimed polygamy was “the most holy and important doctrine every revealed.” According the its Joseph Smith — the church’s founder and most-revered prophet (who had a fantasy life almost as rich as that of Scientology-founder L. Ron Hubbard) — “ if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.”
But of course the god of the Mormons changed his mind just as soon as it became apparent that the US Federal government made statehood contingent upon abolition of polygamy.
(Likewise, the god of the Mormon Church had a problem with black people — until the LDS Church wanted to expand in Africa.)
Now, however, the Mormons are potentially faced with a huge dilemma. In his article, “The Polygamy Dilemma – Is Plural Marriage a Dead Issue in Mormonism?” Bill McKeever, president of Mormonism Research Ministry, describes it as follows:
In recent years much has been said about same-sex marriages. Should any state succeed in allowing homosexual, same-sex marriages to become law, it is almost certain that polygamy will rush in on its heels. Should same-sex marriages become legal, there will be no moral high ground for the court to take. I can assure you that it will not be long before petitions come before our lawmakers demanding similar recognition for plural marriages.
Apparently I am not alone with this opinion. The late Mike Royko, columnist for the Chicago Tribune, expressed similar concerns in an article printed in the Salt Lake Tribune (12/15/96, pg.A5). Royko described a hypothetical situation in which he stated that all that would be necessary to get the polygamy campaign going is to have the media get behind it and start calling all those who disagree with the concept of multiple wives (husbands?) a bunch of mean-spirited “polyphobes.” I have to agree since this type of tactic has worked so well in the past. With such a strategy, it may be only a matter of time before your 1040 form has multiple lines for “spouses” as it does for dependents.
How will the LDS Church react should polygamy become legal? It is hard to tell. It will certainly have a difficult time denouncing it since Doctrine and Covenants section 132 still encourages polygamous relationships. This could very well become a nightmare for the LDS public relations department. Should the LDS Church decide to go back to its teachings of the nineteenth century, I am sure that many of those Mormon fundamentalists will feel they have been vindicated.
Utah’s growing tourism industry and the star-studded Sundance Film Festival are being targeted for a boycott by bloggers, gay rights activists and others seeking to punish the Mormon church for its aggressive promotion of California’s ban on gay marriage.
It could be a heavy price to pay. Tourism brings in $6 billion a year to Utah, with world-class skiing, a spectacular red rock country and the film festival founded by Robert Redford, among other popular tourist draws.
“At a fundamental level, the Utah Mormons crossed the line on this one,” said gay rights activist John Aravosis, an influential blogger in Washington, D.C.
“They just took marriage away from 20,000 couples and made their children bastards,” he said. “You don’t do that and get away with it.”
Salt Lake City is the world headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which counts about 62 percent of Utah residents as members.
The church encouraged its members to work to pass California’s Proposition 8 by volunteering their time and money for the campaign. Thousands of Mormons worked as grassroots volunteers and gave tens of millions of dollars to the campaign.
The ballot measure passed Tuesday. It amends the California Constitution to define marriage as a heterosexual act, overriding a state Supreme Court ruling that briefly gave same-sex couples the right to wed.
The backlash against the church — and by extension Utah — has been immediate. Protests erupted outside Mormon temples, Facebook groups formed telling people to boycott Utah, and Web sites such as mormonsstoleourrights.com began popping up, calling for an end to the church’s tax-exempt status.
Aravosis is the editor of the popular americablog.com, which has about 900,000 unique monthly visitors.
He is calling for skiers to choose any state but Utah and for Hollywood actors and directors to pull out of the Sundance Film Festival. Other bloggers and readers have responded to his call.
“There’s a movement afoot and large donors are involved who are very interested in organizing a campaign, because I do not believe in frivolous boycotts,” said Aravosis, who has helped organize boycotts against “Dr. Laura” Schlessinger’s television show, Microsoft and Ford over gay rights issues.
“The main focus is going to be going after the Utah brand,” he said. “At this point, honestly, we’re going to destroy the Utah brand. It is a hate state.”
