Their Tithing Dollars at Work
A look at Mormon influence in America's gay political scene
By Jeff Ofstedahl
Oct. 10, 1997
PO Box 16630
Reprinted with permission
Part I Less-than-homophobic history of the Mormon church
Part II Present-day, politically-motivated actions
In the last issue of the Echo, we examined the mean-spirited, gay-baiting that occurred during the Arizona primary election cycle. According to Arizona Human Rights Fund (AHRF) analysts, one reason why anti-gay sentiment may run so high among state Republican leaders is the influence of the Mormon Church in the GOP. In this issue, the Echo takes a look at the less-than-homophobic history of the Mormon Church, and what role it plays in today's political battlefield for civil rights.
We've watched them on the House and Senate floors in Arizona quoting the
Bible in their "defense of marriage." They vehemently oppose increasing
penalties for hate crimes saying it gives gays and lesbians some strange
foothold in state statute. As leaders, they twist parliamentary procedure in
their undying quest for institutionalized homophobia. They are the Mormons of
the state legislature, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day
Looking at the religious make-up of the legislature, we find that,
though-according to the LDS information center in Mesa, AZ-only one percent
of the state's population self-identifies as LDS, 19 percent of our
legislators are Mormon. In the Republican majority caucus, LDS members
account for 27 percent of the body-many in key leadership positions.
According to the AHRF research council, no other group of legislators
identified by religious affiliation votes as consistently as a block as do
the LDS members. By comparing total votes on gay and AIDS issues, LDS members
received AHRF approval ratings only 10 percent of the time. Catholic
lawmakers, on the other hand, received 66 percent approval ratings, Baptists
44 percent, and those only identifying themselves as "Christian" were ranked
at 34 percent.
It seems ironic that a church whose founder advocated the idea of men
sleeping together would, some 150 years later, be working so tirelessly in
its quest against homosexuality to further its modern-day moral/political
Before we can examine today's anti-gay stance by LDS leadership, we must take
a look at the story of the Mormon Church in America. It is a history that,
according to author Michaelangelo Signorile, "paradoxically begins with the
church's one-time support for same-sex affection."
In admittedly over-simplified terms, Mormonism is the belief that a man,
Joseph Smith, after receiving a revelation from God in the early 1800s,
became a prophet for the Lord. With the Almighty's guidance, Smith translated
from golden plates the Book of Mormon which is revered by LDS members as
another testament of Jesus Christ-equal with the Bible.
Society's open condemnation for Mormonism coupled with Smith's assassination
in 1844 left the church in disarray. Despite protestations from Smith's first
wife Emma that the church's founder declared his son was to become the next
prophet for the church, Brigham Young declared himself the new prophet and
moved his followers to settle the Utah territory.
As we look at the history of Mormonism as it relates to homosexuality, it is
important to note that nowhere in the Book of Mormon does there exist a
condemnation of homosexuality. "There were no Latter Day revelations or
teachings that either condemned or validated same-gender sexual acts," D.
Michael Quinn wrote in his new book Same-sex Dynamics Among
Nineteenth-Century America-A Mormon Example.
It also is important to note that Mormon history has changed dramatically
since originally written by Smith. According to dissidents, the LDS
leadership deeply is committed to a program of blocking serious historical
inquiry. The survivability of the church, as with any, depends on the
accuracy of its teachings. Should contradicting evidence emerge that today's
Latter Day Saints have not stayed true to Smith's vision, credibility is lost
The extremism to which this history is protected is illustrated in two books,
The Gathering of Saints and The Mormon Murders. Some ten years ago, LDS
historian Mark Hoffman revealed old writings which contradicted the direction
the LDS church had traveled. One, for instance, said Joseph Smith's son was
to have become the next prophet, not Young. The contradiction became fuel for
several church bombings in Salt Lake City. Some of Hoffman's original
findings were authenticated. Subsequent papers produced, to satisfy the
world-wide lust for the writings (as well as their profitability) were later
proved to be forgeries.
A more recent example of the effort to protect church teachings is
illustrated by the Mormon's effort to block publication of Quinn's book. The
work, written by the LDS historian, sheds an interesting light on Mormon
history in its relation to homosexuality.
