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Prince Research Excerpts on Gay Rights & Mormonism – “18 – Prop 8 Interviews”

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18 – Prop 8 Interviews


“In 2008 my husband ‘Joe’ and I were full-tithe-paying members of a ward in Los Angeles County. One Sunday during Sunday School, the bishop called Joe into his office to say ‘I shouldn’t be showing you this here, but..’ Bishop handed Joe a flyer soliciting donations for the campaign to pass Proposition 8. 

Joe replied: ‘I have a gay brother in San Francisco and don’t feel comfortable supporting this campaign.’ The bishop challenged, ‘don’t you believe in the sanctity of marriage as between a man and a woman?’  Joe said that was beside the point….the point being that he would not be supporting the Prop 8 campaign.

Joe fumed for a day or two about the bishops inappropriate request. He knew it violated the law of separation of church and state, and he felt demeaned by the bishop for not having correct ‘family values.’

The phone rang later in the week, with Bishop on the line: ‘I still really need you to contribute to our initiative to protect families.’ Husband: ‘I already explained that I’m not comfortable with this, so no!’

‘But it’s about protecting traditional families’ said the bishop, who also said ‘give it some thought.’

We were stunned when Bishop called again a few days later. Bishop: ‘We really need the support of you and your wife to ensure successful passage of Prop 8. The Lord expects each to his part in preserving the family.’ 

‘I’m sorry!’ said my husband. Silence on the line. I asked Joe to hold for a moment, and whispered that I’d make a small donation in my own name, just to get the bishop off our back. Joe told this to the bishop, but insisted that our family name not be used in the campaign.

Bishop was delighted! He enthusiastically asked that we follow instructions on the flyer ‘be sure not to make your donation directly to the church, but to the entity/address on the flyer!’

It seemed that the bishop was trying to meet some quota for Prop 8 fund-raising in his ward, and that we’d been specifically earmarked as donors. He’d acted like a pushy insurance salesman. Awkward and embarrassing and aggravating (for us).

That night I scribbled a token check for $100 to the campaign (I don’t recall the name of the entity or address). In the envelope I enclosed a note insisting that our family name not be placed on any lists, or published.

Weeks passed ….September…October…..a flurry of ward discussions and volunteer activities continued in support of Prop 8. We did our best to ignore all of it.

Soon we learned our Stake President, who lived in our ward, had established his home as a polling place for the November election, and anxious messages spread throughout the stake:’Don’t forget to vote!’

Sunday before election day, Joe was out of town and I was napping, when there came a loud pounding at my front door. Not expecting visitors in our guard-gated building, I ignored the knocks. But the pounding continued so loudly I decided it must be an emergency. So I rushed to get dressed and out to the door, only to find a packet of information about Prop 8 attached to a hand-written note urging me not to forget to vote on Tuesday — signed by my visiting teachers!!

By Tuesday night TV and radio news in Los Angeles announced the passage of Prop 8. By midnight there were near riots in the street below our urban high-rise — gays and allies marching and shouting in protest, horns blasting, police cars crawling alongside the procession. It was traumatic to witness.

A year or so later, we received an email from our gay brother in San Francisco, who had read through the published lists of Prop 8 donors — most of whom were Mormons, and found the names of several family members (including my name, against my stern request) who had financially supported a cause that discriminated against him. He was seething with resentment, because his discovery of family names on this list only added to his belief that the family had marginalized and disowned him. I tried to explain what had actually happened, to no avail.

Our family has still not recovered from the horrible turn of events caused by the Prop 8 campaign.

The truth is that Church’s illegal political involvement a campaign that we so opposed was just the final straw in a series of disappointments that led us to ultimately abandon the church. When we moved away from that ward, we left no forwarding address and never attended church again, which is a dramatic turn for a former Bishop and his former Relief Society President wife. 

We are now in our 60’s and so is our gay brother. We are all very tired. The church has made our family so damned tired.” (Anonymous to GAP, August 3, 2014, Prop 8 Gmail account)

“I live in California, and I was sitting in Sacrament meeting when a letter from the First Presidency was read over the pulpit.  It discussed the upcoming election, specifically Prop 8.  I was half listening, waiting for the letter to say something about how we should vote our conscience, and that the church held no position, just like before every other election.  To my complete shock, I next heard the bishop read that we should donate as much of our time, talents, and money as possible to get this to pass.  My jaw dropped, and I turned to my husband and whispered, ‘Since when do they tell us how to vote?’  Over the next few months, sign-up sheets for making phone calls and canvassing neighborhoods were passed around Sunday School, Priesthood, and Relief Society.  Bumper stickers and yard signs were passed out in the lobby.  The subject was brought up in almost every single lesson as an example of following the prophet, and the signs of worsening times.  I was so conflicted.  I knew people that were gay, and I felt this action as a church was wrong.  I was worried about the possible ramifications of voting against Prop 8, mainly in discipline, or having my temple recommend taken away.  I agonized over this decision, and took the matter to fasting and prayer.  I really felt in my heart that it was wrong, and voted against Prop 8, but kept it quiet from my ward and my family, because I was worried about their opinion of me.” (Julie Ogden to GAP, July 15, 2014; Gmail Proposition 8 file)

Anderson: For a few months, during Sacrament Meeting, they would mention things that we were going to do.  They read a letter from the First Presidency in June, asking that we give all our time, talents, whatever.  There were a few times we separated, and Gospel Doctrine would be the time to talk about it.  So they would spend the whole time talking about what we were going to do.  The first one of those I went to, it was really offensive.  They were talking about how gay people are trying to push their agenda on everybody, and that they are going to force the Church to marry homosexuals in the temple.…

Prince: Was it more a group solicitation, or did it get followed up by a one-on-one session?

Anderson: It was followed up by one-on-one’s.  I said that I didn’t want to participate.  I wasn’t comfortable participating.  But they would have one-on-one meetings.…

Anderson: Right after, something that really had an impact on me and that really bothered me was that in California people were saying, “This is great!  Prop 8 passed!”  Everybody kind of celebrated for a second, and then there were protests; and everything that we read here, and the statements out of Salt Lake seemed to be the Church backing up and saying, “Whoa!  We didn’t have anything to do with it.  It was all the members; it wasn’t us.”  I was really bothered that the Church wouldn’t stand up and say, “Yes, we did this and we are proud of this.”  Instead, they backed up and acted like they had nothing to do with it.  I felt kind of used at that point.  Even though I didn’t do much, it was still an issue that I had to face and my wife had to face.  All of a sudden I felt used.  “What do you mean you didn’t have anything to do with it?  Of course you had something to do with it.  You had a lot to do with it.”

Then down the road, as these other states would have these propositions and the Church totally wasn’t involved, it felt bad.  It felt like I had been used.  That only added to my questions and concerns with the Church.…

Prince: It reminded people why they hated Mormons.

Anderson: Exactly!  That’s exactly right.  And it was so evident here in California.  It became OK to say negative things about Mormonism, because you weren’t being bigoted; you were fighting bigotry by saying something negative about the Mormons.  It is viewed as a bigoted organization.

(Paul Anderson, July 21, 2014)

Bastian: So you want me to talk about when I first found out the Church’s involvement with Prop 8?

Prince: With Prop 8, or if you had any knowledge of their involvement with Prop 22 or the Hawaii or Alaska cases.

Bastian: I knew they were involved with those, but those were at a time when I wasn’t as involved in the movement as I was during Prop 8.  But especially with Hawaii I knew of their involvement.  I knew that they were more involved than most people believed.  They kind of did it a lot behind the scenes.  But I think the difference was that Hawaii, population-wise, is a much smaller entity than California, so it was harder to get people up in arms or concerned about it.  And it was early enough that at that time the idea of same-sex marriage was just something that most people in the world were not even concerning themselves about.

Prince: Even within the LGBT community?

Bastian: Yes, even for the LGBT community it was something that was so pie-in-the-sky that nobody was even really putting it on the radar.  But that was before Massachusetts.  So it was so far out there that it didn’t seem like a big deal.

But by the time Prop 8 came along, there were two significant changes.  One was that gay marriage was already happening in Massachusetts—and the world had not ended.  And secondly, when it came to Prop 8, the Church was going out as a leader.  They were going out there at the front of the pack, fighting this.  When I first found out and they announced that they were going to be in the group, fighting to pass Proposition 8, I made phone calls to everybody I knew and said, “This is really serious, people.  You need to make sure.”  “Oh, Prop 8 will never pass in California.  We have good polling.”  I said, “No, you need to pay attention to this, because the Church is going to put their money and their resources and their little army of people on the ground.  This is a serious thing.”…

I was the first person to donate a million dollars to the No campaign.  At the time, everybody thought, “You don’t really need to do that.”  It turned out that I needed to do a lot more.  But the Church actually sat down and got my partner, Alan Ashton, to give a million dollars to the Yes side.  And they went to my other WordPerfect colleagues and got them to donate as much money as they would.  Some of them said no, but some of them did donate money to the Yes campaign.…

The thing about Prop 8 that was so damaging was that the Church went outside California to raise money.  They were raising money from Mormons in Utah and anywhere in the United States where they could raise money.  It was a church-wide effort to raise money to pass Prop 8.

(Bruce Bastian, July 30, 2014)

Blanchard: My daughters were in Young Women, and they would ask us to avoid certain areas of the town because they knew that the members would be standing on the corner protesting.  Especially our oldest daughter, if we happened to be driving down the street and we saw the members, she would duck down in the car.  I just remember one day driving and her doing that, it just made me cry.  I was crying in the car because I just thought, “How sad that this is happening.”  It just didn’t feel good to see members of our ward doing that.  I didn’t feel like it was loving.  I didn’t feel like it was very Christ-like.  It just was really, really uncomfortable.

(Cosette Blanchard, June 11, 2015)

I recognized the church’s right to establish its own policies with respect to same-sex marriages within the church.  I questioned the church’s ethics, however in pushing for a state law when well over 90 percent of the people affected were not members of the LDS Church.

(Alan Blodgett to GAP, December 2, 2014)

Callahan: One of the things that I also found fascinating was that if you go through the lists that Nadine Hansen put together of all of the donors, there were no Thomas S. Monson donations.  There were no donations from any of the Twelve, any members of the Seventy.  They did not put their money where their mouth was.  They wanted the members to.

(Andrew Callahan, March 25, 2015)

Chipman: When Prop 8 happened, it was the worst fight I have ever had with my parents—screaming, swearing.  I never swore at my parents until that day.  It was bad and violent.

Prince: Because they were actively supporting Prop 8?

Chipman: Oh, yes.  I was just going at them.  I said to my dad, “So do you support me or do you support the Church on this?”  He said, “Well, if it comes down to it, I have to support the Church.”  I said, “Fine.  Then you have a church, and you’ve lost your son.”  And I walked out, and that was that.  I didn’t talk to him for probably a couple of years after that, or anyone in my family.  Prop 8 was really divisive and painful, because they sided with the Church.  He explicitly said, “I choose the Church over you.”

(Michael Chipman, April 9, 2015)

Cowan: I always say—and I’ve never heard anybody else say it this way—that in a sense, Proposition 8 was the LGBT community’s Pearl Harbor.  It awakened a sleeping giant.…

I think that if you did a study of the LGBT community, I think you would see the same dynamic.  The one thing that will save the LGBT community from itself is the concept of family.  Isn’t it interesting that the thing that saves the Mormon Church is the concept of family.  The over spirit theme, I think, is that we call can help save each other, and we can all get each other to like if we just would unite and stop fighting.

