Mormon Church wins on gay marriage


Swayed by an alliance of the Mormon Church, evangelicals and Catholic bishops, voters decided yesterday to use two states' constitutions to ban marriage for gays and lesbians …

… even though, I'll interject, constitutions are normally intended to ensure the civil rights of minority groups.

California's Proposition 8 was the most intense gay-marriage battle ever -- and the most expensive ballot measure in any state this year. More than $70 million was spent on it. Exclamation point.

The Proposition 8 battle continues, though -- already there is talk of a lawsuit challenging the vote. In my High Country News take on how the battle involves many Westerners, I reported that Mormons had donated more than 30 percent of the total war chest for Prop 8. More recent estimates have the Mormons donating more than 75 percent. And the Daily Kos blog has uncovered an internal Mormon Church memo that shows Mormon leaders have quietly planned to ban gay marriage since the late 1990s.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, with a Mormon push, Proposition 102 writes the denial of civil rights into the Arizona Constitution.

The Mormon Church has paid a higher price than dollars, though. The battle split Mormons into camps for and against gay rights, as many stories report, here and here and here and here and here and here and here and … well, you get the idea.

The California vote is especially harmful to gays and lesbians (including many in Mormon families). The California Supreme Court ruled in May that a previous ban on gay marriage violated the California Constitution's guarantees of civil rights -- and that opened the door for a rush of gays and lesbians from many states getting married in California. Now, the marriage certificates of some 16,000 gay and lesbian couples are in "legal limbo," says the LA Times.

In the heart of Mormon country, Salt Lake City, where the church has its headquarters, a Salt Lake Tribune columnist says the battle "oozes irony."

An LA Times opinion says the Prop 8 campaign used deceptive ads to persuade voters. A Huffington Post columnist sketches out possible tactical mistakes by those battling against Prop 8.

It does seem clear the public is edging toward acceptance of gay marriage -- in California anyway, and in a couple of other states Back East that continue to allow it. When California voters passed their initial ban, in a 2000 Mormon push, it was a lopsided margin, with fewer than 40 percent supporting gay marriage. Yesterday, nearly 48 percent supported gay marriage. That's bitter progress.

Now most Western states have bans on gay marriage, either through legislature actions or ballot measures. Where the bans are written into state constitutions, it prevents state courts from tossing out the bans. It seems the only way gay marriage might be widely accepted is with a legal battle going to the U.S. Supreme Court. Expect that sometime in the near future.

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