Mormons Divided On Same-Sex Marriage Issue California's Proposition 8 would overturn gay couples' recently granted right to marry. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asked congregations to work to pass the measure. Some Mormons are troubled by the church's prominent role in a political fight.
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Mormons Divided On Same-Sex Marriage Issue

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Mormons Divided On Same-Sex Marriage Issue

Mormons Divided On Same-Sex Marriage Issue

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This is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.


I'm Alex Chadwick. Here in California, a lot of Mormons have gotten into the big-money political fight over gay marriage.

BRAND: They are major backers of Proposition 8. That's a ballot initiative that would eliminate the right to get married for same-sex couples. But that's causing some tensions in the Mormon community, as NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: Rick Jacobs is a civil rights activist who fears same-sex couples will lose the right they just won to be legally married. That's why Jacobs decided to hand-carry a petition filled with nearly 17,000 signatures to the Mormon temple in Los Angeles. It urges the head of the Mormon church to stop funding and supporting Proposition 8. But when Jacobs reached the temple and tried to hand over his petition, a Mormon elder said, no thanks.

Mr. RICK JACOBS (Mormon Civil-rights Activist): We're trying to give this to the church. This is not a political issue. It's a church issue.

Unidentified Mormon elder: Actually, this is a moral issue. And the church is not a part of this - the church is part of the coalition, and you need to direct this to the coalition.

GRIGSBY BATES: The coalition the elder referred to is Protect Marriage. Down the street from the temple, we met one of its members, a woman named Mel (ph). She wouldn't give her last name, but she did tell us, she's not trying to destroy gay people's rights. She's just trying to preserve hers.

Ms. MEL: I'm fighting for what I believe to be true, and they are fighting for what they believe they do not have. I'm fighting for a belief that I do have.

GRIGSBY BATES: Mel is Mormon, or LDS. That's shorthand for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Mel believes the family unit is based on a man and a woman and so does her church. That's why the LDS contributed over 45 percent of the total financial support for Prop. 8, which would reinstate California's ban on gay marriage. Laura Compton says the church's position was very clear in a letter sent to congregants last June from the church's highest circles.

Ms. LAURA COMPTON: That letter said, please go and do everything that you can. The church is going to be supporting Proposition 8, and we want all the members to do everything that they can to support the proposition.

GRIGSBY BATES: But Compton doesn't support Prop. 8. In fact, she manages a website called Mormons for Marriage, which says marriage is, quote, "a wonderful and a sacred thing" that should be available to, quote "all of God's children, regardless of their gender."

Ms. COMPTON: People are afraid of church discipline. And so, as a result, there aren't a lot of us who are willing to step up and talk about it. I'm by far not the only one. There are a lot of people involved.

GRIGSBY BATES: Despite the possibility of retribution, some life-long Mormons have refused to support Prop. 8. Lee Oldham and his wife, Carol, are retired schoolteachers who live in the L.A. suburbs. They have been devoted church members for more than six decades, but Lee was repulsed by a video presentation three of the church's highest-ranking elders sent to local churches. He felt it intentionally misrepresented what would happen if same-sex marriage remains legal.

Mr. LEE OLDHAM: I just thought it was way below them, considering their position in the church.

GRIGSBY BATES: So, he stopped going to church until the election is over. Carol still attends and wears a small pin with a gay pride rainbow.

Ms. CAROL OLDHAM: Just so that someone who might be gay knows there's someone who cares about gay people. It's not out of rebelliousness or - it's just out of love.

GRIGSBY BATES: Lee Oldham says they're both deeply pained that they're at odds with their church.

Mr. OLDHAM: It's a beautiful organization, and I just have been thrilled with it over the years. I just am kind of sad that, you know, we're on opposite sides of the pole on this issue.

GRIGSBY BATES: The next challenge may be whether the church can unite after election day, whether Prop. 8 passes or fails. Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

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