Prince: Yes.  Rick Jacobs said that to him the irony of the Prop 8 battle was that it turned the focus of his portion of the gay world towards appreciating families.  It was something that they hadn’t focused, but once somebody tried to take it away from them, they woke up.  It was the Pearl Harbor event.

Cowan: It was the Pearl Harbor event, and that’s what I tell everybody.  We needed that, as an LGBT community.  I don’t think any of us felt like we had a right to have a family.  I think we all felt “as dross,” as the scripture says.  We all counted ourselves as dross in some sense or another.  We didn’t have a right to it, we would never have it.  “Just give that hope up.  The very best you can hope for is maybe to have a great business life and a lot of money and travel, and have a great scrapbook at the end of your life.”  That was about the best you could hope for.

(Reed Cowan, June 8, 2014)

Prince: But the Church, nonetheless, had a role in that [Prop 22].

Dabakis: Yes, they had a role in it.

Prince: But it didn’t cost them like Prop 8 did.

Dabakis: It didn’t.  My guess is that the reason is that Hinckley had that barrier.  If you look back at the leaked documents, directly from President Hinckley is saying, “We need leading this a Catholic or non-Mormon woman.  She should be this age.  She should have this kind of a message.  Mormons can support and be in the background, but we want the people up front and interacting with the media to not be LDS.”  It wasn’t a casual issue.  He saw what could happen, and he kept the Church out of that kind of a mess—and nonetheless got to the Church’s goal, which in this case was a change in the California Constitution.  That element was missing as Prop 8 came.…

(James Dabakis, August 2, 2013)

Dabakis: After he [Gordon Hinckley] passed away, you a less-P.R. understand group who had had these effects on LGBT issues in other states and had never had any pushback.  I don’t think there was a lot of trepidation when apparently the ex-Utah, then-current Catholic bishop of San Francisco said, “Hey, Mormons, come help us with this.”  I don’t think they grasped what a tiger they were getting by the tail, because of their previous experience.  So off they went, and in an ideological kind of crusade they thought they were just doing what they had done and this was perfectly acceptable.

(James Dabakis, April 8, 2015)

Evans: I was assigned fulltime, from June 2008 until after the November election, to be staff support for Prop 8 and our involvement there.  I was Elder Whitney Clayton’s staff.  It was one of the great experiences of my life.  I thought our involvement was terrific, and I thought that the response of the members was absolutely amazing.

(William Evans, February 8, 2012)

Evans: I was assigned fulltime to Prop 8.

Prince: You won the lottery!

Evans: I wanted it.

Prince: Really?

Evans: Yes, and I’m glad I got it.  It was a great experience, one of the great experiences of my working career here.  As you know, the Brethren haven’t been involved in every marriage issue.  In fact, if you line them all up, we have been involved in very few.  For example, in the November 2004 election there were about twelve marriage issues on the ballot across the United States.  If you take Prop 8 as a model for active involvement, we weren’t actively involved in any of them.  The only hint of involvement was a First Presidency letter that came out a couple of weeks before the election, affirming the Church’s commitment to marriage.  There were people pushing on us pretty hard in various states to get involved, and the Brethren said, “No.  We’re not going to do it.”  As you might imagine, they don’t ever give reasons; the answer is either yes or no.

(William Evans, November 18, 2012)

Evans: Here is my belief, but only time will tell.  I personally believe that the Church’s position to engage the way they did in California with Prop 8 was an inspired decision.  I have seen a lot of decision making over the years, and this one was so clearly, deeply felt, and unanimously felt.  So then I ask my question, “Why?”  Certainly not to preserve traditional marriage, because we had essentially lost that in most of the world before then, and we are now losing it with warp speed here.  So why?  I believe that even though the Morrie Thurston’s and Barb Young’s and others got bruised in the process, that it was also for a lot our members in California a Zion’s Camp experience.  That’s number one.

Number two—and this is going to sound counter-intuitive, but I believe it—it also put us in a position, and continues to develop important relationships with LGBT leadership.  That never would have happened but for Prop 8.

Prince: That, to me, is the most intriguing storyline that I have yet seen.  It’s the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Evans: Yes.  You’ve seen it.

Prince: That part was not planned.

Evans: No.  And you saw it in that room at the Alta Club that night.  Where do you find a gathering with a Chad Griffin and a Rick Jacobs and a Lance Black?  My heavens!  So we’ll see how it all rolls out.  But to now get people like Orrin Hatch saying, “It’s inevitable.”

(William Evans, June 7, 2014)

Prince: Gay marriage was still way out of the minds of the public, even of the gay community.  Rick Jacobs told me, “Until Prop 8, we really didn’t care about gay marriage.”

Evans: I think that’s true.

Prince: He said, “It just wasn’t in our worldview, and until Prop 8 took away from us what we had had briefly, we didn’t care.”

Evans: I think that is exactly right.  One of the ironies, Greg, in my mind, is that if we had lost Prop 8, the gay community probably would have been about where it was before.

Prince: And that’s what Rick said.  He said, “If Prop 8 had lost, the status quo would have prevailed, and nobody outside of California would have known or cared.”

Evans: Right.

Prince: “But by Prop 8 passing, it became a global issue.”

Evans: Yes, I know.  

Prince: And there is the Law of Unintended Consequences, right there.

Evans: And Heavenly Father knew that was happening.  He did!  That’s why I believe that the reasons for the engagement were primarily not marriage related.  The Brethren didn’t know that, but in retrospect that’s what it appears to me to be.

Prince: You see the finger of the Lord on the scale?

Evans: I do, yes.…

The representations made to the Church for Prop 22 involvement were, in effect, “Get involved.  We’ll carry our end of it and you carry yours, but we’ll be in this thing together.”  The truth was that we carried essentially all of it in Prop 22.  So the Brethren were understandably reluctant to even consider Prop 8 involvement.  But what happened, if I remember it right, was that both Bishop Niederauer, who was then Archbishop Niederauer of the San Francisco Archdiocese, and Bishop Wegand, who was George Niederauer’s predecessor in Salt Lake, but at that time the bishop of Sacramento, wrote a joint letter to the First Presidency asking for church involvement.  That was what triggered it.

Prince: That would have been in May of 2008—wasn’t it May when Prop 22 was overturned?

Evans: Yes.

Prince: So things happened pretty quickly.

Evans: Yes.  I think that’s right; I think it was May.  But interestingly, the people who were gathering signatures were doing that prior to the court decision.

Prince: In anticipation of it?

Evans: Yes.  I think they read the tealeaves.  The case had been working its way up to that point of the California Supreme Court for quite some time.  I think it was primarily Catholics and a Protestant group in Southern California who gathered the signatures to qualify it for the ballot.  We did not participate.

It was after the signatures had been gathered, but before the State had certified it, and it was after the court invalidated Prop 22 that the letter came to President Monson, asking for our involvement.  The answer was not automatic or quickly “Yes.”  The Brethren really did due diligence in trying to get the assurances that we would not carry this alone again, like we had essentially done with Prop 22.  There were very strong assurances that that would be the case.

I don’t question the sincerity of those assurances; the problem was that they were not organized to deliver.  They weren’t.  The Protestants are all these separate and business entities that are in the business of supporting themselves; and the Catholics are an organization that doesn’t have the internal discipline and obedience and the response that we do.  So you can give something from the bishops in California to their various parishes, and the people can just ignore it.  And the Protestants just aren’t organized.  Somehow they pulled it off to get the signatures, but after that they mostly disappeared.  While there was more involvement this time than with Prop 22, we really did carry the bulk of Prop 8.

Prince: Were you in any leadership role for Prop 22?

Evans: No.  And I wasn’t in a leadership role for Prop 8.  I was in a very involved support role with that.

Prince: But on the professional side, you were on the top of the pack, weren’t you?

Evans: I was the top staff person involved with Prop 8.

Prince: Was Whitney Clayton the primary boots-on-the-ground ecclesiastical leader?

Evans: Yes.  He had the North America West Area as his responsibility in the presidency of the Seventy.  It was he and John Dalton, an Area Authority in the Los Angeles area.  He had the on-the-ground responsibility for organizing church members in California.  He is really a fun man.  He is just a neat guy.…

So there was quite a bit of due diligence, but then the Brethren said, “OK.”

Prince: There couldn’t have been a whole lot for very long, because that First Presidency letter, as I recall, was dated June 20th.

Evans: Yes.  What happened, happened in a month.  But there was quite a bit during that month, Greg, of really careful evaluation, and connecting and talking and whatever.

Prince: Did any of that reach down to Public Affairs?

Evans: Yes, it did.  I’ll assess to what extent I can be comfortable telling you detail.  Everything I have told you so far, there is enough information out there that a careful researcher could piece all of that together.  But your question just now—the more I think about it, sitting here, the more I think you can make a very credible case that this story, carefully written, would be to the benefit of the Church.…

I heard conversation after conversation—I’m now talking about L. Whitney Clayton and stake presidents in California—I’m talking about starting in his office at eight in the morning on a Sunday, and going twelve hours straight, in groups of five or six stake presidents, and talking to every stake president in California.  We did that, I think, three times.  In those conversations, he repeated over and over and over, “This is about marriage.  It is not about homosexuality.”  So that was one message.

The other was, “If you have members who don’t agree, leave them alone.”

Prince: But that was not always the case.

Evans: Oh no, it wasn’t.  I agree.  I’m just telling you how it was stated.  The problem was that it wasn’t in writing.  All of this was oral, and so when you repeat things that way, you get lots of interpretations.

There was also a very clear message of, “Don’t pressure members.  Don’t!”  But you know that some of that happened.

We get credited with the victory, and in significant ways I think that’s correct.  Despite the sincere representations by other religious traditions with whom we were involved in Prop 8, they just were not equipped to deliver.  They couldn’t deliver people.  They couldn’t put, as we called it, boots on the ground.  They couldn’t get the grassroots involvement.

Prince: Even that part of the story, if told fairly—

Evans: I think it is heroic, frankly.  I think we can show, anecdotally at least, that we were not mean-spirited in this.  We were not homophobic in this, even though there is probably a good dose of homophobia among at least some church members, maybe many.  But I know, from sitting through those phone calls and through the discussions, that there was such a strong commitment to this being an issue about marriage, and not about homosexuality.  And I believe that deserves to be said, credibly.

(William Evans, November 17, 2014)

Bill Evans met me at Little America this morning for breakfast.…

I asked him if Bishop George Niederauer’s letter to the First Presidency was really the wake-up call for the Church to become involved in Prop 8, or if it was just an excuse to jump in formally after we had already been working behind the scene.  He said that, without a doubt, it was the Niederauer letter that got us into the game.  I pointed out that Niederaur said he sent the letter in the first week of June, and that the First Presidency letter announcing our involvement was dated June 20th.  I wondered if that was really enough time for us to get our act together.  He assured me that it was, and then explained that as soon as the First Presidency received the letter, they sent a quartet to California do conduct due diligence: Russell Ballard, Quentin Cook, Whitney Clayton and Bill.  They met with various groups, including black clergy and the two Catholic Bishops (Niederauer and one from Sacramento), completed their due diligence and reported back to the First Presidency in ten days.

He said that the main reason for the due diligence as that the Church essentially got snookered during Prop 22, with assurances from other churches that they would carry their weight, but with ours carrying most of it.  They didn’t want to get saddled disproportionately again, and they received assurances that such would not be the case—even though it turned out to be so.  He likened it to Lucy and the football (“Peanuts”), who reassured Charlie Brown every fall that she wouldn’t pull up the football just as he went to kick it; and every year she pulled it up anyway.

