Mormons Targeted for Role Supporting Prop 8

In Connecticut today, a judge cleared the way for same-sex couples to marry, creating a day of truly remarkable contrasts on one of the most divisive cultural issues in America: gay marriage.

The ruling comes just over a week after voters in California passed Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment to limit marriage to between a man and a woman, putting an end to same-sex couples marrying in the state and spawning protests from activists nationwide.

In New York City this evening, protesters gathered outside a Mormon church, to show their support for same-sex marriage, and express anger about what they dubbed "religious-based bigotry" in America.

These protests are not isolated, but rather, a wider trend of demonstrations from New York to Los Angeles targeting Mormons. Groups are focusing on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints because its members poured in tens of millions of dollars to defeat gay marriage in California.

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Mormon leadership, normally reluctant to engage in politics, sent a letter calling for the preservation of what it called traditional marriage and families, to be read aloud in every Mormon congregation in California.

"The Church's teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal," the letter said. "...We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman."

Opponents say that church leaders went too far in organizing their members and asking them to donate time and money to getting the proposition passed. Those critics of the church even started an online campaign to identify and embarrass Mormons who supported the amendment.

They launched Mormonsfor8.com, a Web site that lists the name and hometown of each Mormon donor, in an attempt to expose how much influence the LDS church played in the campaign.

Critics charge Mormons with hypocrisy, given their troubled history with polygamy.

"They are a group of people who have experienced bigotry and religious bigotry in this country," said Michelangelo Signorile, a gay writer and talk show host. "They should understand what it is like to be a minority in this country and to know that other people are trying to take your rights away."

Mormons Say Protestors' Anger Is Unfair

"Well, let's not fudge the issues here. We're not talking about what kind of marriages that Mormons were involved in, in the 1800s," said Michael Otterson, a spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. "That's not the issue. Let's keep focused on where we are with marriage today."

Mormons say they're being unfairly singled out since many different faith-based organizations, including Catholics, evangelicals and black Protestants, banded together to help pass Proposition 8.

Denying accusations that the church stepped outside of its traditional role, Otterson said it's wrong to target a place of worship for speaking up on what it considers an important issue.

"This is not about being anti-gay. This is not about being unfair to another minority," Otterson said. "This is about protecting an institution that has been the bedrock of society for millennia, and the idea of having that redefinition of marriage on the part of a minority forced on the majority of our society was just not palatable to many people in California, including our own members."

Gay rights activists say they plan to continue their protests, as groups channel their frustration about Proposition 8 towards the Mormon Church.

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