Equality Utah, the state's largest gay rights advocacy group, announced plans on Monday to call on leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) to back planned civil rights legislation for gays and lesbians in the state.

The gay rights group enlisted the support of two openly gay Utah legislators to introduce five bills into the state Legislature in January 2009 when legislators reconvene.

The Mormon Church remains under attack by gay rights activists who say their meddling – and overwhelming financial support – in California politics tipped approval of Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that revoked the right of gays and lesbians to marry by amending the California constitution.

Tuesday's passage of the gay marriage ban angered thousands to protest in the streets of San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and even Salt Lake City, home of the Mormons. Many protests in Los Angeles, Oakland and Salt Lake City were directed at Mormon involvement.

Equality Utah, however, sees in the gay marriage ban rhetoric used by Mormon leaders in California an opportunity to advance gay rights in the state.

“Throughout the campaign, while the LDS Church stated its support for Proposition 8, it also made repeated comments that the Church 'does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights',” said Equality Utah Board Chairwoman Stephanie Pappas in announcing the gay legislation effort. “Just last week, Elder L. Whitney Clayton stated the LDS Church does not oppose 'civil unions or domestic partnerships'.”

“We are taking the LDS Church at its word regarding these basic protections and we hope to gain their support as we work to secure these rights and responsibilities.”

Openly gay Utah Senator Scott McCoy and Representative Christine Johnson announced they will introduce five legislative bills in January that closely straddle the pro-gay positions expressed by the church during the June-to-November Prop 8 campaign. Three bills would bring greater equality to gays and lesbians in the areas of hospitalization, medical care, housing, employment and probate rights.

And a pair of bills would create a domestic partner registry for gay and lesbian couples by repealing a part of Utah's constitutional marriage amendment. The group said they had no plans to pursue gay marriage, which Mormon leaders say they cannot abide.

Supporters of the plan called on the Mormon Church's blessing, saying it would “bridge the divide between the gay community and the LDS community.” They asked that the church help secure passage of these rights for gay Utahans with the same commitment and energy used in supporting the gay marriage ban in California.

“We need to come back down and we need to think, 'OK, now that we are where we are, what is the way we move forward?'” Senator McCoy said. “And the way that we move forward is to channel that energy and that anger and that disappointment into constructive channels.”

The Mormon Church has not issued a comment.