(William Evans, April 1, 2015)

Evans: This is a guy named Larry Eastman.  He lives in Santa Monica.  I knew Larry in Berlin, as a missionary.  Then, he came back and picked up a doctorate somewhere and worked in the Ford or Reagan White House.  He became a decorated Marine after his mission, which is unusual.  Among other things, he ran for Lieutenant Governor of Idaho, unsuccessfully, and then went to California.  I think he is in the import-export business.  OK, that’s Larry.

They put out a little book, these Young Single Adult people, that is really quite well done.  They have some interesting statistics in it.

Prince: I’ve never heard of this book.

Evans: They didn’t publish it.  They just put it out, and they sent me a copy.  I had forgotten about it until I came across it a couple of days ago.  I’m going to contact Larry and say that I have a friend who is writing a book about the subject, and I’ll ask him if that book he gave me is something he would feel good about making available to you.

Let me read from it.  Besides being part of the group that got out and held signs and passed out literature, they got heavily involved in what they called “predictive phone calls,” on people who had been pre-qualified by door-to-door contact.  Here it is: “Contacts made by YSA callers: 788,242.  Total hours of YSA calling: 18,389.  Total number of YSA volunteers: 3,999.  Average contacts per YSA caller: 197.”  That’s pretty good.  But there’s more than that; there is anecdotal stuff in here, which is quite good.  I’ll call Larry and ask him.

(William Evans, April 14, 2015)

Prince: Mark [Jansson] was adamant in saying, “Up until weeks before the Church weighed in, in June of 2008, he had had no contact from Salt Lake about it.

Evans: That’s right.  He’s right.  He’s accurate.  He had been out there on his own.

Prince: He said, “Let me just reemphasize: No one called.”

Evans: He’s right.  He’s exactly right.

Prince: He said, “That was the quickest decision that the First Presidency and the Twelve had ever made on something of this magnitude.”  From the time you and your colleagues got back up there until they wrote the letter on June 20th, he said, “Look at the number of fingers on your hand and subtract a couple.”

Evans: It was like a week.  He’s right.  He’s right on all counts.

(William Evans, November 19, 2015)

Evans: Keep in mind that Elder Ballard was at the helm during Prop 8, along with Elder [Quentin] Cook.

(William Evans, January 22, 2016)

Prince: So tell me what you know and what you did relating to Prop 8.

Hansen: First, let me tell you how I came to have the website.  To do that, I have to go back to about 1978 or ’79 when the Equal Rights Amendment was at issue.  I was young.  I didn’t know a single other feminist in my whole Mormon world.

Prince: Where were you living?

Hansen: The Bay Area of California.  I was born in Glendale and raised in the San Fernando Valley.  When I was twelve, we moved to Buena Park in Orange County.

I bought a newspaper one day, because there was something in particular in the news that I wanted to have more depth in than there was on television.  As I thumbed through it, I came across this article that talked about an exchange between a Mormon woman and Senator Orrin Hatch.  It was the infamous testimony of Sonia Johnson testifying before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee, where she talked about the role of Mormon women and Hatch got all upset.  He said that she was insulting his wife by the things she was saying.  As she described it, “He put on his priesthood voice to do it.”  This sleepy little hearing that was going on without much fanfare went as viral as things could go viral in those days.

So I found out, “My gosh!  There are some other Mormon women who support the E.R.A.”  I figured out how to get hold of Sonia, and she sent me a list of political donors from Saratoga, California.  At the time, I had just moved to Cupertino, which is right next-door to Saratoga.  They had made contributions to a political committee that had to be disclosed.  The committee was called F.A.C.T.—Families Are Concerned Today.

Prince: This was an anti-E.R.A. group?

Hansen: Yes.  They had donated money to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment.  Sonia asked me if I could find out how many of those donors were Mormons.  I had friends in Saratoga Stake, and I got a stake directory and went through it.  All but three of the donors were listed in the stake directory.

Prince: Out of how many donors?

Hansen: I don’t remember now—probably fewer than a hundred; probably several dozen.  I suspect that those other three were probably also Mormons as well, but had moved in or out since the stake directory had been printed.

So I gave Sonia that information.  It actually resulted in a couple of different newspaper articles, one out of the Miami Herald and one out of the Sacramento Bee.

Prince: And there had been no other indication that this was a quasi-Mormon group?

Hansen: No.  It was just that Sonia suspected that it was.  The question was, “Where is the money coming from?  Why are these people in California funneling money into Virginia to defeat the state ratification of the E.R.A.?

That was the tip of the iceberg of Mormon involvement with the E.R.A.  About that time, Gordon Hinckley went on national television and said, “We, as a church, are not opposing the E.R.A.  It’s just some of our members who do.”  I knew that he was leading the Special Affairs Committee that was coordinating this stuff.  But the time I saw him say that, I knew that they were involved.  That was my first exposure to the idea that the Mormon Church, as an institution, would not tell the truth about its political involvement.…

I moved to Utah in 1998, and in 2000 I got a call one day.  At this point we had what was called the Knight Initiative.  It was the original version of Prop 8—not a constitutional amendment, but a statute.

Prince: Was that Prop 22?

Hansen: Yes.  Prop 22 was sponsored by Pete Knight, who I believe was a state senator, and who I believe had a gay son.  He got this thing on the ballot that would only recognize a marriage between a man and a woman.  But it was a statute and not a constitutional amendment.  I had a reporter call me up one day.  I don’t even remember her name.  She had a list of donors and she asked me the same question Sonia Johnson had asked me: “Can you tell me if any of these donors are Mormons?”

I was able to verify that within a few geographical areas where I had access to a stake directory from Saratoga Stake and to another stake in the northeastern part of Silicon Valley, and I found that most of the donors were Mormons.  She said, “Surely there is some list where we can find out how many of these people are Mormons.  Isn’t there somebody who has access to all the church membership records?”  I said, “I think you’d have a better chance of getting into Fort Knox.”

We didn’t have the Internet then in the same way we do now.  We had email lists, but we didn’t have blogs.  I sent an email to one or two of these lists, and a few people sent me stake directories.  I would have been able, then, to verify more of the names, but the reporter never called me back.  But I’m a packrat and I kept those stake directories.  I still had them in 2008.…

When Prop 8 came along I thought, “You know, the Internet is different now.  What if, in addition to the information I could get just from my friends, I could put a website up to list all the donors, and ask everybody who comes to that website to help us figure out which ones are Mormon.”  My daughter, Laura Compton, helped.  She became the main public face for another website called Mormons for Marriage.  Another woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, set up the website for me.  I bought the domain, and this other woman set it up.  Then, Laura went to the Secretary of State’s website and figured out how to download all that stuff and put it into a spreadsheet that was usable.  We had the name, date of donation, amount, and a couple of columns for whether they were Mormons.  If they were a yes, it moved the donation over to a separate column that totaled all of the donations for Mormons.

After she put that up, but before it was really findable on the Internet, all of us who knew about it asked around and asked our friends to go there and identify the Mormons for us.  The way they did that was to send us an email and say, “These are the people who are Mormons.”  They couldn’t alter the document.  Then we would go in and list all the Mormons.  The movie made a rather major omission.  They never called me, they never contacted me.  There was a screen shot of the Prop 8 website, and it was kind of implied that Fred Karger was the one who exposed the donors, when really it was three of us spending hours and hours and hours every night, Goggling names to find out which of the donors were Mormon.

Fred did do a great deal to draw attention to it.  At the beginning, when we first put it up, I found his website, which was Californians Against Hate.  He made allegations on his website that the money was coming from Mormon donors.  I had sent him an email and asked him how he knew that, and referred him to my website and told him what we were doing.  Our website wasn’t even public at that point, but I let him know about it.

Then it went up, and at the same time I got a call from a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, telling me that he had gotten my name from Fred Karger.  So Fred was very instrumental in having that information initially get out into the media.  And it’s the gift that keeps on giving.  I had a call just a few months ago—the website hasn’t been up for two years, and I still occasionally get a call asking questions about it.

Anyway, we spent many hours figuring out which ones were Mormon donors.

Oh, the Wall Street Journal article: what happened very early on was that some General Authorities did a telephone conference with wealthy Mormons.  They were invited to their stake presidents’ offices and they did this group call.  I think it was Russell Ballard who did it.  They asked them to make large donations.  I believe the amount they asked for was $25,000.  Some of them gave that much, some gave more, some gave $10,000 or $15,000 in that first round of big donations.

We had found out that they had asked for this, and somebody had posted on the Internet a story about being asked to donate a large sum of money.  We didn’t know for sure if that was part of it or not.  It was somebody who had a blog.  But right after this happened, all of a sudden there were these $25,000 donations that came up, quite a few of them.  We only tracked the large donors—those who gave $1,000 or more.  We eventually put up the small donors as well, but in terms of my time in trying to figure out who was Mormon, it made a lot more sense to track down somebody who gave $25,000 than somebody who gave $150.  So if people reported to us, we put it up; but we spent our time on the large donors.

What we found was that in areas where we had a source who could tell us whether the donors were Mormon, virtually all of those $25,000 donors that came in at that time were Mormon. 

There were some other places where we never found a source and where we never were able to identify Mormons through public information.  So I’m quite sure that those $25,000 donations were Mormon as well, but we were never able to prove it.  In the end, I think we showed that a little over half the money came from Mormons we could identify as Mormon donors; but I would guess that 75% of the money from the large donors came from Mormon donors.

Prince: Would it be possible now to go into those stake records?  Can’t you get into other stakes once you are on your own stake’s website?

Hansen: I don’t know.  I never wanted to try to use the Church’s own resources to try to track donors in that way.  So if there had been donors from my stake, I would have looked at it.  For people who had access, the same thing.  But at least at that time, I don’t you could look at the records of another stake.  The Church guards that information for peoples’ privacy, and that’s certainly reasonable.

I did get information from the Church’s website.  For instance, if somebody who just gave $10,000 had been made a stake president, that announcement typically would be on the Church’s website, in the news section.  So I found information that way, because of church callings that got reported as church news.  But I never tried to use the Church’s own internal records to find people, other than if somebody happened to be a member of that stake already.…

Actually, we continued to say, “We are a neutral website.  We are not taking a position on Prop 8.  All we are doing is tracking the money, because we think that people have a right to know who is funding Proposition 8, and we want to see what the Mormon involvement is.”  We never linked to anti-8 websites.  We had a thing called a “blogroll” that my daughter put up, which had links to both sides.  It had a link to ProtectMarriage.com, and it had a link to the anti-Prop 8 websites.  We tried to be pretty evenhanded about that.…

I think they intended to mobilize people, but I don’t think they ever, ever anticipated that they were going to get caught with the fundraising the way they did.

Prince: Does that strike you as being really naïve?

Hansen: Yes.

Prince: Especially in the Internet Age.

Hansen: But they got away with it before.  I agree, it’s not a rational thought in the Internet Age, but they got away with it before.…

Hansen: I think Prop 8 taught them a lot of ramifications.  During the Prop 8 stuff, it was [Russell] Ballard who said, “We have lost control of the message.”  He said that, I think, in that fireside that they did.  They did a satellite broadcast and he was urging people to put the Church’s position on their website, on their blogs, make it go viral.  “We need you to carry the message.  We’ve lost control of the message.”  I think that statement is in that same presentation.

