Mormon church leaders meet with same sex marriage opponents in Washington state

Less than 24 hours after personally filing Referendum 74 with the Washington state attorney general’s office, Joseph Backholm of the Family Policy Institute of Washington and John Paulton of Focus on the Family met with “Mormon Church Leaders” in Washington.  A staffer at the Family Policy Institute initially disclosed the meeting by phone, the meeting was later confirmed directly by Joseph Backholm.

The Family Policy Institute of Washington is a Washington state-based group that advocates for maintaining the legal definition of marriage as between “one man and one woman”.  Focus on the Family is national organization that also opposes same sex marriage.  Both groups are part of a coalition called “Preserve Marriage Washington” that submitted the referendum.

It is unknown what was discussed or agreed to at the meeting, or which church leaders attended.  During proposition 8, members of the church were encouraged to donate time and money to support the proposition, which won at the voting polls but has been struck down by the courts (currently under appeal).

A new facebook page has been created for Mormons in Washington state who support marriage equality:

20 Comments on “Mormon church leaders meet with same sex marriage opponents in Washington state

  1. I’m excited to witness this level of transparency, involvement, and interest in the Washington Referendum. Scott, do you have a few more details for us- perhaps links for Focus on the Family & the Family Policy Institute, the date Referendum 74 was filed, and where the signature list is housed?

    Also, I would encourage others following this story to feed Scott information. What is FotF & FPI’s strategic approach to obtaining the needed signatures? What LDS leaders or groups are involved in the effort? How are church buildings, pulpits, and leadership being used to oppose or affirm same-sex marriage in Washington? What other groups or churches (e.g. Catholic-led coalitions) are participating? Where is the money coming from?

    Reed Cowan collected a lot of information and conducted interviews during the Prop 8 drama that led to the creation of a documentary of the LDS church’s involvement in opposing marriage equality in the state that houses about 1/9th of the US population. I hope to see coverage and evidence of the same subject in Washington state.

  2. Thanks Brad. Here are links to the groups involved:

    Family Policy Institute of Washington:
    Focus on the Family:

    Here is information from on the signature process:

    “R-74 has been sent to the state Attorney General’s Office for preparation of a ballot title, 30-word concise description, a 75-word-limit ballot summary and a question that clearly defines the intent of the voter.
    The attorneys will have five days to produce these. After that, anyone not satisfied with the ballot title and summary has five days to seek review by the Thurston County Superior Court, which is required to “expeditiously” handle any challenges and render a decision within five days. The decision of the court is final.
    It’s likely to be early March before R-74 sponsors can print and circulate petitions. Their deadline for turning in valid signatures is June 6. The submission of signatures suspends the law from taking effect until after signature verification and, if qualified with enough valid signatures, until the election is conducted this fall and certified by Dec. 6.”

  3. I am sure the people at Focus on the Family and the Family Policy Institute are eager to have the LDS community involved. Whoever leads out against gay marriage is going to bear the brunt of the negative press and resentment from the general population. Thats why President Hinckley said we should be involved in the background on this issue but never out in the forefront. If we get involved now, there will be lots of press about how the Mormons are doing it again, and no one will focus their criticism on FotF or FPI.

  4. I assume the sponsors will get a great number of signatures out of Spokane. It’s the most populous area in eastern WA.

    It’s worth looking at how the votes went down statewide for R-71 three years ago: Basically, everything east of the Cascades goes red, often by significant margins. Seattle goes blue by a significant margin. Some other counties in the Puget Sound are significantly blue, but many are closer to the 50/50 line. Those are the places that will need to be targeted — Tacoma (Pierce county) especially, IMO.

  5. This is very troubling. Once again, the church is politizing and using funds that could better go to feed the hungry and clothe the poor. You can’t say “vote your concience” from the pulpit and then instruct membership how they feel those votes should be cast. These are the exact same arguments that were used during the civil rights era, simply recycled for another issue. I really caution the membership to truly search their feelings, intelligently and with an open mind explore the arguments and finally to go to their god for an answer. The church leadership once encouraged the membership to vote against civil rights legislation…and I really fear this is another social issue using doctorine to dictate how non Mormons should live their lives. Remember that there are many religions that DO endorse same sex marriage, such as the Episcopal, Society of Friends (Quakers), reformed Jewish sects, branches of Lutheranism, and many Congregational churches. Isn’t same sex marriage a religious right for those on that side as well? Keep Separate civil and institutional marriage, and don’t deny civil legal benefits just because you’re afraid it could nebulously effect your religious right. That’s what good legislation is all about, trial and error and crafting and rewriting to get the kinks out. You don’t just not allow something to pass because you’re afraid of abuses of power. If this were the case, our very constitution would never have been passed.