Quinn was a full professor at Brigham Young University in American history as
well as the director of the school's graduate program. To further emphasize
Quinn's credibility, he was considered the "Golden Boy" by LDS leadership,
and he was allowed access to church archives no one else could attain. Quinn,
a gay man who was excommunicated from the church for writing about women and
the priesthood in 1993, has raised several eyebrows considering today's
homo-intolerant stance by the church.
"Mormons at times were even more tolerant than other Americans of sexual
activities between persons of the same sex," Quinn wrote. "In almost every
instance, Mormon leaders who served in the 19th century were more tolerant of
homoerotic behaviors than they were of every other non-marital sexual
More scandalous is the historical revelation about church founder Joseph
Smith's dealings with homosexuality and his secret polygamous lifestyle.
It is documented that Smith more than tolerated the homosexuality of the
first known gay in Mormon history, John C. Bennett. As rumors grew
surrounding Smith's secret polygamous life and an alleged same-sex coupling,
the church had to do something.
On Oct. 5, 1840 the general conference (presided over by Smith and influenced
by Bennett) voted that no one could be judged guilty of a crime unless proven
by two or three witnesses.
"If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you," Quinn quotes
Smith from a sermon. "If you have no accuser you will enter heaven. If you
will not accuse me, I will not accuse you."
Then, in what is believed to be Smith's attempt to justify his polygamy in
accordance with Bennett's underlying agenda for the acceptance of adulterous
and homosexual relations, Smith said, "If you will throw a cloak of charity
over my sins, I will over yours-for charity covereth a multitude of sins.
What many people call sin is not sin."
Was Joseph Smith a bisexual? "You have to realize that Smith was a man of his
times," Quinn told the Echo in an interview. Same-sex emotional and physical
intimacy was just as much a part of the Mormon culture as it was the American
culture in the 19th century.
Six months after the general conference, Smith appointed Bennett-who was
known to be a bisexual-as assistant counselor to the First Presidency in
April of 1841.
One year later, the church newsletter, Wasp, even printed one apostle's
implication (Joseph Smith's brother) that Joseph Smith himself had engaged in
"an immoral act" with a man. Apostle Orson Pratt, clearly uncomfortable with
the proceedings at hand, exonerated Smith with a very read-between-the-lines
form of testimony.
Smith confronted Pratt: "Have you personally a knowledge of any immoral act
in me toward the female sex, or in any other way?"
Pratt replied: "Personally, toward the female sex, I have not."
There are teachings by Smith which substantiate his tolerance, if not
outright acceptance, of homosexuality. "Mormonism's founding prophet also
revised the common interpretation that God destroyed Sodom because its
inhabitants preferred sex between men," Quinn wrote. "According to Smith, God
destroyed Sodom 'for rejecting the prophets.'"
In fact, according to Quinn, homoerotic conduct was not among the sex-related
charges for which any Mormon was excommunicated between 1845 and Brigham
Young's death in 1877.
Interestingly in 1851, the 100 percent Mormon-controlled Utah territorial
legislature criminalized sodomy. Less than one year later, the legislature
decriminalized same-sex acts. The measures were signed into, and out of, law
by Young himself, who served as Utah's governor until 1858.
The significance of these legislative events come to light when examining a
dramatic sodomy rape case which occurred in 1864. A Mormon judge released the
accused because sodomy, as it was acknowledged by Young, was not illegal in
pioneer Mormon Utah. In fact, a sodomy law did not resurface in Utah until
"That legislative delay signifies Young's disinterest in criminalizing
homoerotic activities," Quinn surmises.
As the church grew, LDS financial investments branched out into every aspect
of life to support the expansion. A little known fact is that the church had
a long-term relationship with several of Salt Lake City's houses of
prostitution. According to Quinn's research, the Brigham Young Trust
Company's officers had "elected to let (lease) buildings to whores."
According to arrest records of that time, male prostitutes also worked in
these houses owned by the church. According to Quinn, a similar conflict of
business income and religious dogma occurred during that same time involved
the sale of alcohol at the church-owned resort, Saltair.
