Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mormons & Gay Marriage in Arizona

Excerpts from an Arizona Daily Star article By Daniel Scarpinato

Mormons now issue in gay vows
Ariz. supporters of amendment charge 'bigotry'

PHOENIX — The campaign over whether marriage should be defined — and limited — in the state constitution could soon start to look like a fight between two politically polarizing groups: gays and Mormons.

Those who want to define marriage as between one man and one woman will try to convince voters that without the constitutional amendment, courts could overturn Arizona's law banning on same-sex marriage and allow gays to wed, citing such an occurrence in California.
Meanwhile, opponents are crafting a strategy to label the amendment an attempt by the Mormon church to clean up its image after a series of polygamy scandals by fringe groups that are not actually affiliated with the church.

Backers of the amendment call that claim "religious bigotry" and a political "scare tactic," pointing to support from other denominations — although members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do appear to be providing much of the cash fueling the campaign.
The injection of two often uncomfortable subjects for some voters — religion and sexuality — into the public policy debate portends a campaign even more divisive than the 2006 battle over a similar, though much broader, amendment.

Arizona Together, which opposes Proposition 102, has begun framing the ballot referendum as a mostly Mormon-backed attempt to rectify what it calls a "polygamy problem" in the eyes of voters.

The opponents' argument against the ballot measure also rests on convincing voters that Mormons and other religious groups are seeking to "impose their views on people."

But the measure on this year's ballot is significantly different from the one Sinema helped defeat in 2006 in that it would not limit unmarried couples' partner benefits offered by local governments.
With that change, the opponents lost their most effective campaign point from 2006, when they characterized the ban as an attack on opposite-sex couples who might lose benefits, while largely ignoring the potential effect on gay couples.

Past polling has shown that on the singular issue of marriage, Arizona voters support such an amendment. So opponents are trying to focus the discussion elsewhere, notably on the Mormon church.

Sinema said the ballot measure is a reflection of the Mormon church "working hard to convince the public that they are mainstream." She said her background, being raised Mormon in Tucson, gives her the credibility to make the charge.

"I don't think Arizonans are interested in having the Mormon religion dictate public policy to them," Sinema said.

Sinema contends that at least three-quarters of the individual donors to the campaign are with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, based on her group having Googled donor names along with "LDS" or "Mormon."

While that method of verifying the religion of donors may be questionable, Sinema points to top backers with ties to the Mormon church: $100,000 from philanthropists Rex and Ruth Maughan, and $40,000 from Kristen Cowley, an organizer of the LDS Easter pageant.

And Baer wouldn't comment on where the bulk of the funding is coming from, calling that "campaign strategy."

"I can't share," she said. "They can look at public records."

Asked why same-sex marriage should not be allowed, Baer answered: "We're not against anyone; we're for marriage.

The measure's backers have $3.34 million.

Read the entire article here

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