  6. I, for one, will do my due dilligence to discover where any of my spending is benefiting the Mormons, Focus on the Family and any other bigotted organization and I will now be boycotting them. I am not Mormon (or Catholic or a Quaker…) and I’m sick and tired of them trying to legislate their narrow mindedness on me. Religion has no place in my secular government.

  7. Rebeckah,

    I *am* a Mormon and I agree with you on this topic. Many Mormons feel that our leadership has spoken out of “both sides of the mouth” on this issue in particular. Our history is riddled with leaders expressing that the civil’s law’s job is to convict for crimes but not to impede the freedom of the soul and that the civil law should have to recognize marriages however constructed. Ask any Mormon, and they will tell you that we believe in equal standing before the law…. before they figure out that we aren’t currently doing that.

    It is a difficult topic that has caused, per the Mormon historian’s account, the largest defection from church activity since the fall of the Kirtland, OH settlement (pursuant to the fall of the non-bank).

  8. No surprise, rather, the terribly negative spin all of the SSM proponents are putting on the Church for simply standing up for what the majority of human beings have held to be true for centuries. Jerremy, you know as well as anyone why the Church takes such a strong stance on marriage. Don’t be fooled, it’s not the Church who is on the wrong side of the battle front no more than it is the members of the Church who threaten others who may disagree with them or label them as bigots for taking an opposing view on such a controversial topic. It was not members of the Church who sent hate mail and vandalized private property because they didn’t get their way in a court of law or on a legal ballot of the people. No, the deal with things in a legal manner, work with those who share their views in a non-violent non aggressive manner. Look closely indeed at what happened in California to members of the Church around the time of Prop 8. I propose that Reed Cowan would never dream of “documenting” this side of the story. That side of the story always gets let out from such “open minded” individuals. In short, many may claim that members of the Church are unfair and narrow minded their stance while it is the very same people who have no tolerance for anyone who has a difference of opinion; they are the ones who are out “lynching” and hating. Nevertheless, Christ Himself said it best,”If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” Label us what you will, but truth will out in the end.

  9. Paul –

    It is shameful that individuals in any community threaten, harass, vandalize or harm other people or other people’s property at any time. These shameful acts – and worse – were performed by people on both sides of the marriage equality debate in 2008. You would be hard-pressed to find members of this particular community who took the time out of their busy schedules to throw rocks or beat people up or even send harassing emails or letters. We were busy doing other things, as we peacefully protested, including:

    In Los Angeles, a community member called the temple president and offered to pay cleanup costs after post-election marches around the temple grounds, and was told the damage was minimal (less than a couple of hundred dollars) and no reimbursement was necessary. Furthermore, the temple recorder, in speaking to a stake conference just a few days after the protest marches back in 2008, told attendees that the thousands of protesters in attendance were loud and upset, but not creating harm or havoc. The physical violence captured on news video was actually of Mormon church members threatening some lesbian protesters.

    In Oakland, community members attending the protest rallies there ensured that the protest area was left clean once the rally was over.

    It is possible to respectfully disagree without resorting to violence or threats of violence (or even scare quotes).

    You may also not be aware that there was a court case recently completed where leaders petitioned to change California’s election contribution reporting laws because of perceived harassment by Prop 8 opponents. In October 2011 U.S. District Judge Morris England decided in favor of keeping election reporting laws unchanged because the vast majority of the incidents described in the evidence in that case – about 58 anonymous affidavits “do not necessarily rise to the level of ‘harassment’ or ‘reprisals'” and are arguably “typical of any controversial campaign.” [Order at 34].

    In looking at the evidence more closely, the court found:
    – a lot of the evidence was hearsay
    – it included duplicate media reports which created a false impression that there were more incidents of harassment than actually occurred
    – there were relatively few incidents, compared to California’s population as a whole
    – law enforcement was diligent in responding to the handful of serious incidents
    – there was no proof that some of the worst events were definitely connected to Prop 8

  10. -Laura

    I think that you’re missing the big picture. Your tone is one of civility and peaceful means to spreading ones opposing opinions; I wish this were the sentiment across the board.

