If you hitched a ride east on Interstate 80 from Sacramento, California, crossed the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Great Salt desert, to Salt Lake City, you would be following a rich anti-gay money trail that ends at the Mormon Church's doorstep.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons) is an often misunderstood religious minority (2%) in California, but figures out this week show the 13-million member church is having a huge impact on gay marriage in the State. Mormon members 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.

Frank Schubert, campaign manager for Yes on 8, the primary backer of the gay marriage ban, told the Wall Street Journal that since June, Mormon members have contributed more than a third of the $15.4 million raised by ProtectMarriage.com.

Still, the Mormon attempt to foist their beliefs on Californians might just fail.

Despite the huge anti-gay bankroll, support for the gay marriage ban has fallen since July. A new report from The Field Poll released Thursday shows dwindling support for Proposition 8. The poll found a majority of likely voters (55%) against the amendment, with only 38% saying they would vote for it. The number of Proposition 8 supporters has fallen four percentage points since July's survey, while gay marriage proponents have increased four percent in the same time period. The number of undecided (7%) voters has remained unchanged.

Democrats favor gay marriage the most, with nearly seventy-five percent backing the idea that gay couples should have the right to marry; Republicans hold a nearly inverse view. Only twenty-seven percent of Republicans support gay marriage.

A majority of Protestants polled (52%) oppose gay marriage. That runs contrary to the views expressed by California's six most senior Protestant bishops, who released a gay-affirming statement last week saying marriage would enhance the “Christian values” of monogamy, love and commitment for gay and lesbian couples.

The reverse appears to hold true for Catholics, whose spiritual leader, Pope Benedict, has often condemned homosexuality while rallying against gay marriage.

“The union of love, based on matrimony between a man and a woman, which makes up the family, represents a good for all society that can not be substituted by, confused with, or compared to other types of unions,” Benedict said a day after the California Supreme Court overruled a 2000 voter-approved gay marriage ban.

The poll reveals a majority of Catholics (55%) back gay marriage.

For cash-strapped gay marriage proponents, it's good news ... so far. The huge money advantage gay marriage opponents hold raises fears of an expensive, last ditch advertising blitzkrieg against gay marriage in California resulting in the elimination of gay couples' newly found marriage rights.

Bold high-profile Californians are entering the political fray to voice their support for gay marriage. “I urge Californians to oppose Proposition 8,” Senator Diane Feinstein said in a statement. And Hollywood actor Brad Pitt gave $100,000 towards gay marriage equality.

“Because no one has the right to deny another their life even though they disagree with it, because everyone has the right to live the life they so desire if it doesn't harm another, and because discrimination has no place in America, my vote will be for equality and against Proposition 8,” Pitt said in a statement.

Both campaigns in California have announced plans to spend approximately $20 million on the issue. Imagine the homeless woman, hungry man, or orphaned child that money might have spared – wasted on a self-serving attempt to deny basic rights to Americans.

But does it surprise? Not when you read homophobic headlines about gay men being called “faggots” and “cocksuckers” by Louisville, Kentucky McDonald's workers as they order a Big Mac and fries. Or about a sixteen-year-old boy severely beaten by another over rumors he was gay in small-town Tribune, Kansas (population 800). Not at all surprising.

And it was our own Gay Entertainment Report that brought me news of the debut of the gay film festival favorite Holding Trevor on cable channel here! Friday October 3rd.

The Gay Slant pops in most Saturdays at On Top Magazine. Walter Weeks is a writer for On Top and can be reached at ww@ontopmag.com.