Little had changed at the turn of the 20th century. Not only was it socially
acceptable for Mormon men and women to walk arm-in-arm in public with those
of the same gender, it also was acceptable for two men or two women to dance
together at LDS Church socials. According to Quinn's book, it also "was
socially acceptable for Mormons to publicly and privately kiss those of their
same sex, and it was okay to acknowledge they dreamed of doing it."
Church publications even ran stories and poetry of same-gender love.
As taught by Smith, the martyred prophet himself, said it was acceptable for LDS "friends to lie down together, locked in the arms of love, to sleep and wake in each other's embrace."
Nineteenth century Mormonism approved and encouraged various levels of same
gender intimacy, which most Mormons experienced. It wasn't until 1952 when
Counselor to the First Presidency J. Reuben Clark first began to warn that
"homosexuals are today exercising great influence." His response is seen by
historians as a personal distaste for the openly-gay Patriarch of the Church
at the time, Joseph F. Smith.
After Clark's death, Quinn wrote, "it became LDS Church policy to encourage
homosexually-oriented men to marry and thus substitute a woman in place of
their primary sexual interests." Quinn noted that no one at the time
commented on "the effect on a Mormon woman's self-esteem to be a therapeutic
sex object in a marriage her husband had 'forced himself' to enter as a
During Clark's anti-gay proselytizing, Apostle Spencer W. Kimball, who later
became church President, also was espousing marriage as a principle deterrent
to homosexuality. He also began a life's work of "counseling" young men to
change them back to heterosexuality.
Interestingly, Quinn wrote that Kimball, despite his leanings to "cure"
homosexuality, "valued homoemotional expressions of love between males. He
even became known for hugging and kissing other males publicly, a practice
virtually unknown among more recent generations of Mormons."
The turning point for the condemnation of homosexuality in the Church came in
1958, after a series of highly-publicized arrests of men for "same-sex
crimes" in Salt Lake City. It was that year when Bruce R. McConkie, "though
he could find no early Mormon leader to quote against homosexuality or
homoerotic behaviors," Quinn wrote, endorsed the death penalty for same-sex
behavior in his published Mormon Doctrines.
McConkie's work immediately was condemned by the First Presidency as being
too severe and "full of errors and misstatements." McConkie was allowed to
revise the doctrines in which the death penalty for homosexuals was
withdrawn. First President David O. McKay, according to Same-Sex Dynamics,
acting on his own repulsion for homosexuality allowed McConkie's statements
that homosexuality was an "abomination" to remain.
McKay called homosexuality "worse than immorality; that it is a filthy and
Though Kimball later wrote, "The sin of homosexuality is equal to or greater
than that of fornication or adultery," the Mormon Church did not add
"homo-sexual acts" as grounds for excommunication until 1968. Lesbianism
didn't join the ranks of excommunicable male-to-male sex until around 1982.
Kimball's rise to the Presidency seemed to center on homosexuality and the
political dilemma he felt it presented the Church.
At what Quinn describes as a low point in Church history, Apostle Boyd K.
Packer in 1976 actually encouraged Mormon men to assault gays. "Someone had
to do it," Packer told the young men of the LDS Church. He also instructed
them to feel no regret for beating up any missionary who demonstrated a
Packer is now the "acting president" of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, the
Mormon Church's highest order short of the prophet. Packer's "Someone had to
do it" speech later was published and circulated throughout the LDS
membership which gave his views on gay bashing a level of importance near to
In our last issue, we discussed the not-so-homophobic history of the Mormon
Church. In this edition, we look at the present-day, politically-motivated
actions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and its strangely
anti-gay political agenda.
It is ironic that a church whose founder reportedly advocated and approved
of men sleeping together would, some 150 years later, work so tirelessly
against homosexuality to further its modern-day moral/political agenda.
In fact, few organizations throughout the world fight so vehemently to
institutionalize homophobia as does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day
According to Roger Leishman, a gay Mormon and director of gay and lesbian
rights issues for the Chicago chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU), "The LDS Church and its members are at the root, or near the root, of
nearly all anti-gay efforts in the United States." It does this even though
the teachings of the LDS Church specifically state: "We do not believe it
just to mingle religious influence with civil government." (Doctrines &
The leadership of the Mormon Church portrays its current stance on
homosexuality as consistent with its past, and its biblical history. As
outlined in the last issue of Echo, and as chronicled in detail by D. Michael
Quinn, LDS historian and author of Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth-Century
Americans-a Mormon Example, nothing could be further from the truth.
