A little understood, often secretive
religious minority in California is having a huge impact on gay
marriage in the State. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons) have contributed between 35-and-40%
of the money raised to support Proposition 8 – the constitutional
amendment that seeks to ban gay marriage in the State.
Since June, Mormon members have
contributed more than a third of the $15.4 million raised by
ProtectMarriage.com – Yes on 8, the primary backer of the gay
marriage ban, Frank Schubert the group's campaign manager told the
Wall Street Journal.
Top Mormon leaders, known as the First
Presidency, sent out a letter in June to be read at all California
congregations asking members to “do all you can” to support the
gay marriage ban.
“The church's teachings and position
on this moral issue are unequivocal. Marriage between a man and a
woman is ordained by God,” Mormon leaders said. The leaders also
urged members to donate their “means and time” in support of the
gay marriage ban.
Mormons make up only about two percent
of California's population.
The California Supreme Court ruled in
May that gay couples have the constitutional right to marry,
overturning a 2000 voter-approved gay marriage ban. And on June
15th, the State started offering gender neutral marriage
licenses. Since then several thousand gay couples have married.
But Proposition 8 aims to
constitutionally forbid gay marriage and would invalidate the
thousands of gay marriages that have already taken place.
Similar anti-gay initiatives will greet
voters in Florida and Arizona this fall, but religious leaders,
particularly evangelical Christians, see California as a crucial
battleground. California is the nation's most populous state and
holds a high degree of influence over the rest of the country.
Mormon leaders say gay marriage is
incompatible with Mormon theology. According to church doctrine,
Mormons must be married to achieve “exaltation” – the ultimate
state in the afterlife – where they retain their gender and give
birth to spirit children.
“This all explains the Mormon
difficulty with homosexuality,” said Terryl Givens, a professor of
literature and religion at the University of Richmond.
Mormons believe homosexuality is a
moral issue. While the 13-million member church has issued a
statement saying that being gay is not a sin, non-celibate gays and
lesbians face possible excommunication if exposed.
Bruce Bastian is a former Mormon and
graduate from Mormon supported Brigham Young University. After the
Mormon Church's call for support on Proposition 8, openly gay Bastian
donated $1 million of his own money to fight the proposed gay
Bastian, the co-founder of Wordperfect
Corporation, has “always been quiet about his [GLBT] giving,”
Michael Marriott, Executive Director of the B.W. Bastian Foundation,
told On Top Magazine.
That certainly has
not been the case with his recent donation in defense of gay marriage
rights in California. Marriott says that's because the Mormon Church
has been so outspoken on the issue.
“That made him
really mad,” Marriott said.
Several years after
coming out, Bastian left the church over various church doctrines
opposing gays and lesbians. Now, with his four children grown,
Bastian has become increasingly vocal in his support for gay and
In a rare interview
with the local Salt Lake City ABC affiliate, Bastian was asked if he
believed the Mormon Church should change its stance against gays and
lesbians. “I don't think anything I say or do will ever change
that. It's my opinion and they are where they are because that's
what they believe. But, yeah, I personally believe it's wrong,”