Gay marriage supporters rally at Mormon church
Protesters object to LDS contributions to California's Proposition 8 campaign
Jen Beasley/The Gazette
About 25 people gathered outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Temple Visitor's Center in Kensington Saturday to take part in a national protest of a California constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying in the state.
Proposition 8, as it was numbered on the California ballot, trumped a previous ruling by the state's Supreme Court that ruled against a law prohibiting same-sex marriage, after an expensive advertising battle. The LDS Church mobilized members to donate an estimated $20 million to the pro-Proposition 8 movement and has been the recent target of protests by Proposition 8 opponents.
Linda Goldman, a guidance counselor and author of a book about sexual orientation and the inclusion of gay youth in society, said she came to the protest to show solidarity with her gay son, picketing across the country in California.
"People don't understand that this isn't about religious marriage, this is about allowing human beings in this country to have equal rights," Goldman said.
She said even she used to have "stereotypes about gay people being a certain way," and said the protest was a means of "educating the heterosexual world."
"You can't catch being gay," Goldman said, holding a sign that read "You don't have to be gay to believe in equal rights."
Dana Beyer, vice president of Equality Maryland, a group that provides support and advocacy for issues concerning the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community in the state, said the protest sent a message that "civil rights are not to be stripped out of the Constitution," and was pleased with the turnout. The Kensington demonstration was taking place in the shadows of similar events in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, and had no official organizer. More than 300 cities nationwide held Proposition 8 protests simultaneously on Saturday.
"This has all just been kids calling on their cell phones, on Facebook, getting the word out," Beyer said. "It's the first viral social revolution."
Debby Morris, a gay woman who has married her partner three times, once in a Wiccan religious ceremony in 1999, in the marriage demonstration at the Millennium March in 2000 and in Massachusetts in 2004, said they plan next to head to Connecticut which recently legalized same sex marriage.
"I don't think I've ever been so exhilarated after saying something as small as I do,' it was just awesome," Morris said.
Morris said she and her partner would "go state by state if we have to" in order to get around the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that says states do not have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
Morris, who frequently yelled sarcastically at passing cars, said Proposition 8 makes her a "second class citizen," and her demonstration in front of the LDS Temple was in reaction to the role of the church in financing Proposition 8 advertising.
"I don't force my religion on other people, don't force yours on me," Morris said.
But Nick Winward, an LDS Church member who came down from New Jersey to attend the temple, said he felt "harassed" by the protestors, some of whom held signs reading "Gay marriage is not against my religion, so what's your problem?" and "Mormon $ financing hate w/Calif. Prop 8."
"It's not something that's going to keep me from practicing my religion, but I think it's ironic that people would say their rights are being taken away while they're interfering with my right to my religion," Winward said.
Winward said he believes that "all politics is moral," and the LDS Church simply encouraged members to give time and money to a cause members believe in and the church as a body stands for. He also said Baptists, Catholics and other religious organizations were active in the effort to pass Proposition 8.
"I think what the people of California believe should be put upon the state of California, not what judges think," Winward said.
Church officials directed questions about the protests to an official statement released the day before by the First Presidency, the highest governing body in the church. The statement called same-sex marriage a "difficult and sensitive matter," condemned scattered acts of vandalism against churches, and encouraged "those who have honest disagreements on this issue to urge restraint upon the extreme actions of a few that are further polarizing our communities and urge them to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other."'
Beyer said churchgoers that came out to interact with the protestors were "friendly," offering water and umbrellas to picketers who ultimately went home after about two hours due to rain.
"This is not about individual people," Beyer said, complimenting the hospitality of the church members and saying there was no hostility toward them. "This is not about people, this is about policies."