Not only were past church leaders more tolerant-if not outright
accepting-of lesbians and gay men, homosexuality is not even mentioned in the
Book of Mormon.
In a recent episode of 60 Minutes, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinkley
told Mike Wallace The Church had no political agenda. Apparently, among
Mormon leadership, lying is not a sin.
Perhaps the strongest evidence of The Church's political influence in
American politics today revolves around its position regarding sexual
orientation. But this is not unique.
In 1976, the Mormon Church took a leadership role in opposing the Equal
Rights Amendment. At that time, church President Spencer Kimball said LDS
leadership feared such an amendment would lead to the future expansion of
civil rights laws to include gays and lesbians.
It was that same year when LDS headquarters replaced "homo-sexual acts"
with "homosexuality" as grounds for excommunication. The change in policy
terrorized gay Mormons, because now they could be punished not just for
homosexual acts, but for just being gay.
More recently until his death, Rex Lee, the late president of Brigham Young
University in Provo, UT, and former solicitor general under President Ronald
Reagan, led the legal team that defended the State of Colorado in its fight
to sustain the anti-gay Amendment 2. Lee was BYU's president at the time.
"It is obvious that The Church leadership gave their blessing to Lee," said
Leishman. He charged LDS leadership controls BYU very closely, to the extent
of ensuring the results of many research projects will be "supportive of the
Additionally, Leishman charged that church leaders won't allow prominent
Democrats to speak on campus, because it might look as if The Church supports
"If they won't allow Democrats to speak, they certainly would not allow
[Lee] to defend a high-profile case without their approval," Leishman
recently said during a speech at a meeting of the Sunstone Foundation, a
think-tank of Mormon scholars.
Another example of Mormon influence in gay civil rights issues is The
Church's adamant opposition to homosexuals working for the Boy Scouts of
During a press conference in Hawaii as well as in a Deseret News -an
LDS-owned newspaper in Salt Lake City-press release, The Church stated it
does not oppose basic civil rights for gays and lesbians. However, during
testimony by LDS Elder Jack Goaslind at a Chicago court case, he said the
Mormon Church would pull out of the scouting program if it hired openly gay
people. The Mormon Church controls 25 percent of all Boy Scout troops in
Goaslind further testified The Church would not take the same action,
however, if the Boy Scouts hired a fornicator or adulterer, actions which,
unlike homosexuality, are specifically forbidden in the Book of Mormon.
Outside the realm of working with children, the LDS church suported Utah
Sen. Orin Hatch's fight to defeat this year's Employment Non-Discrimination
Act, which would have outlawed job discrimination based on sexual
Given these two examples, Leishman surmised, "The Church doesn't see equal
access to employment opportunity as a basic civil right."
One of the most significant achievements for Arizona lesbians and gays was
the passage this year of a hate-crimes sentencing bill, which included sexual
orientation. Apparently to secure support by key Republicans who had opposed
the bill, Gov. Fife Symington vetoed it.
LDS legislator Jeff Groscost probably echoed the feeling of the majority of
LDS legislators who had opposed the bill, when he told the Arizona Republic
he was glad Symington vetoed the bill. He then explained, "Once [lesbians and
gays] are recognized, they could go to the courts and say they should be
recognized in other sections of the law. To me this is the proverbial camel's
nose under the tent."
"The power of the words spoken from community leaders such as these can
only be understood fully by looking at their enactment in the form of hate
crimes which the bill sought to prevent," Dwight Cook, a gay Mormon
researcher, presented during a Sunstone Foundation seminar.
Not only do hate crimes continue to rise in Arizona, just a few days after
Groscost made his statement, a 42-year-old man was shot after leaving a gay
bar by three men yelling "faggot."
Though it is hard to imagine devoutly religious leaders in the community
would oppose legislation designed to end violent crimes based on hate, the
position taken by Groscost and others is somewhat understandable when
considering Mormon doctrine.
In 1976, Church Apostle Boyd K. Packer actually encouraged Mormons to
assault gay people.
"Someone had to do it," he said.