Gay rights groups did not immediately weigh in on calls for a boycott. Jim Key, spokesman for the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, said he had heard little about such an effort.
“It’s not something that we have called for, but we do think it is important to send a message to the Mormon church,” Key said. He noted an effort run by the center to overturn Proposition 8 that sends a postcard to the Mormon church president with each contribution made.
The following is an opinion article:
Proposition 8 has passed, denying to some the right enjoyed by other citizens in California, the right to marry. Now, the central question for the courts to decide is: Are gays in California equal, or can members of certain churches declare them constitutionally inferior?
The approval of a constitutional ban on gay marriage raises troubling but age-old issues concerning the lines between religion and government. Before the founders of our country separated church and state, there were hundreds of years of turmoil caused by one religion dominating the government and using it against nonbelievers.
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s vote, do gays and lesbians in California have a reason to believe that they have been abused, discriminated against and relegated to a separate-but-equal status?
Yes, and that’s why this fight is far from over. There will be a challenge under the U.S. Constitution. In the 1960s, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California constitutional amendment that limited fair housing on the grounds that prejudice could not be put into a state Constitution.
No one can forecast the outcome of this next fight, but there is bound to be some fallout that may harm those religions that so vehemently insisted that their beliefs be placed in the California Constitution. All religions require tolerance to flourish, but in Proposition 8 some religious groups aimed at and wounded gay people in California.
The drafters of the U.S. Constitution had a brilliant, experienced view concerning the importance of drawing the lines to protect religion on the one hand and civil government on the other. They put those lines in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Today, those lines are very relevant.
Government may not attack religion. Californians who have religious beliefs concerning the proper scope of marriage may exercise those rights as they see fit. Churches have always been able to proceed as they wish concerning marriage ceremonies. There was no mandate to suppress religious beliefs. This should be obvious to everyone in California because of our tolerance of all religions.
That the supporters of Proposition 8 were motivated by religious beliefs cannot be denied. Now the religious beliefs of some Californians are in our Constitution and, until overturned, govern us all whether we like it or not.
The other branch of the First Amendment is equally important. The state may not establish a religion. The state may not take principles of religious belief from a religion, any religion, and establish it as the law applicable to all. This line establishing the double branch of protection of religion on the one hand and no establishment on the other was arrived at after hundreds of years of turmoil.
Historically, marriage was used as a method of oppressing a despised group. These lessons of history are relevant to reflect on today. In Ireland, for 150 years, the penal laws provided that no Protestant could marry a Catholic.
Much more recent in the United States were the rules against marriage between a black person and a white person. These were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1960s and the California Supreme Court in the 1940s. Using the civil marriage ceremony as a method of expressing governmental disdain toward a particular group is as old as the Sierra Nevada. It has been an assault on tolerance.
Finally, marriage is a fundamental right in constitutional analysis. There are very few things in life more important than the ability to choose one’s partner. Marriage is not just a word; it is a status, a state of mind, a way of being. Look in any direction and you will see examples of the people’s respect for the institution of marriage.
A large group of Californians has now been denied that fundamental institution. These folks are our neighbors, our friends, our colleagues and our relatives. The constitutional promise of this state is, as the California Supreme Court held, that they are equally protected in the enjoyment of rights by all Californians. But the voters have spoken.
Now it will be up to the courts to explain whether equality is real – or just an illusion. I would not wish to be the one to justify this vote to a gay woman going to Afghanistan in the military, to a gay police officer who risks everything so we may be safe or any of the other thousands of gays and lesbians in California who contribute so much to our culture, our advancement and our well being.
I cannot square this vote with my view that Californians are decent, accepting and tolerant. But I know that the gays and lesbians of California, like the oppressed Catholics of Ireland who lived under penal laws, will fight this visible, constitutional, embarrassing injustice until it is no more. And when that day comes, we will live in a better state.
James Brosnahan, author of the “Trial Handbook for California Lawyers,” is a senior partner at the Morrison & Foerster law firm in San Francisco.