(Nadine Hansen, October 22, 2013)

Jacobs: Our campaign against Prop 8 was run horribly, and there was great fear of showing gay couples.…

I have to give you a little bit of a caveat emptor here, which is to say that towards the end of the Prop 8, in October 2008, our organization took a rather frontal approach to the Church.  Some bloggers came up with the idea that, “We should do an ad that says what they are doing.”  It was an ad that we did for about $800.  It was two guys portraying Mormon missionaries.

Prince: I saw that one on the Internet.  Was it ever broadcast?

Jacobs: It was, briefly.

Prince: I thought it was clever and effective, but I can see where other people would have pushed back.

Jacobs: We got pushback, but we did it because we wanted it to be really clear.  The pushback that we got, which is fair, I think, is that we were being anti-Mormon, rather than going against the Church, and it’s very hard to make that distinction.  We tried really hard.  We had a little campaign before that in which we tried to convince the Church to stay out of the campaign.  We had Reverend Lee from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and he and I went over to your temple.

(Richard Jacobs, June 12, 2010)

Jacobs: I’m Rick Jacobs, and this is Sunday the 19th of January in Los Angeles.  I’m happy to be with Greg Prince.  So how do you want to start?

Prince: How did you and the Courage Campaign first become aware that the Mormons were suddenly going to be part of Prop 8?  As I recall it was late in the game, perhaps May, when they jumped in.

Jacobs: It was.  And many people, including me, didn’t pay much attention to that until later in the summer.  The Mormon Church clearly helped put this on the ballot.  I don’t think it would have gotten on the ballot with them.  But it was not until August that the Courage Campaign and other groups started to pay attention to the fact that the Mormon Church, itself, seemed to be very active behind not just putting Prop 8 on the ballot, but actually supporting its passage.

Prince: Were you hearing this from the streets, from the press, or what?

Jacobs: I think we were hearing it from the streets and from the press.  I think there were anecdotes.  There was this fellow named Doug Manchester in San Diego, not Mormon, a very wealthy guy, who put the last $125,000 up to get this on the ballot.  He owned the Manchester Hyatt, a large property in San Diego, and many of us started—I wouldn’t say a boycott, but we encouraged people not to stay in his hotel.  The union joined, and I think that started to raise people’s awareness in general that specific donors had put large sums of money up and were creating a big problem.

The other thing to remember is that as late as late August the message from the folks on our side who were running the campaign against Prop 8 was, “Everything is fine.  We have it under control.”

Prince: As I recall, you had a six- or seven-point lead.

Jacobs: At one point there was a lead in the teens reported.  It was a public poll, and the message that came from our side was, “It’s OK.  Don’t worry about it.”  But that obviously was not the right message.

There was an ad in early September, the “Princess Ad,” by the pro-Prop 8 folks, that had a little girl coming home to her mommy and saying, “Hi, Mommy.  I learned in school today that if I grow up and want to marry a princess, I can.”  So this whole fear of children “catching the gay” was instilled.  That was really the Achilles’ heel of all of these campaigns, and our side didn’t have an answer for a couple of weeks.

It was in that time when the campaign on our side, I would say, lost leadership in a sense.  People started saying, “Wait a minute.  We’ve got a problem here.”

Prince: Was there any cohesive leadership within the LGBT community before that, or was it diffuse?

Jacobs: There was cohesive leadership.  To be fair, the folks who were fighting this said, “This is what we do.  We are raising the money and we will lead the effort.”  They had put together a steering committee and they had a campaign consultant.  It looked like they had a lot of professionals really involved in it.  The challenge was that the grassroots on our side was not engaged.  To be fair again to the people leading the campaign on our side, there was not a modern tradition of that, either.  Most people didn’t care about it, which is really the point of your book, I think: That was the gift that the Mormon Church gave to the LGBT movement, which was to make people care.  In the past people hadn’t for a very long time.

Prince: To care about campaigning and to care about marriage.

Jacobs: To care about both.  I’ve said this many times and I still believe it: the best thing that has happened to the modern LGBT movement is Prop 8.  The very best thing.  It was the most cathartic event since Stonewall, and people like myself were too young to remember Stonewall.  Certainly people younger than me don’t remember it, although they know about it.

There was also a sense that even though Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell had been foisted upon the LGBT community, even though DOMA had been foisted on the LGBT community and Clinton had disappointed a lot of gay people, I think there was generally a sense that the movement had become, as it were, a corporation.  It had been professionalized.  So you had a professional human rights campaign.  You had professionals running these organizations, which makes a lot of sense.  They’re big organizations.  And there were not flash points along the way that gave people an opportunity or a need, in their minds, to stand up and say, “We are going to fight.”  The general feeling, I think, was that people who got involved were people who could give money; but there wasn’t a politicization of LGBT people until Prop 8.

Prince: Was there a sense that this was going to be a generational issue, and that we would grow into it gradually without any catalytic events?

Jacobs: No.  I think there was a sense that nobody cared.  Nobody cared about the issue because nobody thought it was possible.  People just didn’t care about marriage.  I think if you had done a survey of self-identifying LGBT people in 2007, people would have said, “It’s not my issue.  It doesn’t matter.”  Very few people had been pushing for this.  Again, look back: in 2004, Bush won reelection in large part because of anti-gay marriage ballot measures.

Prince: It was the wedge issue.

Jacobs: And nobody was fighting it—by that I mean that there was no mass movement, there was no mobilization, there was no money.  Nobody was fighting it at all, and we lost all those states, and we kept losing.

So if you look at it from that perspective, you had Gavin Newsom in 2004 starting to marry gay and lesbian people.  That was very exciting for people, but it ended, and the courts said it had to end.  At the same time you had all these ballot measures, and some people including Diane Feinstein, after John Kerry lost, sort of blamed Gavin Newsom for that, publicly.  She said, “I think it was too much, too soon,” and sort of blamed him for that, and blamed his movement too quickly being the catalyst for all those anti-gay marriage ballot measures.  I don’t know that that’s true at all; I don’t think it was true, but there it is.

Prince: But it gave a higher profile to it.

Jacobs: It gave a higher profile to it, and it also gave the answer, “We can’t win.”  That’s what it said, and you even had big-time Democrats saying, “Look at the trouble you have caused us.”

So you had this framework of, “Yes, he tried that up in San Francisco,” and the former mayor of San Francisco blamed the then-mayor of San Francisco for losing the election.  And you had this generalized construction that nobody really cared about gay marriage except the people on the other side who used it as a wedge issue.  There was absolutely no uprising after 2004.  Zero.  Think about that!  Not one!  There was no mass mobilization, no fight, no “this is terrible.”  It didn’t happen.  We just lost.

You were asking about the Mormon Church involvement.  By early autumn it became clear, maybe through the matching of donors and their relationship to the Mormon Church—and there was an LDS guy out here who was on the Prop 8 committee, and I remember that it became really clear to us by mid- to late-September that that was where a lot of the money was coming from, and that that was where a lot of the foot soldiers were coming from.  The anti-Prop 8 campaign said, “We do not to take that on head-on.  We don’t want to call out the church.  We think that’s bad for the campaign.  We don’t want to call out individuals.”

At the same time, however, there was a letter that this fellow had circulated.  He sent it to people like Sal Rosselli, who at the time was president of United Healthcare Workers West, a 150,000-member union; and he sent it to shop owners and said, “If you don’t give at least as much money to the pro-Prop 8 campaign as you do to the anti-Prop 8 campaign, we are going to let your customers know what you are doing.”  It was basically blackmail, but that was a letter that existed.  We have it.

That was a big deal, and so we—the Courage Campaign—said to our side, the anti-Prop 8 campaign, “We’re going to take this on.”  They said, “Be our guests.”  And so we did.

Prince: So you were out there alone at that point?

Jacobs: Very much so.  They didn’t want to do it—the official campaign—and I’m not judging them for that.  I assume they had a good reason, but they didn’t want to do it.  So we did it.  

And by this time—this is four-and-a-half years ago—it was absolutely clear in the media and elsewhere that the Mormon Church was playing a key role.  So we started a petition with the Reverend Eric Lee, who at the time was the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles, and we asked the president of the church, Thomas Monson, to get out of California politics.  At the time—this was in October—we got about 17,000 signatures.  Then, we tried to deliver it at the temple in West L. A.  Our folks went over there the day before we were going to deliver it, and this particular gate was open to the public; but the day we delivered it, the gate was closed.  We did a press conference out in front of the temple and then we walked up to the gate.  We were all on video.  We had told them we were coming.  We said, “We want to come and deliver this to a church official.”  We got up to that gate and they said, “Sorry, you can’t come in.”  They literally gave us the runaround.  They said, “You have to go over to the other side.”  So we walked over there, and then somebody met us from the Prop 8 committee.  She said, “Nobody from the Church will meet you.  This is the Prop 8 committee.”  I said, “Well, we want to meet with somebody from the Church, because this isn’t about the Prop 8 committee; this is about the Church, and the president of the Church to get involved in this political campaign, and we think that that’s not a good thing for a church to do.  Have your beliefs, but don’t spent money on politics in our state.”

We wouldn’t give the petition to her because she wasn’t an official of the Church.  Then some guy finally appeared out of nowhere, and he was with the Church.  But he wouldn’t be on camera and he kind of hid.

Then we walked back to that gate again and we went to the guard, and the guard said, “Sorry, you can’t come in.  There’s nobody here anyway from the Church.”  I said, “Really?”  “Yes.  There is nobody in this temple who represents the Church in Salt Lake City.”  I said, “OK.  How do we get somebody who does?”  He said, “You probably should try the Yellow Pages.”  So we got that on video, and we did try the Yellow Pages.  With my sister’s help, Judy Donnell, we found some people in Salt Lake City who had been excommunicated Mormons, gay guys, and we arranged for them to deliver the petitions there in Temple Square.

They made an appointment with somebody, and they did deliver them.  Somebody from the Church received them, and I’m pretty sure every television station in Salt Lake City covered it, along with the Associated Press.  It was a big deal.

Then, some straight friends of ours actually said they were tired of the namby-pamby ads on our side, and for $800 they produced a little video called “Home Invasion.”

Prince: Of the two missionaries?

Jacobs: Yes, the two missionaries.  That was the weekend before the election.  It was filmed here in this house.

Prince: In your house?

Jacobs: Yes, in this very house.  It was filmed here.  We had these two brothers, Dante and David Adkins, play the missionaries; and then these two women played the lesbian couple.  Like I said, it was $800.  We put it up on YouTube on the Saturday before the election.  Understand that we built up all of this information, with trying to get the Church to comment, trying to point out that the Church was behind all of this and we couldn’t get anybody to comment; and so we did this.  That weekend, I’m pretty sure, it exceeded 100,000 views without any promotion.  We just put it up.  We may have promoted it a little bit, but we didn’t pay anything.

Then, we had arranged to put it on the air on Election Day.  It wasn’t going to influence anybody on Election Day; by then it was too late.  But we wanted to make a point.  People knew by then that we were going to lose.  So we got a donor to give us a little money and we put it on CNN in the Bay Area and here, and we announced we were doing that.  That was the first time that I remember that the Church, itself, called on the anti-Prop 8 campaign not to put that ad up.  I remember that as being the first time that the Church, and not the campaign committee, had said something publicly.  I could be wrong, so somebody should research that.

The anti-Prop 8 campaign said the truth, which was, “It’s not our ad.  We don’t control it.”  I think they may have said something like, “Besides which, it’s true.”  So we put it up.  I think we got 500,000 or so YouTube views and it was covered very widely in Salt Lake City.