Packer is now the acting president of the Quorum of 12 Apostles. His
infamous "Someone had to do it" speech later was published and distributed
throughout the LDS membership. This gave his views on gay bashing a level of
importance near to scripture.
Mormon-condoned violence against gays aside, nothing could have been worse
than the bashing the gay community suffered over the issue of same-gender
Cook outlines the series of events which led to Arizona's redundant law to
ban same-sex marriage:
"The stage was set for the issue of same-sex marriage during the
gubernatorial campaign of 1994. Running against incumbent Symington was Eddie
Basha. Plagued by his growing financial scandal and a relatively unpopular
first term, Governor Fife Symington found gaining the upper hand over Basha
difficult, despite the Republican majority in the state. Symington's chance
came when Basha granted an interview with the Echo.
"Symington campaign aids secretly began circulating the interview in the
most conservative districts in and around Mesa (nicknamed "Little Salt Lake")
which quickly garnered the attention of the news media. Basha soon was
painted as a possible supporter of gay marriage."
Two things occured: 1) an announcement was made by the First Presidency
earlier that same year condemning same-sex unions, and 2) the LDS leadership,
via a press conference and written statements distributed to The Churches,
instructed all church members to do anything they could to fight the
recognition of same-sex unions.
"Given these two directives," Cook continued, "LDS Church members by the
thousands concluded that a blatantly dishonest governor was better than a
governor who might possibly be supportive of same-sex marriages." Symington
went on to beat Basha, and the gay marriage issue was given the credit by
many political analysts, he said.
Cook continued, "1996 found the Arizona Republican Party with similar
difficulties. Drained heavily by Symington's unpopularity and pending
indictment, Republicans needed a wedge issue. Hoping to repeat the apparent
success of Governor Symington's 1994 strategy, GOP leaders turned to the
issue of same-sex unions. To the surprise of many, the majority of
legislators recognized it for the redundant and mean-spirited act that it
was, and the first three attempts to pass it failed. Determined to find a way
to comply with the dictates of their religious leaders, LDS legislative
leaders and their right-wing allies found new ways to resurrect the issue,
but were defeated each time."
Through clear manipulation of legislative rules, a fourth attempt to
introduce a bill to ban same-gender unions was made. A new bill was brought
to the house floor. With the governor's urging, it eventually passed. LDS
legislators praised the act.
"Given the LDS influence in Arizona (27 percent of the GOP in the
legislature is LDS), it would have been a major embarrassment to The Church
had it not passed," Cook said.
In light of its own polygamous history, the LDS position regarding
same-gender unions is perhaps the most uniquely hypocritical of The Church's
current political posturing.
"The history of polygamy in America and the political reaction of Mormons
to same-sex marriages is a good parallel, because it is an exact parallel,"
When Americans learned of the polygamous marriages of the Mormon Church
during the 19th century, the public outcry was fast and furious. The US
government, religious leaders and newspapers proselytized that allowing a
small minority of polygamists to exist in Utah "would be the end of marriage
as we know it," Quinn said. "It would undermine the very fabric of marriage
as an institution." was the country's battle cry.
"This is ridiculous," Quinn said was The Church's response. "We're no
threat to your marriage," LDS leaders said, according to Quinn.
Historians say the Mormons were outraged at how the US political system
exploited the public's fear of the LDS multi-marriage practice. Mormons who
entered into polygamous marriages did so not only out of love, but they
believed these marriages were bound by the sacred covenant under the
authority of God. Additionally, an early Mormon doctrine-which has never been
denied by current church leadership-says God is polygamous. It goes on to say
polygamy will be present in the highest degrees of Heaven.
Regardless of the legitimacy Mormons placed on their polygamous marriages,
Congress passed in 1862 the first law that outlawed polygamy. The Mormons
defied it. "It doesn't matter what law Congress passes, we are following the
law of God," Quinn said was the official LDS response.
Ironically, unlike homosexuality, the Book of Mormon specifically prohibits
polygamy "when not ordained of God."
The Mormons first argued that as a religious institution, the federal
government couldn't regulate LDS practices. Their second argument said the
anti-polygamy act was a violation of First Amendment protections.
