Thousands of Prop. 8 opponents protest LDS Church at Temple Square

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Team coverageThousands marched in downtown Salt Lake Friday night to protest the passage of California's Proposition 8. Like their counterparts in California, the Utah protesters targeted The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Friday, the Church said it's unfair to be singled out because it was just part of a coalition of churches that exercised their right to speak up on an issue that was before voters.

It began with a rally that police tell us grew in size from dozens to somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000 men, women and children carrying their signs around Temple Square.

Several thousand, carrying signs and banners, marched around Temple Square insisting they reject the vote on Prop. 8.

"Beyond the fact that we are gay, first and foremost, we are American citizens," one speaker said.

Concerned that emotions were out of control, the rally's organizer called for calm. "I would like to apologize. This has gotten a little overboard at this point. I don't want hurt feelings on any side of this issue," Jacob Whipple said.

A member of Utah's legislature reminded the crowd that the world was watching. "That we protest with civility and respect, because we appreciate freedom of religion and we appreciate freedom of speech," Rep. Christine Johnson said.

Despite her advice, there were moments Friday night when civility was lost and those who are against Prop. 8 clashed on the streets with those who support it.

About a dozen protesters who told us they're not members of the Church used bullhorns and signs to protest on a corner of State Street and North Temple near the anti-Prop 8 rally.

Down the street, a few Church members came to stage a silent protest. Some held signs, and others stood quietly to try to show there are those who support Prop. 8.

"The Church made a statement talking about how we do respect that they have rights. Currently, even under the approval of Proposition 8, the gay community hasn't lost any rights. They can still have the tax benefits. We're just asking that they not completely redefine marriage for an entire society," Church member Paul Wilson said.

Salt Lake City police officers stood by and watched as the two sides made their arguments. At one point, we watched as an officer stepped in to keep a shouting match from turning into something more.

There was a lot of emotion from everyone involved in this issue, and one person was arrested for interfering with a police officer.

Meanwhile, Latter-day Saint Church leaders say their members were part of a coalition and called it disturbing that they were singled out for speaking up as part of a free election and are disturbed at being singled out for speaking up in the democratic process.

Pastor Chris Clark of the East Claremont Baptist Church in California said, "Unfortunately, I know in the wake of the Prop. 8 passage, the Mormon Church has been targeted, unfairly so."

Clark says the coalition includes Roman Catholic bishops, Evangelical Christians and secular groups such as the National Organization for Marriage and the Liberty Council.

LDS Church leaders issued a statement this afternoon. It reads, in part: "Members of the Church in California and millions of others from every faith, ethnicity and political affiliation who voted for Proposition 8 exercised the most sacrosanct and individual rights in the United States -- that of free expression and voting.

"While those who disagree with our position have the right to make their feeling known, it is wrong to target the Church and its sacred places of worship for being part of the democratic process."

Again today, Church leaders called for a spirit of mutual respect and civility.


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