Prince: Was it broadcast on CNN?

Jacobs: Absolutely, on Election Day.  Our whole goal with that video—we didn’t think it was going to change anybody’s mind at that point, and it wasn’t.  We didn’t think people would vote differently; what we knew was that it was important that people understand that a church had taken a position on something that affected lots and lots of people in California.  That was the whole thing we did.  We had already built this up—this being the role of the Church in the campaign—and we had gotten a lot of attention in Salt Lake City with the presentation of the petitions.  So now it was a natural thing; the media in Salt Lake City were covering this.  So I think every television station in Salt Lake City ran that ad for free.  Now again, if you think about it, nobody in Salt Lake City was voting on Prop 8, but we wanted to make a point.…

That conversation with Marlin, he asked me, “Is something missing in your life?”  I said, “No.”  I knew what he was asking, and it was a really good question.  He was asking if it was possible for a gay person, a homosexual man, to feel complete and full as a gay person.  I told him that it is, because that’s how I feel.  Only by having, frankly, the relationship that I have Shaun, I feel very complete.

Prince: That caught him off-guard, but it raised his consciousness.

Jacobs: He told us, as you may recall, the story of a guy in Houston whom he counseled, who was gay and Mormon.  He said that that man is tormented.  And then in that conversation I realized, and maybe he did too, that of course he only talks to people who are tormented.  If you are trying to stay inside of a culture and a religion that doesn’t want you to be what you are, and you are struggling, then you are tormented.  It’s telling you that you are not supposed to be who you are.  If that’s the only type of person you see, then your worldview is that that’s what it is, and that homosexuality must cause great consternation in people.  But the opposite could be true, which is to say—again, this is not for me to say; this is for the Church to decide—but it strikes me that it is easier to let people be part of the Church and be faithful and live a good life as gay people in the Church.  But that’s not my business.  If the Church doesn’t want to do that, I would support that.  I told him that, that day, and I’ve said it publicly.  I said, “If the Mormon Church decides that it wants to excommunicate gay people, I would support that.”  I don’t think it’s a smart idea, but it’s the Church’s business.  It’s not my business.

Prince: Yes, but don’t beat them up.

Jacobs: Don’t hurt people, and don’t tell me what my law has to be.  Orthodox Judaism doesn’t excommunicate people, because it doesn’t have that culture, but orthodox Jews don’t approve of homosexuality.  As a Jew, I would be mightily offended by somebody coming along and saying, “The law is that orthodox Judaism has to accept homosexuals.”  That’s not the law.  It’s not fair.…

By the way, think about you and think about people like you—I don’t know how many there are—who care deeply about your faith and your religion.  If Prop 8 had failed, you wouldn’t be able to have these conversations inside the Church as readily, either.

Prince: That’s true.  And I think this was Bill Evans’s point in that meeting.  He realized the irony in the situation, that it was Prop 8 that brought us together in that room and allowed not only a conversation, but a very respectful conversation in both directions.

(Richard Jacobs, January 19, 2014)

Prince: At what point did you get involved [in Prop 8]?

Jansson: 2003.  I attended a meeting in Sacramento.  I’ve forgotten exactly how we became aware of it, but there was a move at the time to recognize that the win of Prop 22 would be short-lived at best because the opposition had pretty much determined that they were going to do whatever they could to overturn it.…

Prince: So how did you become involved in the 2003 meeting?

Jansson: I’ve been in Church Public Affairs for about twenty-five years, on and off.  I was in Public Affairs at the time, working with Dennis Holland.  I don’t know if you know who he is.

Prince: I don’t know.  Is he related to Jeff?

Jansson: Jeff is his younger brother.

Prince: I’ve known Jeff for over forty years.

Jansson: That’s good to know.  There is obviously a connection there.  There was a conversation we had at one of our Public Affairs meetings about the fact that this wasn’t a profile thing at all; it was a Section D, third page, two column-inch story—I’m only using that reference to give you an idea of how far down the totem pole this thing was, in terms of public profile.  But I became aware of the meeting from Dennis, and he said, “We ought to get ourselves involved and see what’s going on.”

It was originally sponsored, I think, by Andy Pugno.  Andrew was our legal counsel for the entire event, and he was also very much engaged in Prop 22.

Prince: Wasn’t he chief of staff for Pete Knight?

Jansson: Yes, he was chief of staff.  I went to the meeting.  There were several there.  Pete Henderson was pretty much the chair of the committee at the time.  I went with a friend of mine who I had shared Public Affairs activities with, Stan Nielsen, here in the Sacramento area, for some years before.  We were both on the committee, and he went with me to that first meeting.  He wasn’t interested in becoming engaged, but agreed that it was something we needed to do.  There was Ned Dolejsi, who was the executive director of the California Catholic Conference.  Andy was there; Pete Henderson; two or three others.  I want to say Maggie Gallagher was not there, but her name was bandied about.  You know the NOM—National Organization for Marriage?

Prince: Yes, I know of her, but I’ve not met her.

Jansson: Historically, Maggie has been a player with Robert George, out of Princeton.  I never met him, but I know that he has been feted by the Brethren in Salt Lake a couple of times and is well thought of.  I’ve never met him, but he is a great guy and is thought of highly everywhere that I ever went.

I attended the meeting, and I came away from the meeting aware of what their end game was.  The end game was, “We need to do something to develop an initiative, file, collect or buy signatures, and fund the thing, because we can expect that the opposition will, indeed, attempt to overturn Prop 22.”  They could do it in one of three ways: Do the initiative process themselves, but we didn’t expect that that would work; number two was try to do it legislatively; and number three was to do it through the judiciary.  As it turned out, they filed a lawsuit and got a judge in San Francisco to overturn it, and the rest is history.

We weren’t concerned about what route they would choose as what we would do to counter it.  It was agreed at the time that we really needed to get into floating an initiative this time that would become a constitutional amendment and put it out of the reach of the courts, thinking more so in terms of California than we were thinking federally.

So we did.  From 2003 to 2007, we floated three different initiatives.  They were, from an evolutionary standpoint, relatively strict, and we modified them over the years to become what ultimately was Prop 8.

Prince: And Prop 8 was exactly the same wording as Prop 22.

Jansson: Effectively, yes.  There were great cries and hues and carrying on from the Evangelical side of the coin, wanting us to alter civil unions, etc., and play against that.  Gary Lawrence became a player in that, and his counsel carried the day at some point in the future.  [At this point he put me on hold and took a call from Bill Evans.]

Bill Evans is, without question, a profound, once-in-a-lifetime tender mercy that I was given.  If I were in the CIA, he would be my handler.  It was the most wonderful gift, Greg.  I love that man with all my heart.  He became a friend, a counselor, a teacher, a profound observer of peoples’ circumstances and trends and situations.  I found him to be one of the most incredibly faithful servants of the Lord in his job.  He traveled in circles that 99.9999% of the membership of the Church will never walk in, and associated with people who were stratospherically gifted.  Bill was a profound mentor and coach, and a reality player.  He was always good to remind me what reality was all about, and I was grateful for that.

Prince: He was handed a pretty high degree of difficulty on this issue.

Jansson: He was.  I just went with the flow and assumed that was routine for him, and I came to find out that a lot of the stuff we were doing was [inaudible].  It was an amazing experience.

That meeting led to subsequent meetings.  As I indicated to you, we floated three initiatives and we filed three initiatives.  Mrs. Knight—I think her first name was Glenda—Pete Knight’s wife was an initiatory for all of the ones that we filed.  I don’t know who the initiatories were on the other three that we filed, but I was not.  I just showed up at the meetings and determined, without much difficulty, that I would be, by default, the LDS liaison with whatever was going on, to make myself useful where I could.

At one of the meetings, Ned Dolejsi, the executive director of the California Catholic Conference, made a blanket statement that rings still in my ears: “Except the Latter-day Saints are involved in this, it will fail.”  I was impressed with how deliberate the statement was.  I was impressed with the way he made the statement.  I know that he made it for two reasons: to remind the committee that what had happened in Prop 22 had to happen again with what would become Prop 8, and that he wanted me to hear it, because I repeated it and passed it on up the line.

I had no contact with Salt Lake—none, whatsoever—during this period of time.

Prince: Did Dennis?

Jansson: No.  We were on our own.  We were out there in the world, attempting to collect money, to raise money, attempting to do this.  The closest we came was on the third attempt.  On the third attempt—I don’t know that we even tried to collect signatures on the first initiative that we filed; I don’t know that we even got that one off the ground, but the second two, we did.  And on the third attempt, we ended up collecting about 250,000 to 300,000 signatures through volunteer effort.  I think the threshold was 464,000.  It was not very high.

Prince: When you tried number two, did you see that that wasn’t going to have enough support, and that’s why you went with number three, or were you floating them simultaneously?

Jansson: We floated them singularly, in a chain.  We were making stabs in the dark to see what kind of reaction we would get from the public, and what kind of support we might be able to glean from those with money.

Gary Lawrence would ultimately carry the day, with all of his background having worked for Richard Wirthlin.

Prince: I used to date Richard’s secretary.

Jansson: Oh, bless your heart!  Good for you.

Prince: I did that when I was in graduate school at UCLA.

Jansson: Oh, wow.  Good for you.  Anyway, Gary’s counsel carried the day, that we needed to tone down the initiative, make it simple, abandon any efforts to compromise or alter the law with regard to civil unions and domestic partnerships.  There were some rumblings out of Salt Lake that made it to us indirectly—I take that back.  No, there weren’t.  There wasn’t a single rumbling out of Salt Lake.  I communicated what was going on in the meetings to Dennis and to—and I need to be real careful about this.  This is where a lot of what I will share with you, I need to draw the line.  I need to make sure that there are names—but I shared a lot of what was going on with a couple of what was then Area Authority Seventies, and kept a couple of them abreast of what was going on, and got some interesting feedback from them.  He said, “Whatever happens is going to have to happen at the state level, because by the time Salt Lake figures out what is going on, we’ll be too far down the road to do anything about it.”  I took that in a vein of humor, more than as counsel.

At the end of 2007, we floated our last initiative.  This would be the third one that we attempted to have signatures with, and that was what would ultimately become Prop 8.  We filed it with the state, we went out gathering money, and bless their hearts, it was NOM—at that time, don’t believe all the garbage you hear from Chad Griffin.  The impression we got from following what the opposition was saying was that they didn’t think we had enough horsepower.  They didn’t think we had any funding at all.  They didn’t think we had what it would take to float an initiative and get it passed.  I say that only from the standpoint that it was evident from what we could see in the press and what we could glean from any letters or fundraisers and things like that that they were doing—it was kind of an “All Quiet on the Western Front” at the time.  Even when we filed, we got our initiative back and there was no question in our minds that the Secretary of State was in on the fix, and we got terrible language on the initiative.  But it was still what we got, and we figured we’d live with it.

When we went out to try to raise money to gather signatures, that became a huge effort.  The breakthrough occurred when we were able to get a couple of very, very good supportive Catholics in the San Diego area as a result of the efforts of then-Assistant Bishop [Salvatore] Cordileone, who is now the Archbishop of San Francisco.  He was the Assistant Bishop in San Diego at the time, and he helped generate some energy.  We ended up with several hundred-thousand dollars from two Catholic hotel magnates in the San Diego area, Doug Manchester being one of them.  When it became public that they had done what they had done, the American Lawyers’ Guild, who had a convention slated at one of their hotels—I think it was the Hyatt—immediately canceled their reservation at the Hyatt and moved the reservation to the Marriott down the road.  If you don’t get the irony of that, I don’t know what to tell you!