The issue didn't go before the US Supreme Court until 1879. At that time,
the court ruled the law was constitutional and that the government had an
obligation to enforce "Christian standards." The high court also ruled that
polygamy was "barbarous" and American society had a right to prohibit the
practice, therefore the freedom of religion argument was "meaningless."
Much like how gays describe their unions today, "this relationship to us is
sacred," Quinn said the Mormons argued in the late 1890s.
The LDS defiance of the court's ruling and the nation's laws nearly
destroyed The Church. Systematically, the federal government began to attack
Mormonism at its foundations.
The government stripped practicing polygamous Mormons of their citizenship.
It took away their right to vote. It denied these Mormons the right serve on
a jury. Utah was one of few territories where women had the right to vote.
The government put an end to that practice.
Consulates were ordered to deny American Mormon missionaries protection
oversees. An informal administrative policy denied Mormons the right to
immigrate to the US. Additionally, the courts in Utah began denying
naturalization to Mormon immigrants so they could not become citizens, and
thus could not vote.
At a more extreme level, the government disincorporated The Church and
began to confiscate all LDS properties, short of the temples.
When these measures failed to change church law, the Supreme Court ruled in
1890 it was constitutional to take away citizenship from all Mormons, not
just practicing polygamists. Then the government grew more hostile. It took
away the right for any Mormon to hold public office, as well as their right
The last straw for LDS leadership came in late August 1890, when the
federal government said it would confiscate the temples.
"It was very obvious that the federal government would do anything to force
compliance with the marriage laws," Quinn said. Upon that realization, the
president of The Church met with Republican leaders in San Francisco and
struck a deal. He then publicly announced he, and The Church, would obey the
laws of the land.
"The only way we can understand the hysteria toward polygamy is if we look
at the current day hysteria toward same-sex marriages," Quinn said. "The real
irony is in the Mormons themselves. Now they are making the same arguments
against gay marriages that 100 years ago the Mormons said were ridiculous:
that a small minority could damage the family practices of the majority,"
said Quinn. "And they do not want to admit the parallel."
In fact, the LDS Church's overt attempts to deny gays the civil right to
marry may have brought The Church in violation of non-profit tax laws,
charged Dr. A. Jay Stevens, a professor of political science at University of
California at Long Beach. The Mormon Church's direct involvement in the fight
to ban same-gender unions in Hawaii and California are just two specific
examples of how The Church may have violated nonprofit tax laws for political
Stevens charged Mormon Church leaders secretly lobbied the state
legislature to outlaw gay marriages by urging members to be vocal and write
letters to elected representatives.
"No representation of The Church is to be expressed or implied," said the
letter sent by The Church to specific church members in strategic districts
in California. The letter also was read aloud at church meetings, "We are
requested to write as individuals. The Church should not be mentioned."
Thus, The Church abused its religious, tax-exempt status through "secret
instructions" designed to "hide its obvious political goal," California
attorney Rick Fernandez alleged. [CORRECTION: At the time of this statement
Rick was a law student, not an attorney.]
Stevens further charged the political influence to lobby the California
Senate was authorized directly by the General Authorities of The Church.
More telling has been The Church's role in the effort to ban gay weddings
Hawaii Future Today (HFT) is the largest lobbying organization fighting the
legal recognition of same-gender unions in the Aloha State. The group was
founded by the Catholic and Mormon Churches. HFT is headed by John A. Hoag, a
prominent LDS leader.
Again, such as with Lee's involvement in the Colorado Amendment 2 case,
such a high profile leader in The Church would not take such a visible
political position without the blessing of church leaders.
Not only did the Mormon Church lobby elected officials in writing on LDS
letterhead, but professors from BYU-Hawaii submitted written testimony "with
considerable homophobic rhetoric and double-talk," said Hawaii activist Jim
Cartwright during a Sunstone presentation.
Cartwright further stated the Mormon Church "directly appealed to all
members in Hawaii to support specific bills. He also accused The Church of
financially founding and supporting HFT in order to lobby on a specific
In addition to lobbying support for the same-gender union ban, Cartwright
alleges LDS leaders and HFT helped raise more than $100,000 for a leading
anti-gay senator's campaign. Sen. Milton Holt was challenged by a more
gay-friendly Rep. Suzanne Chun-Oakland.
