8: The Mormon Proposition
Following the passage of California’s Proposition 8, a bill that constitutionally outlaws gay couples from legally marrying, rage and frustration was concentrated towards the Mormon Church for their supposed role in passing the legislation. Many suspected that church leadership in Salt Lake City had played a large role in financing and coordinating the campaign, yet until 8: The Mormon Proposition, the exact involvement and intention of the Mormon Church in passing the bill has remained ambiguous at best.
8: The Mormon Proposition exposes the deep seeded anti-gay bias within the Mormon Church and provides answers to questions about the church’s actual political involvement, something that has raised suspicion for decades. The film reveals a well-oiled and infinitely wealthy political action force operating largely under anyone’s radar, until now.
What surprised me most about the Mormon involvement with the campaign was discovering that church officials actually required church members in California to attend a special satellite broadcast from Salt Lake City regarding the ballot initiative.
Aware of its negative public image, leaders instructed church members to maintain secrecy about the broadcast. M. Russell Ballard, a top church authority, told followers to consider the broadcast “to be as though we were sitting in my living room having a confidential talk about a serious concern.”
Despite this sentiment, full audio of the broadcast was leaked, and shows leaders commanding members to give as much time and money as possible to help pass the legislation.
8: The Mormon Proposition has many heroes: current and former Mormons who risked social banishment to take a stand against their religion’s involvement with Proposition 8 and the potent anti-gay attitude of the church.
Shining among such heroes is Linda Stay, an active Utah Mormon and mother to Tyler Barrick, a gay California man in a long-term relationship. Stay’s own “coming out,” as she refers to it, was publicly taking a stand against Proposition 8 in order to support her son’s happiness and right to marry.
As an example of parents who uphold the church’s position the film introduces Marilyn and Fred Matis, authors of the book In Quiet Desperation: Understanding The Challenge Of Same-Gender Attraction. The description of the book states it is written for those who have loved ones suffering in “quiet desperation” with “same-gender attraction,” and how to “reach out with love” to such people.
The parents wrote the book shortly after the death of their son Stuart, who had spent his entire life trying to overcome homosexual feelings. Stuart’s “quiet desperation” led him to shoot himself in the head inside a Mormon Church house at age thirty-two.
In their book the parents write: “Each of us had an indescribable sense of peace after Stuart’s death.” When asked about their position on Proposition 8, the couple stated their only position was the position of the church.
The film does an excellent job portraying the many consequences that such widespread bigotry has on a community. Utah leads the nation in teen suicide, and studies show that a large proportion of victims are gay Mormons. Thousands of homeless teens occupy Utah streets, most fleeing intolerance by their families. The film even exposes the former use of frontal lobotomies in Utah to attempt to treat men “charged” with homosexuality
While the documentary paints a bleak picture of shocking faith-based bigotry, it ends with images of passionate masses, refusing to give up on the battle for equality.
Similar passion was exhibited in the civil rights struggles of the last century. Then, too, the Mormon Church lagged behind the rest of the country, not allowing members of color receive full privileges until 1978. The passionate masses will convince all viewers that the fight for gay rights will eventually be won, and that history will record the Mormon Church once again being on the wrong side of this civil rights battle.