Prince: I can get it.  Dick Marriott used to be our bishop.

Jansson: There you go.  Anyway, that was a testimony to a lot of the knee-jerk stuff we watched them do, because it was obvious that they were shooting from the hip a lot of times, and never thought through what they were doing.  But that’s OK, too.

Anyway, we were able to come up with about $400,000, with a promise of a match from NOM, which took us up to about $800,000.  That allowed us to print the initiatives, get the initiative applications distributed throughout the state, and start working on organizing committees locally to go out and do the legwork to collect the signatures.

We knew, at the time, that the best we could possibly hope for was about a 30% volunteer initiative success.  The signatures were going to have to be acquired by buying the attention from those that go out and solicit signatures on a professional basis.

Prince: So this was like professional fundraising, except that they were raising signatures instead of money?

Jansson: That’s exactly right.  There are a number of organizations that that’s all they do.  You come to them with an initiative, and they will go out and collect the signatures.  They charge anywhere from $1.75 to $2.50 a piece for them, and in some cases it was as high as $4 or $5, depending on the campaign.

Prince: Do they verify the signatures as they go along?

Jansson: They do not.  They collect them, and they submitted them to us.

We began soliciting professionally, with professional signature gatherers, and ran into an interesting wall when we found that the LGBT folks were canvassing shopping centers, looking for these guys.  Then they would go in, in a strength of three or four, and harass them.  They typically would be working on three or four ballot initiatives, so they had three or four clipboards in their hands and they would say, “We have this one, and this one, and this one.”  We got some pushback from some of the folks we hired, because their signature gatherers were getting verbally beaten up in parking lots by LGBTs.  It wasn’t wholesale; it was spotty, at best.  But it did attract some attention from the media.

We pressed on.  Andy, having been through this before, knew what the threshold was.  I want to say the threshold was somewhere between 700,000 and 800,000 signatures.  It was predicated on a percentage of whatever the turnout was in the prior governor election.  But he set a target for us to exceed that by half.  So our target was 1.2 million signatures.

Prince: Knowing that a lot would be disqualified?

Jansson: Yes, that was the anticipation.  The counties in California are the ones that verify the signatures.  The counties individually go in and compare signatures with the voting rolls.  There are about one hundred counties in the state, and each one of the signatures that was collected would have to be submitted to the county in which it was signed.  They would verify and then report back.

At this point of time—I’m going to repeat it again—we had no contact, none whatsoever, with Salt Lake.  There had not been as much as a whisper.  There had not been as much as an inquiry.  There had not been as much as a phone call.  We were pretty much on our own.

We were still having committee meetings, and a change took place.  Pete Henderson was gone, for whatever reason—I forget exactly why—and Ron Prentiss, who was the director at the time of the California Family Council, an association organization with Focus on the Family, took over as chair of the committee.

One of the other committee members was Doug Swardstrom.  Doug worked for an eccentric in Southern California whose father was a banker and made tons of money.  I have to go back and look at my notes.  Doug was his executive director, and he became a member of the committee.

We collected signatures and had a window from the middle of November through the end of March.  At the end of March we had to submit the signatures.  We were able to collect the signatures that we needed, both through the paid signature gatherers and volunteers.  Then we did an interesting thing.  Andy was very familiar with the whole process of what the counties would do, and so we literally handled every individual signature, every individual form, and cross-checked the signatures for content, accuracy, spelling, everything that we could look at, any mistake we could find, and we pulled those aside.  This was part of the vetting process.  We wanted to ferret out any that looked like they would not make it through the county process.  We ended up culling out about 200,000 signatures.  There may have been some in there that were good, but we followed Andy’s direction on what was good and what was not, and we pretty much stuck to that.

We ultimately ended up qualifying, and the word back on the whole process was not only did we qualify, but we had the highest percentage of qualified signatures on any ballot initiative that had ever been turned in.  There were a couple of firsts, and that was one of them.

At that point in time, we had not made a lot of noise.  We did not want to make a lot of noise publicly.  We wanted to just go ahead and get the job done.

We were working very closely with Alliance Defense Fund.  Do you know who they are?

Prince: No.

Jansson: They are out of Arizona.  There were a number of them that Andy had become engaged with in the Prop 22 fight.  They were very, very helpful on an ongoing basis on a pro bono basis, which is the way they work their program, helping us with a lot of little legal matters.  They assisted us in the filing of the initiatives with the counties.  We tried to do it under the cover of darkness, because we didn’t want the word to get out that we had collected all the signatures we wanted.  We were almost successful, except that the good folks from NOM elected to make a big press release on the fact that we had filed the initiative signatures.  That cost us thirty days.  It would have been a thirty-day delay for the other side to catch wind of what we were up to and how successful we had been, and we gave them a thirty-day edge to get ready to prepare to fight us.  I want to be real careful about this, because this may be information that I will cull from what I am telling you.  I really need to be able to be careful about a lot of the things that I share with you, Greg. 

An interesting thing occurred at the time.  Again I am going to remind you that at this point in time, we had no contact with Salt Lake, nor had we had any contact from Salt Lake.  Dennis [Holland] and I had ongoing conversations about what was going on, and pretty much we kept it to ourselves.  The logic was if the Church was going to become engaged, they would only become engaged at such point in time as we could show that we had qualified the initiative for the ballot.  So our focus at that time was to raise whatever money we could, and we solicited from anybody and everybody we could.  We crossed every religious boundary, every religious wall we could find, and sought money to help get this done.  We raised about $1.5 million to fund the project through the initiative filing.

When we filed the initiative, NOM broke with a press release to the world that the initiative had been filed.  As I said just a moment ago, they literally spilled the beans to the world that we were where we were.

Prince: What was the timing of that with respect to the court case being decided?

Jansson: That’s a good question.  I’d have to go back and look at a calendar to make sure that I understood exactly what the window was.

Prince: Those events were close to each other.

Jansson: They were.  I want to say that we filed the initiative at the end of March, and the court case in San Francisco was decided in March.  That was when Prop 22 was overturned.

We held our breath, because now we were waiting for the counties, and they had a window, I think it was thirty days, to vet all the signatures and compare them against existing voting records.

About the same window, Dennis and I were talking to each other and Dennis said, “Have you been in touch with Matt Holland?”  I said, “No.  Who is he?”  Dennis said, “Well, he’s on NOM’s committee [board of directors].”  I said, “Great, but who is he?”  “He’s my nephew.  He’s Elder Holland’s son.”  Do you know Matthew Holland?

Prince: I’m on his board.

Jansson: At UVU?

Prince: Yes, I’m on his Presidential Advisory Board.

Jansson: The next time you have a meeting, would you please tell Matt that you bring greetings from Mark Jansson?

Prince: I will be happy to do that.

Jansson: All you need to say is, “Mark Jansson says to say hello.  He was much younger then.”

So Matt was on the board of NOM, and the good news was that this gave us access to the ability to beat up on NOM from time to time, and get them to pull some of the punches they were throwing, and recognize that the last thing in the world we wanted to do was start a fight.  “Not now—this is not the time to start a fight with the other side.”  We knew that no matter how we sliced it, we were out-funded, we were outnumbered, and at the time we knew that the percentages of pro and anti with regard to the idea of gay marriage was in the 44 to 45% pro, and 44 to 45% against, and about 11% undecided.

Prince: And that was a major shift since Prop 22.

Jansson: That is correct.  But Gary Lawrence pointed out to us a couple of times—and I still think his numbers are correct—if you asked an unloaded question, “Do you feel that gay marriage is acceptable?” that’s where the polling was.  The minute you asked a second question, which was, “If you support gay marriage, would you accept mandatory instruction in elementary schools that the gay lifestyle is an acceptable alternative, and possibly preferable to heterosexual lifestyles?” do you know where the polls go?

Prince: They would shift quite a bit.

Jansson: Oh, how about almost 80% against?  But nobody ever wanted to ask that question.  The reason why: the media was in the tank for the other side.  Not as much then as they are now, but they were moving in that direction, and they were moving rather rapidly, as we would come to find out.

Prince: So did that shape the advertising for “Yes on 8,” to tie it to that?

Jansson: That’s a good question, and the answer to that is yes, it did.  And there is more, as I go on with this narrative.

At that point in time we had submitted the initiative, we had submitted the signatures to the counties, they were being counted, and I gave Matt Holland a call.  I ended up back in Salt Lake City and had lunch with him, and I found out that I now had inside access to NOM, which gave us the ability, as a committee, to have access to Robbie George.  Maggie Gallagher is an outstanding lady.  She is an amazing writer.  But the one thing we were concerned about was that sometimes we couldn’t figure out whether NOM was more concerned about fundraising than they were about the message.  That’s what troubled us, and we had to manage them at arm’s length, in spite of the fact that they are listed on the initiative, as it was filed, as the primary donor, which they were.  The reason why was because of the money that had been donated by Doug Manchester and crew down in San Diego [which was matched by NOM].  But we lived with it, and it was what it was.  It didn’t give them a place at the table.  We weren’t interested in doing that, because one of the things the committee had determined—going back to your question—was what the ads would be.  We determined, going into this, that the one thing that would not work for us was to attack the gay lifestyle, so we elected not to do that, in spite of the fact that some did.

It gets better than that.  I got a call from Andy one day and he said, “I need your signature.”  I said, “What for?”  “For the initiative.”  When they had filed Prop 22, it was filed with one signature, Pete Knight.  Post-Prop 22, there was a court challenge.  Pete Knight died.  Andy took the issue to court, and the court denied him standing to even appeal the challenge or to show up to defend the challenge because he didn’t have standing.  Do you follow the legal argument here?

Prince: Yes.  It’s the same argument that was applied to Prop 8 when it went to the Supreme Court.

Jansson: That’s exactly right.  So Andy determined at that time that he would never file another initiative without at least three to five signatures.  I was the fifth signature, so I’m a signatory to Prop 8, a proponent, if you would.  As a consequence, my name is named along with all five of the original proponents, but would ultimately become four, because one of them dropped out.

So, moving on, I had a conversation with Matt, and one of the conversations I had was, “We are close to qualifying this thing.  I have no idea how to move this ball into a court that could be viewed by anybody in Salt Lake.”  Without going through all of the conversation about how this developed, we had a rather interesting scenario that had already been set in place.  Some ten or twelve years prior, a new bishop was assigned by the Holy See to Salt Lake City, William Weigand.  He became friends with “Tommy” Monson and crew—Elder Hinckley, Elder Faust, Elder Maxwell and a whole group of Brethren.  The Church has always had this great working relationship with the Catholics in Salt Lake, and they became friends.

About five or six years later he was reassigned to Sacramento and became the bishop of Sacramento.  A new bishop moved into Salt Lake City, George Niederauer.  He was bishop there for about five or six years, and then he was reassigned as the archbishop of San Francisco.

So, with my good friend Ned Dolejsi and the relationship that they had with Salt Lake, a letter was written by the dioceses—both—a joint letter signed by both Bishop Weigand and Archbishop Niederauer and sent to President Monson, inviting the Church to become a part of this event.  That was in early June.  It was in May that the idea came out of a meeting that was held, that that would be a good tack to take.

Prince: Were any Mormons in that meeting?

Jansson: I’m going to let you guess.

Prince: All right.

