Top stories of 2008, #2: Prop. 8

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The No. 2 top story for 2008 stems from the general election in California: Proposition 8.

A California Supreme Court ruling opened the doorway for same-sex marriage. Proposition 8 would amend the state constitution, defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encouraged members to help the measure pass. Elder L. Whitney Clayton said, "There will be problems out in the long run with respect to consequences, primarily involving children and primarily involving the free practice of religion."

Elder Clayton continued, "The people in California have worked their hearts out, both in and out of the LDS Church --Catholics, Evangelists, lots of people working hard. It just depends now on what the needs of campaign are. OUr goal is to win. We hope to win and to preserve marriages between a man and a woman."

Church leaders then asked members living outside California to call Church members in the state asking them to vote in favor of Proposition 8.

Before the election, the ads for both sides of the issue hit the airwaves and YouTube. One ad raised a lot of eyebrows as it depicted LDS missionaries rummaging through a home of a same-sex couple, tearing up their marriage license.

"It's so bizarre. It's over the top," said Dr. Dennis Alexander, professor emeritus of the University of Utah Communications Department.

In a state of more than 35 million people, Proposition 8 passed by less than 600,000 votes. Soon after, protests were held outside LDS temples in San Diego, Los Angeles, New York and here in Salt Lake City.

One Salt Lake protester said, "People are trying to force their views on my life."

Another said, "The passing of the proposition in California was completely wrong, and it violates our rights."

But a man defending Prop. 8 said, "We feel strongly that God originated or instituted marriage."

The LDS Church issued a statement saying: "While those who disagree with our position on Proposition 8 have the right to make their feelings known, it is wrong to target the Church and its sacred places of worship for being part of the democratic process."

Then, letters with a non-toxic, mysterious white powder were sent to the Salt Lake and Los Angeles temples. Although a link between the letters and Prop. 8 has not been established, the LDS Church and gay rights advocates issued statements calling for more respect and civility involving the debate over gay marriage.

In December, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty placed a full-page ad in the New York Times titled "No Mob Veto" supporting the stand the LDS Church took on Prop 8. The ad said: "Religious wars are wrong. They are also dangerous."

San Francisco's Archbishop George Niederauer, who once presided over Utah's Catholic Diocese, also spoke out, saying he was the one who asked Latter-day Saint Church leaders to get involved and support Prop 8.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating whether the LDS Church properly reported all of its non-monetary contributions to the campaign.

Gay Rights Advocates have called for a boycott on the entire state of Utah and for the Sundance Film Festival to move. Officials from the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau and Sundance say they haven't seen any impact from any proposed boycott.


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Carole Mikita and Paul Nelson


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