    On that note I will agree that peaceful protestors have their place. Such could march outside my home if they wanted to; I would most likely shake their hands, hear their opinions, offer them some water and, if necessary, agree to disagree.

    Furthermore, when media duplicates and resolved issues are brought forth for redundant restitution, I would agree with the courts in ruling that there is no need for such appeasement.

    However, not all of those protests were indeed “peaceful” (see a brief list of facts below).

    Moreover, part of the court’s reasoning for such a ruling which you cited contains evidence within itself for what I speak. Ironically, Courts (perhaps especially in California) have proven to be agenda ridden and agenda driven and they seem to only want to play by the rules when it is convenient for their agenda. Their rulings, in the end, would carry little evidence in convincing a reasonable individual of what is factual.

    Fact: Property of the Church as well as personal property of Church members were targeted and vandalized (not only within California, but around the United States). 7 buildings in Utah and 10 within the Sacramento area alone were vandalized. Such vandalism included graffiti and the shattering of meeting house doors.

    Fact: several instances of hate-filled and/or threatening mail directed toward proponents of traditional marriage occurred. Death threats serious enough to warrant police action were issued against Fresno Mayor, Alan Autry and Cornerstone Pastor Jim Franklin. Moreover, increased threats against prominent leaders of the LDS faith continue to this day.

    Fact: several religious organizations united to defend proposition 8, but the LDS Church became the primary (and in many instances the singular) target for the opposing side’s animosity.

    Fact: In November of 2008 the USPS delivered envelopes containing white powder to LDS temples in LA as well as Salt Lake City (an additional letter was delivered to the Knights of Columbus headquarters in New Haven).

    Fact: the hatred demonstrated here has only continued to manifest itself throughout the nation against several individuals to speak out for traditional marriage. Such is evident in the cases of the numerous men and women who have been forced out of work and homes for standing up for their Christian values.

    Admittedly, it would be true, that there are those who profess to be members of the Church and yet still practice hatred against people of differing values or beliefs. This is also very sad. But, the vast majority of those active in their faith realize that we still need to be respectful, courteous and understanding of others even when we disagree. Contrary to what others may believe, it is not in the Churches doctrine to teach hatred against any human being. Nevertheless, given the history of what occurred then and the article presented here, I would not be surprised (albeit very disappointed) to discover that after all of the voices within the courts’ halls have faded, after all of the legal arguments have vanished and all of the rules are set in immutable stone – regardless of which side the court rulings lay – the vast majority of the coals still burning are those which spark active hatred against the Church and its members.

    In short, many would wish the Church to be silenced on these issues and would construe their interpretation of the constitution to make others believe that moral values have no grounds in civil law. They would rather the Church be involved in helping hurricane victims than standing for truth. Our very Founding Fathers prayed and sought guidance from God on all issues.

    Elder Oaks sums up this dilemma well. “During my lifetime I have seen a significant deterioration in the respect accorded to religion in our public life, and I believe that the vitality of religious freedom is in danger of being weakened accordingly,” Oaks said. “Atheists and others would intimidate persons with religious-based points of view from influencing or making the laws of their state or nation.”

    As Elder Oaks continues, “people of faith have been intimidated for simply exercising their democratic rights…. These are not actions that are worthy of the democratic ideals of our nation. The end of a free and fair election should not be the beginning of a hostile response in America.”

  11. Violence is awful no matter who commits the crime. A young gay man, Mathew Sheppard was brutally bludgeoned to death and then left to die hanging on a fence in Wyoming. One of his attackers was a Mormon priesthood holder. Elder oaks failed to recognize that is not only “people of faith [that] have been intimidated for simply exercising their democratic rights….”

  12. Paul said, “I think you’re missing the big picture”.

    Actually Paul, Church members who claim harassment and intimidation are the ones who are missing the big picture. All of this so-called intimidation, harassment and violence combined, whether real, exaggerration or heresay, can’t even begin to compare to the violence of a single gay Mormon young adult who attempts or succeeds in taking his or her own life rather than face the rejection of their Mormon family and the Church they love. And that has occurred many, many times over.