Jansson: The answer is yes.  It was a regular staff meeting.  When the recommendation was made that that would be a good idea, we all voted yes.  At the time we expected that the letter would go from Bishop Weigand to Salt Lake, because we already knew about his relationship.  I did not know, but Ned Dolejsi did, about George Niederauer’s connection with Salt Lake.  I think that was done to enhance the letter that the Catholics ultimately sent to Salt Lake.

Two things happened almost at the same time.  The letter went to Salt Lake, and at the end of May we were notified that the initiative had qualified for the ballot.  It all happened in a very, very small window.  The first phone call was made from Salt Lake to me.  Prior to that time I had gotten a couple of inquiries from local authorities here, asking for names of the committee, which I submitted.  I don’t know where they went, but I would guess that they went back to Salt Lake.  The initiative qualified and the letter arrived in Salt Lake.

We scheduled a meeting in Southern California for June 11.  That meeting was a fundraising meeting for Prop 8 for general consumption.  It included a number of major contributors.  It included some associations like the American Family Association and the Family Research Council and others that were invited to the meeting.  Not everybody attended.  It was one of the hotels in Newport Beach.  We had a morning meeting that started at about 9:00 and went until about noon.  We did our best to put our best foot forward and let everybody know that this was what we were doing and why, and the campaign was going to be conducted above-board.  There were those that pushed back and said, “You haven’t been stern enough.”  There were those that suggested that the language of the initiative was too weak, that they really wanted more.  We knew exactly what they wanted: they wanted to take everything back to 1959.  That wasn’t going to happen.  The reason why it wasn’t going to happen was because of what had happened demographically, in the shift of the attitude of the voters.

So we pressed forward with what we had, and found out that there was going to be a visit to California by leadership of the Church.  There was.  They met with a whole slew of folks in Southern California, including Rick Warren and Jim Garlow, a minister of a big congregation in San Diego.  The leadership of the Church met with a cadre of Evangelical leaders, and ultimately met with Bishop Niederauer in San Francisco the week following.  Two different trips out here to the West Coast, as best as I could determine, because I was never given information about the meetings, I was never party to those meetings; but the best I could determine was that it was to solicit a team support for the initiative moving forward.  My understanding is, coming out of that meeting they got that support.

How much do you remember about Prop 22?

Prince: Quantitatively it was a different playbook, but qualitatively it seemed about the same approach.  But they didn’t ask the members to write out the checks to a different organization.  Is that correct so far?

Jansson: I don’t remember who we made the donations to on Prop 22.  Who did we donate the money to?

Prince: I don’t recall, but I will find it.

Jansson: Yes, that’s public record so it shouldn’t be hard to find.

Prince: But the amount of donations to Prop 22 paled by comparison to Prop 8.  And there wasn’t the First Presidency appeal for Prop 22 that there was for Prop 8.

Jansson: The letter [from Niederauer] that arrived in early June provoked the visit to California by church leadership.

Prince: And Bill Evans was one of those.  He told me that.

Jansson: Yes, he was.  That was where I first met him.  Actually, I met him on the phone.  The funny part of that was that I got a call from Ron Prentiss.  Ron is an Evangelical, a wonderful, wonderful man.  I love the guy.  He said, “Hey, did you know that the Brethren are coming to California?”  I go, “Really?”  I’m so adept at church government that I’m willing to believe anything, especially when I get a call from my Evangelical file leader on the committee.  He said, “And here is who it is,” and he gave me a list of those names.  I said, “Wow!  Where did you get this?”  Well, the Church has Evangelical contacts in Salt Lake City, and they talked to some folks and told them they were coming to California, and he immediately called Ron.  I called Bill and said, “Bill, do you want to know who’s coming to California to check on what’s going on, on Prop 8?”  He goes, “No, who?”  I told him and he started to laugh and said, “You just need to know that sometimes Public Affairs is the last one to find out anything.”  I know you will appreciate that.

So what happened was that the church leadership came out and met with the executive committee.  I was on the executive committee, but I was a place-keeper.  That was my whole role there.  Ron Prentiss introduced Ned Dolejsi, Andy Pugno, Doug Swardstrom and myself.  That was the extent of the committee at that point in time.  Everybody else had moved on or dropped off. 

Do you know who Don Wildmon is?  He is the founder of the American Family Association.  He is a good man, a wonderful Evangelical, a great Christian, a rabid anti-gay guy.  Unfortunately, with some of the folks that are out there—and I want to be careful; maybe rabid was the wrong word to use, so strike that from the record.  But a lot of the Evangelical associations were adamant that we needed to carry the fight to what they really were and what they are all about, and we knew better.  Fortunately for us, we carried the day.

At the time, we were also in the process of hiring a public relations firm and interviewing people to do that task.  We ultimately opted to go with Schubert Flint, out of Sacramento.  I think you have that information, right?

Prince: Frank Schubert.

Jansson: Yes, Frank Schubert and Jeff Flint.  Good guys.  Super, super people.  Myopic, but nonetheless pretty good.  We were in the process of doing that.

The leadership of the Church met with the executive committee, and some decisions were made at the time about supporting the initiative.  I can tell you, because I was in that meeting, it was one of the most amazing meetings I’ve ever been in in my life.  That was my first exposure ever to what I would consider to be Red Chair church government.  Does that make sense?

Prince: Oh, yes.

Jansson: I figured it would.  I was amazed, but I shouldn’t have been.  I wasn’t surprised; I was just amazed, and the more I thought about it the more I thought, “Yes, that’s the way it ought to be.”  It was a profoundly neat meeting.  The agreement was that we needed to accomplish this task, because if we didn’t, we would lose the country and the world.  Do I have to say more about that prophecy?

Prince: No.

Jansson: I didn’t think so.  Anyway, a decision was made to move forward.  I was a place keeper on the committee and was identified as such, not by specific, but by a very generous suggestion from my committee that if there were someone that they wanted to assign to the committee, that spot was open.  I got the assignment.  So I ended up on the committee, along with John Dalton, who was an Area Seventy from Southern California, just a wonderful, wonderful man.  So we ended up with two on the committee.  We ended up with two Evangelicals, two Catholics and two Latter-day Saints on the committee.  At that point in time there was all kinds of discussion about the agreement that they had been soliciting from Rick Warren and all kinds of other folks about, “Are you with us on this campaign?  Will you help fund it?”  And the answer was, “Yes, we will do that.”

I met Gary Lawrence for the first time down there.  I promise you I will get you his contact information.  Gary is the other key player in my life.  Gary’s insights and observations and counsel, not only for me, but for the committee, became invaluable as we went forward.

So the Church and the committee were now together.  The Church had basically said, “We’re in,” and then we had a long conversation about MONEY and how we were going to do this and who was going to do what.  We hired a fundraiser out of Illinois.  He helped us manage the initial fundraising for the campaign.  It was impressive to see how it played out.

The letter that was issued by the First Presidency—you don’t know the window of time, but I will tell you that the window of time from the time that the committee returned to Salt Lake with their report on what they had determined, visiting California and meeting with ProtectMarriage.com—that sounds odd, but we elected to use that name because some of the other names we wanted to use had already been bastardized and used and mistreated by others, and we didn’t want to be identified with anybody we couldn’t defend, so we elected to go with ProtectMarriage.com.  That was the formal name of the committee.  From the time they got back to Salt Lake and made their report, and the time the letter was issued—would you care to guess how long that was?

Prince: Let me tell you what I do know.  Bill said they were down there for ten days.  The letter from the First Presidency was dated June 20th.  Bishop Niederauer sent his letter in June.  That compresses the whole thing into a really small window.

Jansson: One of the fastest decisions ever made by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.  You’re talking about count the days on the fingers of one hand, minus some, and we have a letter that is issued and is out to the wards and stakes throughout California.  But in reality, as you well know, the instant that letter hit the stake centers, it went national and created the first mini-firestorm that we would have in the campaign, and that was that “The Mormons have arrived!”

Up until that time, I don’t care what you read, I don’t care if it’s [Fred] Karger, I don’t care if it’s Chad Griffin, I don’t care if it’s Rob Reiner; you can read all the histories you want about what people say about what happened, about who did what to whom, about who started what to whom.  One of the most interesting rumors that we ran across was that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints organized NOM as a body specifically to pass Prop 8.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Prince: Karger is still out there claiming that NOM is just a front organization of the Mormon Church.  I have never seen evidence to support that.

Jansson: That’s correct.  He continues to bark that noise.  He is more than welcome to continue to bark that noise, because anybody that has any awareness of what really happened in the campaign—and a lot of it is public—would recognize that it’s only a headline thing with him, and he could care less about accuracy.

So now we have launched into the major effort, which is to raise money to fund what we know is going to be a significant advertising campaign, and we are into the end of June.  We’ve got July, August, September, October—we’ve got four months and two weeks to make this thing fly.  Schubert Flint is on board.  We have a brace of meetings all oriented around developing the ad campaign.  Gary Lawrence is hired to do the demographic studies and the polling and the focus groups on the ads, and we are moving forward at light speed.

We get some initial contributions and—by the way, I think I can say this to you without a single reservation—the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donated not a single dime to ProtectMarriage.  You know that, right?

Prince: I know that.

Jansson: The only issue the Church had was that because of an oversight, they never recognized at the time that they had an obligation to file with the Fair Political Practices Commission in the State of California that they had either visited or participated in any secondary way in the campaign.  Well, the Church ultimately filed all that paperwork.  They were fined by the FPPC, predicated on the amount that the Church actually filed with them, in terms of dollars that could be related to Prop 8.

Prince: “In kind.”

Jansson: In-kind donations, and they were fined $4,000.  That is like you getting a speeding ticket in San Francisco and getting a $20 fine, when the fines that are typically leveled against people that do that are in the $400, $500, $600, $700 range.  Do you get the drift?

Prince: Yes.

Jansson: It was a formal, “This happened and you were late, but there was no intent.”  Nine times out of ten when the FPPC fines you, they fine you 100% of whatever it was you spent on a campaign.  So if you spent $100,000 and it didn’t get reported, the fine is $100,000.  They want to make it as painful as possible, because their objective initially, by law, was to discourage secondary and tertiary groups, and last-minute contributions to political campaigns that couldn’t be traced. 

As a consequence, they also set a threshold that if you donated more than $99 to a campaign, your name became filed with the Secretary of State and would become public record.  That’s another whole issue to this campaign that had an effect on how things would turn out, and is still a problem with the law.

Prince: And why it became called “The Mormon Proposition.”

Jansson: In some circles it did, but because the Catholics had a high profile in it, we never took the entire hit.  The interesting thing was that it’s easy to throw rocks at somebody you know is not going to throw rocks back, and the Church was a welcoming target.

When we came out with our first ad, our first ad was an amazing piece.  We used the couple from Massachusetts.

Prince: Wirthlin.

Jansson: Yes, how about that!  Latter-day Saints.  It never became a public issue, but dealing with the issue about what happened in the schools in Massachusetts, we made that part of our ad campaign.  We also made it part of our ad campaign that the big focus on this would be that they would teach, in the schools, alternative lifestyles.  We never condemned the lifestyle at all, but we suggested that laws would be changed, fines would be leveled, teaching curricula would change.  We never openly attacked the gay lifestyle.  The ads are all a matter of record.  They were brilliant.

Here is the interesting secret: Frank Schubert and Jeff Flint authored about two-thirds of the ads.  Andy Pugno and Gary Lawrence modified almost every one of them, and authored the balance of the ads.  Gary and Andy were the heartbeat of the messaging for the campaign.  Frank Schubert won all of the trophies—and they did get a lot of trophies—but they got their hides beat up by the industry when their business fell in the toilet after Prop 8, because they had handled that campaign.