Keeping of the tradition of "politics makes for strange bedfellows," the
"pro-family values" Mormon Church supported a man who actually served time in
jail, while a senator, for physically abusing his wife, Cartwright said.
Today Holt and his wife are divorced, yet another sin in Mormon culture,
overlooked for The Church's anti-gay political agenda.
Additionally, newspapers reported Holt on several occasions violated the
state's "sunshine laws" in order to prevent equal rights for gays. "Hoag
clearly practices the principle that some ends justify whatever means are at
hand," Cartwright said.
Despite the efforts, Holt lost his September primary race by 20 percentage
According to studies by the research council of the Arizona Human Rights
Fund, there are three main religious groups that lobby the legislature; the
LDS Church membership, the Catholic Conference and right wing Christians,
including the Christian Coalition and Concerned Women for America. Of these
groups, the Catholic Conference and Conservative Christians are the most
visible in the media, but the LDS Church is considered by most to be the most
powerful and effective, Cook stated based upon interviews of state
Even though these other groups have been as vocal as, if not more vocal
than, the LDS Church on the issue of same-sex marriage, they are not nearly
as effective in controlling the vote of their legislative members.
According to Cook, "There is not nearly the same level of pressure among
peers to vote the same way, and there is not nearly the same pressure from
constituents of the same religion to vote in a particular way.
"Monsignor Ryle, head of the Arizona Catholic Conference visited many, if
not all, of the Catholic legislators individually in an effort to persuade
them to vote for the ban on same-sex marriage," Cook explained. "Yet, seven
of the 20 Catholics voted against it, while all 17 of the LDS legislators
voted in favor of it."
There are few, if any, other religions in America where there is more
emphasis on obedience. For Mormons, faith is shown and salvation is earned
through obedience to the leaders of The Church.
As Steve Benson, Arizona Republic editorial cartoonist, former Mormon and
grandson to the late Prophet Ezra Taft Benson, described the Mormon
experience, "It's pray, pay and obey."
Though religiously opposed in doctrine, the developing relationship between
the Christian Coalition, the Catholic Church and the Mormon Church has
created yet another strange set of political bedfellows. It appears the one
issue upon which otherwise acrimonious religions can agree, is gay bashing
for financial and political gain. This collaborative tactic backfired,
however, for religious right-wingers advocating the anti-gay ballot
initiatives in 1994.
Using Idaho as an example, the anti-gay ballot drive looked like it was
going to be a slam-dunk for religious conservatives. One of the key elements
of fostering widespread anti-gay sentiment in the state was the use of the
two videos The Gay Agenda and Gay Rights-Special Rights.
The videos were produced and distributed by The Landcaster Group, a
far-right Christian organization based in Orange County, CA. The organization
works in conjunction with the father of anti-gay initiatives, Rev. Lou
Sheldon. As it turns out, the same religious/political group several years
earlier produced an extremely hostile and erroneous anti-Mormon video called
The God Makers.
Because of the use of the anti-gay videos, which National Gay and Lesbian
Task Force spokesman Robert Bray called "horrible and destructive anti-gay
propaganda," polls showed voters overwhelmingly were going to pass the
measure. The anti-gay coalition even bought television air time to show the
"What the group forgot was that at the end of the video, it talks about the
other video, The God Makers, and the 'threat of the Mormon Church'," Bray
said. Suddenly, the Mormon community in Idaho saw that the same people who
were behind the gay bashing were the ones behind the Mormon bashing.
"When that happened, there was this uproar from not only the Mormon
community but other ecumenical groups, and it resulted in an incredible
backlash against the organizers of the anti-gay measure," Bray explained.
In the end, it was the LDS swing vote which is credited for the defeat of
the anti-gay initiative in Idaho.
Leishman believes history shows the Mormon Church is "unethical and
inconsistent in its statements regarding its position on gay rights." He says
the current-day policies of the Latter-Day Saints is not in tune with The
"If Arizona LDS leadership fully understood their own history-as well as
the tremendous impact their statements and public policy have on gays and
lesbians-they would see LDS doctrine as suportive of civil rights for gays
and lesbians," Cook said. "As it is, most of them continue to support and
promote the institutionalized hatred that, 100 years ago, caused their own
ancestors tremendous pain and loss."
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