    In spite of Paul’s assertion that, “truth will win out in the end,” here is the big picture: Being gay or lesbian is not going to go away, just because the Church thinks they can make it go away. It’s not a temporary social phenomenon like hippies, rap music or tattoos. Some percentage of all populations through history have always been and will continue to be gay; Mormon parents will continue to give birth to gay children.

    And just like the Church now tries to sweep under the rug the “prophecies” that Polygamy will always be practiced or that Blacks will never receive the Priesthood in this life, there will come a time when the Church will be ashamed of its hateful stance toward LGBT members and non-members. And until that time, the rejection that our gay family members experience, will continue to result in the violent loss of these souls.

  13. Paul wrote: Don’t be fooled, it’s not the Church who is on the wrong side of the battle front no more than it is the members of the Church who threaten others who may disagree with them or label them as bigots for taking an opposing view on such a controversial topic.

    I call you out here and now as a liar. I had a rather hulking LDS teen come to my home and threaten me with grievous bodily harm if I failed to remove my “No on Prop 8” sign from MY OWN LAWN. I sent him away with an earful about the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.

    Your church does not dictate civil law. Period. If you’re unclear, re-read the establishment clause. Many churches affirm the rights of gay and lesbian couples under civil law; why should your church trump the religious rights of those churches?

    Furthermore, if you think that Jesus disapproved of same-sex relationships, I suggest you go back and re-read the story of the Centurion and his beloved slave. If I need to explain the historical context to you, I’ll be happy to do so. In the mean while, put on your critical thinking cap.

  14. Bless you who are speaking from compassion, courage, love. Shame on you who are speaking from fear, hatred, arrogant self-righteousness, however cloaked as “moral values”. Millennia of brutal and ignorant repression have no place in the Light. indeed the dilemma is well summed up: concern over “vitality”, “respect” (in one direction), and being “weakened”.

    Paul said “Your tone is one of civility and peaceful means to spreading ones opposing opinions; I wish this were the sentiment across the board.”

    indeed… then you would have the appropriate epiphany? or merely no longer think you had anything to worry about?

  15. I’m not sure if you are working on an update for this Laura, but in case your readers haven’t heard, here’s a link to the play “8” written by Dustin Lance Black, directed by Rob Reiner, with an all star cast including, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Martin Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more. I watched it streaming live. For those who don’t know, they reenacted the transcripts from the Prop 8 trial closing arguments because the judge would not allow them to be made public. So this all star group got around that in a very clever way. It was awesome to watch. No wonder Prop 8 proponents didn’t want it made public – their arguments could hold water.

  16. I stood in silence as I witnessed the church’s abominable acts during the Prop H8 ordeal. I was ashamed of my timidity and lack of courage to say/do something. When I learned that the church is continuing efforts to take away and limit constitutional rights of LGBT people, of which I am one, by interfering in Washington State’s marriage equality law, I decided I had had enough and that was it.

    I have been an active church member all of my adult life, but I have now severed my relationship with the church, will no longer pay “tithes and offerings”, and will not support the church in any manner. I will miss associating with those members who were truly good people, but I will not miss the disconnect I felt by the church’s unChristlike attitude and actions. Resigning my membership would be the next logical step to take.

    When is enough enough?

  17. fiona64 – As so many have, you’ve used the ‘establishment clause’ completely erroneously. In fact, 180 degrees backwards.
    Read it yourself. It restricts Congress from interfering with religion. It does not and was never intended to prevent religions from influencing Congress. Even a cursory reading of the Federalist Papers demonstrates just the opposite.

  18. Scott, you are a typical revisionist. If the Founding Fathers had wanted a religious government, they would have established one. Yet, only one of them did (Patrick Henry) and he was roundly shouted down. The intent of the establishment clause was to keep religion out of government, i.e., have a secular government. The Founding Fathers were entirely too well-acquainted with theocracies.

    And just in case you’re unclear, allow me to remind you that treaties have the force of law in this country. The Treaty of Tripoli is still in effect. Look up Article 11 thereof.

    I guarantee I have studied the Federalist Papers in far more depth than you have, or you wouldn’t even *think* about bringing them up here. Go re-read Federalist #10 to see why you and people like you do not have the right to inflict the tyranny of the majority against a minority.

    You’re welcome.

    Now, after you’ve digested all of that, how about if you come back and tell us which of your civil rights it’s okay to vote on, okay? After all, that’s the real slippery slope of what you appear to support.

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