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Mormon church wanted ‘plausible deniability’ on anti-gay effort

By Daniel Tencer
Wednesday, January 20, 2010 20:18 EDT
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The Mormon church worked to hide its involvement in the 2008 effort to ban gay marriage in California, telling the Proposition 8 campaign that it wanted “plausible deniability” in its connections with the movement, documents revealed in a California courtroom Wednesday show.

In the seventh day of testimony in the landmark gay-marriage trial in San Francisco, lawyers for the gay-rights side presented emails showing “close links between the Proposition 8 campaign and leaders of the Catholic and Mormon churches,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

One key email that got the attention of Julia Rosen at the Prop 8 Trial Tracker blog was one between officials of the Church of Latter-Day Saints and the Proposition 8 campaign, which read in part:

With respect to Prop. 8 campaign, key talking points will come from campaign, but cautious, strategic, not to take the lead so as to provide plausible deniability or respectable distance so as not to show that church is directly involved.

“Get that? The LDS Church intentionally worked to hide behind the scenes to disguise their involvement in the public realm,” Rosen wrote. “The LDS Church is well aware that the general public does not have the most favorable opinion of them. Attention on their involvement could have hurt their cause, namely passing Prop 8.”

Other documents introduced into evidence — over the objections of lawyers defending Proposition 8 — showed that the Catholic Church “played a substantial role in providing volunteers and money to get the measure qualified for the ballot,” the Times reports.

Documents also showed that the Mormon church provided “financial, organizational and management contributions” to the Prop 8 effort, which passed with a bare majority of the California vote in the 2008 election.

The Mormon church reportedly held a teleconference call with all but two of the 161 Mormon leaders in California, telling them to urge churchgoers to donate $30 each to the effort to end gay marriage in California, which had been effectively legalized by a state court ruling earlier in 2008.

And there were reportedly more than 20,000 members of the Mormon church knocking on doors for the Prop 8 campaign in the last weeks before the election.

“The line where the LDS Church stopped and the ProtectMarriage.com campaign began was so fuzzy as to subsume the distinction,” Brian Leubitz wrote at Prop 8 Trial Tracker.

Lawyers for the supporters of the gay-marriage ban fought to keep the emails from being entered into evidence, arguing that “it tramples on the right of the churches to communicate among themselves,” according to Howard Mintz at the San Jose Mercury-Newslive blog.

“This is a political campaign, and it was out in the open,” the judge said in overruling the objection.

Opponents of Prop 8 launched the trial on constitutional grounds, arguing that a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage is illegitimate under the federal Constitution. Whatever the outcome, the case is expected to reach the Supreme Court.

 
 
 
 
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