Alex Blaze

Funding and religion in the Arizona same-sex marriage ban

Filed By Alex Blaze | September 18, 2008 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Arizona, ballot initiatives, fundraising, gay marriage, latter day saints, lds church, LGBT, marriage, marriage equality, marriage initiatives, Mormon, proposition 102

The Arizona Daily Star reports that the backers of Proposition 102, the state's ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage, have raised $3.34 million so far. The queers have raised $80,000.

So Arizona Together has turned to some, um, more creative campaigning:

[State Rep. Kyrsten] 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.

Jim Burroway points out that back in July the LDS Church sent a letter to its California temples asking followers to "do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time."

While I don't have the background in Mormonism that Sinema has to be claiming that the LDS Church is involved at this level because it's worried about its image related to polygamy, its obviously providing a breadth of support for this ballot initiative that simply hasn't been matched by the queer side of this measure.

While Sinema says that Arizonans don't want the Mormon religion to dictate policy to them, I can't really see the difference between the LDS Church telling its congregants to donate time and money to this initiative and a protestant church asking the same thing. These initiatives are always backed by religious groups, and it shouldn't really matter if it's Mormons, Catholics, evangelicals, the Hindus, Scientologists, or a really rich group of snake-handlers who are behind a measure - it's a scary violation of the Separation of Church and State to have people, in church, be told specifically how to act politically.

This just doesn't seem like a good strategy though. There's no reason to rile up the 4% of Arizona's population that's LDS and get them out to vote for a measure that some of the church's more moderate members would be willing to vote against or that some of their less political members would be willing to ignore. Especially bringing it up as directly related to polygamy....

What it does show, though, is that marriage advocates in Arizona need some support. Consider doing what you can to help fight this initiative in Arizona.

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Alex, this is a terrible strategy. I was brought up in the Mormon Church, so I can credibly say that this is going to cause Mormons to hunker down.

Mormons LOVE to play the martyr card and they LOVE to paint themselves as an oppressed religion. They'll claim that they are the only organized religion that has had an extermination order issued against it by the government. (The governor of Missouri did order such a proclamation in the 1800's, but I think that had more to do with Joseph Smith's Free Mason connections than it had to do with polygamy.) If you talk to your average Molly Mormon or Peter Priesthood (to use Mormon lingo), they're likely to wax poetic about how their ancestors suffered grain pains as they make the trek across the plains to Utah. They wear this suffering like a badge and will definitely have more than one relative in the family tree who had multiple wives. So to bring up the polygamy link on the issue of gay marriage is a poor strategy. This is very likely to cause Mormons to circle their wagons, so to speak, and hunker down for a fight that has now been very clearly demarcated as a gays v. Mormonism fight. And we all know who's on the Mormon Church's side, right? (That would be God, for those of you who aren't familiar with Mormon dogma, or fans of "South Park.")

Did Sinema think about running this strategy past a consulting firm before she opened her mouth? It's a well known fact that the Mesa Police Department is predominantly staffed by Mormon officers. Do you really want to pick a fight with an organization that has a brutal track record of shooting minorities? Bad move, Sinema. Bad move!

Senema is privy to information about what happened in the Legislature on the last night of the most recent session that is probably not known on a national level but is known here in Arizona.

Under the leadership of Mormons in the Senate, during a meeting of The Committee of the Whole, the rules were broken and the Gay and Lesbian Senators were prevented by the Chair from exercising their right to filibuster, which they had staged hoping to tire out the Senators so that they would finally give up their last ditch efforts to get the gay marriage amendment on the ballot.

This was a good strategy because the senators had been up until 5 a.m. earlier that day and were exhausted. It was the longest session in Arizona history, and everyone was tired of talkng $1 billion shortfall in the budget, and were ready to go home. A Mormon senator was flown home from a reunion elsewhere to be the 16th and deciding vote for referring the amendment to the ballot (Arizona has 30 Senators).

However, a group of senators schemed in the background and came up with the idea to 'accidentally' turn off the microphones to our GLBT senators who were going back and forth on the filibuster, and in the confusion another senator was recognized to speak, moved to pass the amendment, and the gay marriage amendment was sent by referendum to the electorate. It happened so quickly when I watched the video I was stunned.

I transcribed that whole evening's proceedings and in doing so found that when the senators thought they weren't being overheard said, "We can do anything we want as long as we have 16 votes...change the rules...anything."

There was an Ethics Committee investigation that cleared the Chair of any wrongdoing.

So, that's Senema's background on this subject. Emboldened by their 'coup' at the Legislature, and wanting to follow the Brethren who spoke so clearly in a letter to the California congregations to support the gay marriage issue, they opened their pocketbooks and poured out a bounty of cash to fund passage of the amendment. Almost no one else in the State of Arizona feels as passionate about this amendment as the Mormons.

Currently, the imbalance is that they have 41 times as much money as we do, with at least 70 contributions from predominantly Mesa area of $10,000 or more.

Bobby, thanks for reminding us about that fiasco in July. This pisses me off!

The Mormons are pretty politically and economically strong in Mohave County as I'm sure they are in most communities in the State.It's surprising that as small as their numbers are how much control they wield.I did work for many Mormon builders and homeowners and politics were always being brought up.I hope for the sake of those in Arizona that this prop fails like the last one did.

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.

Language like "working hard to convince the public that they are mainstream" only serves to be inflammatory and will end up turning people off the same as negative campaign ads.

When I first heard about Kyrsten Sinema's comments, I was a bit taken aback, too. But after a few seconds, I returned to reality - and reality is this:

The Mormon, Catholic, and many evangelical churches are villifying us from their pulpits and instructing their flocks to get out there and do everything they can to write discrimination against us into the state constitution. The Mormons, in particular, are donating huge sums of money TO HURT US. We are on the receiving end of a massive campaign based on unfairness and intolerance.

So Kyrsten Sinema dares to throw one punch back at them, and she gets criticized? Yes, perhaps she is playing upon the prejudice some people have towards Mormons. But they are already playing upon the prejudice many people have towards gays.

It would be nice to run a polite and gallant campaign, but look where that got Obama. He wanted to talk about the issues and not fling mud, but McCain ran nasty, lie-filled attack ads and took the lead. Finally, Obama took the gloves off and started swinging back, and the polls are turning back towards him.

Unfortunately, this is the way politics in America works. I wish it weren't so. It's not pretty sometimes, and if someone can't stand getting dusted up a bit they should stay out of the game.

Personally, I am tired of being attacked by these right-wingers, and I don't want to be turned into a constitutional second-class citizen. We need to stand up for ourselves and fight back.