8: The Mormon Proposition is a documentary that unapologetically outlines the Mormon Church's role in (as the film contends, orchestrating) the Proposition 8 campaign in California in 2008 — the infamous piece of legislation that banned gay marriage in the state.
Milk screenwriter (and former Mormon) Dustin Lance Black narrates the story.
The film begins with a shot of a Mormon church leader, addressing his congregation during a televised religious conference broadcast about supporting California's Proposition 8. He calls them "a mighty army" and dictates: "Let us be strong in defending our position." We soon find out that this particular broadcast was akin to a call to arms to the entire Mormon world — to support the efforts in organizing "Prop 8."It details all the ways the elders mobilized the base to get Prop 8 going strong, even using "code" language and scare tactics, including going to people's homes and demanding money. Churchgoers were told — in no uncertain terms — to donate money and time to the cause because the success of Prop 8 was integral to their faith.
Scene by scene, damning evidence is brought up by private investigators, elected officials, ex-Mormons, official Church documents and on-the-scene footage of Church leaders making disdainful comments about queer people. Some of their tactics are merely underhanded — the leaders allegedly used a sort of umbrella coalition and a random post-office box to handle financial matters — and some are outright shocking. One witness contends that families were threatened with being cut off from the church if they did not give money to the cause.
8 delves heavily into the pain that the anti-gay sentiment has caused people. Interviews are conducted with homeless youth, kicked out for being gay. Much is made of the fact that Utah has the highest proportion of youth suicides among young men in the entire country — a sad statistic that is made all the more painful in light of one Elder's public comments that it would be better to be dead than to be gay.
A particularly painful sequence details the story of a young gay man who killed himself inside a church in 2000. Instead of being appalled, his parents wrote a book basically agreeing with the Church's stance and applauding his decision to take his own life.
In another disturbing scene, a man recounts the truly horrific electroshock "therapy" he was forced to endure as a student at Brigham Young University (presumably in the 1980s).
The film is very careful to place the blame on Church leaders, as opposed to everyday people. A reasonably comprehensive background in the Mormon faith (as it relates to homosexuality) is included for a helpful dose of perspective on the issue.
Obedience is mentioned as one of the key tenants of the faith more than once, as is the idea that churchgoers were made to feel as if organizing for Prop 8 was literally in God's plan.
Church Leaders are incredibly upfront and public with their bigotry, and unless all of the documents and on-the-scene video has been faked, the makers of 8 have a very strong case.
8: The Mormon Proposition opens in select theaters (and is available via On Demand) on June 18 and comes out on DVD on July 13. For more information on the film, check out the official website.