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Gay marriage proponents to deliver protest letters

Gay marriage proponents to deliver protest letters

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A group of Mormons who support gay marriage said Thursday they plan to deliver 300 protest letters and a petition to church headquarters.

The group disagrees with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' support for California's Proposition 8, which would ban same-sex marriage in the state's constitution.

"I think it's important that the leadership of the church knows that we have varying opinions within the church and that we're not all in lockstep behind them," said Andrew Callahan, a local church leader from Hastings, Neb., and a member of the group.

The letters will be delivered to a church office building in downtown Salt Lake City on Friday afternoon, Callahan said.

Callahan and others started after church leaders in June called on members to give time and money to help pass the proposition, which will be on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The proposition would overturn the California court ruling that legalized gay marriage. The Mormon church is part of a coalition of faiths and conservative groups working to pass the proposition.

Mormons have been among the most active campaign volunteers and so far have donated an estimated 46 percent -- more than $9.2 million -- of the nearly $20 million raised. There are about 770,000 church members in California.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the church said a public affairs representative "will be happy to accept" the letters and petition.

"The church is pleased with the overwhelming support of traditional marriage shown by hundreds of thousands of Church members in California," the statement said. "Of course, we understand that others have differing views. However, the Church has an obligation to speak out on vital moral issues affecting society."

The petition asks church leaders to "stop political organizing efforts and financial support of attempts to use government to restrict the secular and religious rights of gay and lesbian individuals." It also asks the church to retract its request that members support such measures.

The petition's authors said the church is forcing the morality of the Mormon belief system on others and that is contrary to church doctrines that say it is not just to "mingle religious influence with civil government."

Callahan said church members worldwide have posted letters on the Web site and signed the petition.

"The letters are mostly from the U.S. and Canada, but we have letters from China, from Taiwan, England and Australia," he said.

At least a dozen people will be in the group delivering the letters, said Salt Lake City resident Mary Danzig. The group will also carry carnations representing gay and lesbian church members who have committed suicide because they were unable to reconcile their sexuality with the teachings of their church, Danzig said.

Latter-day Saints are taught that homosexual sex is a sin. Celibate homosexuals can remain active in the church, however.

Officially, the Mormon church is politically neutral and does not endorse candidates or political parties. The church does, however, weigh in on issues it considers morally important and has actively fought marriage equality legislation across the U.S. since the 1990s.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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