Mormons recruit out-of-state for gay marriage ban
By JENNIFER DOBNER, Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
(10-08) 18:26 PDT Salt Lake City, CA (AP) —
Mormons living outside California have been asked to volunteer for a telephone campaign to help pass a ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage in the state.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is part of a coalition of conservative groups backing Proposition 8, which would amend California’s constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman.
Church elder L. Whitney Clayton said members may be asked to call friends and family at home in California before the Nov. 4 election to encourage support for the measure. The out-of-state phone campaign would be on an “if-needed” basis.
Clayton, a liaison between the church and the coalition, also says many students attending church-owned universities have asked how they might help and could be enlisted to make calls. There are three branches of the church-owned Brigham Young University — in Utah, Hawaii and Idaho.
“In California, the phone trees are up and running. We just want to be able to help and one of the things we can do is we can organize,” Clayton said in an interview Wednesday.
Clayton said a handful of calls were made Tuesday night as part of a test, but it’s up to the coalition to decide whether to ask to use an interstate phone network.
“We’ll sit back and see if the coalition calls us,” he said. “I don’t know how they make that decision.”
There are about 770,000 Mormon church members in California.
Mormons have been active participants in the campaign both as volunteers and financial contributors, giving an estimated 43 percent — some $8.4 million — to the Proposition 8 campaign, according to the Web site mormonsfor8.com.
“Things have gone terrifically well,” Clayton said. “People have gone to work and they’ve (dropped word?) so with real heartfelt devotion to the cause and I’m thrilled by that.”
Officially, the Mormon church is politically neutral and does not endorse individual candidates or political parties. The church does, however, weigh in on issues it considers morally important. The church holds traditional marriage as a sacred institution ordained by God and has actively fought efforts to legalize same-sex marriage across the United States since the 1990s.
Its involvement in the California same-sex marriage debate this year began with a letter from church President Thomas S. Monson asking California Mormons to give their time and money to pass Proposition 8. Monson’s letter has been read repeatedly in Mormon churches, and opponents of the forthcoming initiative have credited LDS members with giving the Yes on 8 camp an edge in donations and volunteers.
The church planned its appeal on Wednesday night with a satellite broadcast to church buildings in California and on the three Brigham Young campuses. Mormon leaders were scheduled to speak directly to members, with a particular focus being placed on reaching young married couples, single church members and those already active in the campaign, Clayton said.
Church leaders were to share a four-part message that touches on the doctrine of marriage and family central to Latter-day Saints beliefs; their position on the effects of gay marriage on society; the campaign’s needs in the coming weeks; and suggestions for getting involved.
“We also think it will be helpful to them to just be fortified in this last month,” he said. “It’s a political campaign, and time is short and there’s a lot to do.”
Besides Clayton, the broadcast was to include M. Russell Ballard and Quentin L. Cook, who are both members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, the church’s second-highest governing body.