The Mormon factor in marriage fight
The Mormon factor in marriage fight
by Dan Aiello
Ever since Proposition 8 passed last November, leaders involved with the No on 8 campaign have insisted they were unaware of the role of the Mormon Church in trying to eliminate same-sex marriage rights. No on 8 officials were also caught unaware until after campaign finance reports released last October showed that proponents of Prop 8 received a windfall of contributions from members of the Mormon Church.
But documents unearthed by the Bay Area Reporter show that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has had a consistent strategy to fight same-sex marriage that dates back more than two decades.
A not-so-secret history
Along with the 1997 LDS internal memo describing the Mormon's political same-sex marriage strategy for California and Hawaii, reported on by the B.A.R. late last year, the B.A.R. has discovered two 11-year-old documents authored by Utah State University professor Richley Crapo, Ph.D., which describe the genesis of the church's HLM (defined by Crapo as "Homosexual Lesbian Marriage") strategy.
While the Mormon leadership had no difficulty passing the nation's first state defense of marriage act in Utah in 1995, they found their earlier efforts in Hawaii more difficult, according to Crapo's document, "Chronology of Mormon/LDS Involvement In Same-Sex Marriage Politics."
Crapo's timeline begins in 1988 when the LDS, under then-President Gordon B. Hinckley, hired the marketing firm Hill and Knowlton to "monitor and promote the church's stance on gay issues in state legislatures and the U.S. Congress."
Crapo, who is straight and Mormon, explained that when three same-sex couples sued the state of Hawaii for the right to marry in December 1990, in a case known as Baehr v. Miike, the Mormons already had Hill and Knowlton on payroll for two years helping to develop the HLM strategy.
On May 5, 1993, the same day that the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in favor of the same-sex couples' right to marry, LDS Apostle Boyd K. Packer gave an address at a meeting of the All-Church Coordinating Council that called homosexuality one of the three major social problems that represent a danger to members, according to Crapo. Packer said the other two perceived "dangers" to the Mormon Church were "feminism and intellectuals," according to Will Carlson, Equality Utah's chief lobbyist.
Following the ruling, Hawaii's legislature became embroiled in competing measures, and the LDS leadership expanded the role of Hill and Knowlton, a firm known for legislative lobbying and consulting, before eventually changing to another firm, Edelman Worldwide, for its external public relations work.
Crapo also described how the LDS first reached out to Catholics at the genesis of its HLM strategy in Hawaii, inviting then-Honolulu Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo to vacation with Hinckley at the palatial LDS estate on the island. This was the beginning of a dialogue that eventually recruited the U.S. Catholic bishops to the LDS cause, according to Crapo, whose chronology calls into question the recent assertion by San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer that he invited the Mormons to become involved in the Yes on 8 fight.
In fact, the 1997 LDS memo from Elder Loren C. Dunn to M. Russell Ballard noted the church, under direction of LDS elder and political pollster Richard Wirthlin, polled California voters and determined that the Mormon Church didn't have the social stature necessary to win an initiative in the Golden State, but the Catholic Church did.
Catholic involvement has increased over the years. One East Coast Catholic university continues to provide facilities to house LDS attorneys who have worked as volunteers on amicus briefs for organizations opposing same-sex marriage, according to one LDS church member, who asked not to be named.
Next: Lots of 'volunteers'