Funding went OK, but lopsided.  Initially it was a pretty even tug-of-war with us and the Catholics.  The effort with the Evangelicals was ho-hum at best.  Jim Garlow is the name of the pastor in San Diego.  We got a million-dollar donation to the committee that was earmarked specifically for Jim Garlow.  Jim and his church down there used the million dollars to conduct a series of webinars throughout the state, inviting Evangelical pastors and congregants to join in the webinar and support Prop 8.  You’re never going to get me to admit, even though this is being recorded, that that turned out to be an incredible waste of money, but we could have done a better job with that money had we been given license to use it elsewhere.  But because it was targeted money, we had an obligation to follow the direction of the donor.  They were very effective within their own ranks, but it never manifested itself in any significantly large donation to the campaign from what I would consider to be congregants in congregations throughout the state.

If you go to the Secretary of State’s website, you will be able to look up and find all of the donors to Prop 8.  It’s a matter of public record.

Prince: The donors over $99?

Jansson: Over $99, that’s correct.  There were some significant donors over $99.  There were a number of people who donated $25,000, $50,000, $100,000 to the campaign.

Prince: And Alan Ashton.

Jansson: Do you know Alan?

Prince: I don’t know him personally, but I wrote his grandfather’s biography.

Jansson: Oh really?  Who was his grandfather?

Prince: David O. McKay.

Jansson: That’s really good to hear.

A lot of people paid a price for their donations, because a sweet sister from Cedar City, Utah decided she was going to make all of this public and created a website that dealt with that revelation.  The more that was revealed, the more the LGBT folks decided they would take matters into their own hands and harass, by email, phone calls and by showing up at businesses of anybody they thought they could get away with harassing over their support of Prop 8.  There were a number of restaurants that were affected, there were a number of businesses that were affected, there were a number of people whose businesses went down.  Literally, their businesses folded as a result of their support of Prop 8.

Prince: I have seen a general consensus that Mormons donated about half of the “Yes on 8” money.  Is that a reliable estimate—or is it even known?

Jansson: It’s known, but it’s not public.  I suppose the best answer I can give you—Greg, as much as I want to share with you, I’ll just tell you what I told Bill Evans maybe a year ago.  That’s the reason why whatever you write, I would like to be able to see it before it’s published.

Prince: Agreed.

Jansson: Thank you.  In a meeting that I had with Bill in his offices in Salt Lake, post-Prop 8—and the final hearing on all of this was this year, in Washington, DC, when Anthony Kennedy and crew decided to make up law—about a year ago I made a comment to Bill.  I said, “You know what?  I’ve got six or eight cases of emails, letters, communications on Prop 8 in my garage.  He said, “Are you going to write a book?”  I said, “I can’t.”  He said, “That’s the right answer.”  I say that looking at it strictly through the lens of who was engaged, what I saw, what I heard, what I knew, the intimate details of everything that happened in the campaign.  I was the only member of the committee, Greg, that didn’t have a title after my name.  I was just a layman, if you would, that got caught up in this—and was glad to be, don’t get me wrong.  You don’t find this kind of a ride in your life, because of those that I was able to meet with, those that I was able to rub shoulders with and get to know on a profoundly personal level.  I’m grateful for that.  You’ve noted that I haven’t really shared any names with you.

Prince: Yes, understood.

Jansson: OK.  And you know why.  It wouldn’t be hard, if somebody wanted to dig—or I guess it might be, and that’s just as well.  We’ll leave it at that.

So where were we?  We were talking about the advertising, we were talking about what Gary and Andy did as far as the campaign was concerned.

We had Gary Lawrence and Glen Greener.  Glen lives in Salt Lake and is a personal friend of Bill Evans.

Prince: And his name was associated with one of the brochures that was going around, but so was Gary’s.  It seemed like Gary’s authorship was more certain than Greener’s.

Jansson: That’s a good possibility, but I’m sure that they consulted with one another on whatever that brochure was that went around.  There were a couple of different things that we did.  I got to know Glen as a result of the campaign.  Glen was responsible for all of the outreach with any family-oriented, church-oriented organizations throughout the state.  He became a watchdog over how the campaign was handled.  When you take a look back on the campaign, there were some very interesting demographics that come out.  In August—I’m not sure about the date, but this will be an easy one to find out, because it was a newspaper-connected event—do you know who Paul Cobb is?

Prince: No.

Jansson: Paul Cobb is the publisher of the Oakland Post Group.  The group publishes about seven different African American newspapers in the Bay Area.  They publish a Spanish-language called El Mundo.  They publish the Richmond Post, the Oakland Post, the San Mateo Post, the Hayward Post.  Those names are online, if you look up the Oakland Post Group.  Paul is an African American, an amazing man who Glen Greener introduced me to, all predicated on the idea that the focus on the campaign initially started out to be basically a white, Orange County campaign.  

There were some assumptions that were made, even with the demographics that were conducted, that because we had won Prop 22, the effort to win Prop 8 would not be that difficult.  We could not have been more wrong.  Quite frankly, I can tell you that I think the committee itself never even considered that an issue, because we trusted our campaign manager to take care of that detail—until Glen Greener came to us and said, “Hey, guys, we’re missing the boat.  We’re missing the boat with Hispanics because of language.”  The translation of “protecting marriage” didn’t translate straight across into Spanish.  To protect marriage, in Spanish, basically came out as, “We don’t need to protect marriage; we have marriage.”  So we had to reword it so that in translation it would mean more to Hispanics about what it was about marriage that we were trying to protect, and that marriage was sacred, so don’t change it.  When we went out with that advertising, we rescued the campaign.  We won the campaign by a small margin, right at five percent.  We should have won by fifteen.  We could have won by fifteen, and that could have changed a lot of the demographics of what would happen post-campaign.  

But we still had some very interesting miracles that occurred.  One of them was Gavin Newsome, the mayor of San Francisco at the time.  There was a big article in the San Francisco Chronicle about a gay teacher in South San Francisco who married her partner because of the law that had been defined by this judge overturning Prop 22.  Gavin Newsome presided at the wedding.  

Prince: Wasn’t that the one where a whole class of school children attended?

Jansson: Oh, yes!  All of the noise about, “It’s not going to affect the schools, they are not going to go out and lobby for their position”—we met with the Los Angeles Times.  The Los Angeles Times editorial board—and I was in that meeting—basically pushed back.  Do you know who Sonia Hennings Brown is?

Prince: No.

Jansson: She is a marvelously wonderful Latter-day Saint from Los Angeles, and a great activist with the committee.  She was part of this group that we sent down to meet with the editorial board of the L. A. Times.  They pushed back.  They said, “None of this is going to happen.  Nothing is going to affect the schools.  There won’t be any retaliations.  It’s only about the equality of the right to marriage.”  They couldn’t have been more wrong.  We pointed out to them where their error was, and they refused to listen to us.  That’s one of those wonderful things you can remember about history.

Gavin Newsome presided at the wedding, and it was front-page San Francisco Chronicle.  It broke the next day in the Chronicle, and Paul Cobb and Glen Greener were having breakfast in Oakland.  Paul opened the newspaper, read the front headline, and turned around and handed it to Glen Greener and said, “You just got a gift from God.”  Glen Greener said, “You’re kidding me.”  Paul said, “No.  Do you know what they’ve just done?  These guys have just shot themselves in the foot by including a school and a schoolteacher in this, which flies in the face of everything they have been trying to tell the public about what they weren’t going to do.”  We made hay out of that ad, and just said basically, “Hey, folks, here is what is going on.”  If you were to ask Gavin Newsome whether or not that was a smart political move, he would say, “It didn’t matter.  We won.”  But in reality, it was one of the dumbest blunders that they committed during the campaign.  There were a couple of them, but that was the biggest one.  We were down seventeen points in the polls the week before that ad broke.  We moved from seventeen points down to six points ahead by late October as a result of that ad, as a result of that article, as a result of everything that we did to capitalize on what they had said and what they had done in the advertising that they were running.

Meanwhile, we were still trying to raise money.  Meanwhile, we were still trying to recognize that we had to get to a given point because we knew, by filings, what the other side had raised.  It was about an $80 million campaign.  I guess you know that.

Prince: Yes, and with more raised on the “No on 8” side than the “Yes” side.

Jansson: That’s correct.  They outraised us by about $2 million.  It was closer than you would think, but the reality was that it was the most expensive initiative campaign ever conducted in the United States of America.

We went into the election, and all of the polls were trying to tell us that we were dead even.  All of the newspapers were trying to let everybody know that it was a tossup.  They were doing that for a couple of reasons.  Number one was that I don’t think they really liked the truth, because they were trying to encourage people to vote.  What election was this?  2008, the singular most important election the last one hundred years in the United States of America.  You had an unknown black man running for the presidency of the United States, against a senator from Arizona who picked a woman to be his vice presidential candidate.  The turnout was the largest Democratic turnout in the history of the country for an election.  It exceeded the best previous turnout by about 15 or 20%, in terms of the number of votes that were actually cast.  It had the largest liberal turnout of any election in history—people who not only squawked about voting, but actually went to the polls and voted.  By all rights, we lost that election.  But an interesting thing happened, and we call that the Bradley Effect.  Are you familiar with that effect?

Prince: Yes, when Tom Bradley ran for Governor of California.

Jansson: That’s right.  People said, “Oh, black man for governor?  No problem at all.  It’s a great idea.  It’s about time.”  That was said publicly.  What happened in the voting booth?  The swing was almost 12% between what the polling said would happen and what actually did.  It drove the pollsters bonkers.  They initially did not know what happened, and as they went back and started doing some follow-up they found out that people are smart enough to figure out what a pollster is looking for, and how to give him the answer.  The good news about the privacy of a voting booth is that you vote your heart and you vote your pocketbook.  Tom Bradley was just well ahead of his time, and lost by almost the same swing in the opposite direction.

We know that that happened with Prop 8; to what extent, we don’t know.  We’ve got the breakdowns on the Hispanic vote, on the Black vote, and the highest percentage of “Yes on 8” votes came from the Black population.  The second highest was from the Hispanic population.  The third highest was Pacific Islanders, and the last was Whites.  But we still won in all four categories.

The polls closed at eight o’clock.  We were at a hotel in downtown Sacramento.  I was watching Frank Schubert and Jeff Flint carefully because they were glued to the Secretary of State’s website as the polling came in.  It was at 9:15 or 9:45 that they announced that we had won.  I was in the room when the two did the calculations and agreed that regardless of the number of votes that were counted at that point going forward, they could not swing enough votes to win the campaign.  They waited for one or two returns to come in to just ensure that the announcement would be correct, and announced early in the evening that we had won the proposition.

I remember the call I made to Salt Lake.  We had already called and given them the polling site that they could track the data on, but they would not know until I called that the determination—you could see the voting by county on the Secretary of State’s website—but it took a math formula to determine what the expected voting return numbers would be, percentage wise, and the number of votes necessary to counter the lead that we had and to move them ahead would be.  Frank and Jeff had that software, and it was amazing to watch it work.

When we got up and made the announcement, there is a picture out there in the media, and in the immediate front of the picture is a man in a brown suit and a woman with white hair.  That’s me and my wife Linda.  Up on the stand you can see Frank Schubert and Ned Dolejsi making the announcement that we won.  It blew everybody apart.  We were ecstatic, because that’s what we had been working for.  My forecast was that we would win, but it was more gut than it was reality, and I’m grateful that gut paid off.

The aftermath of Prop 8 was unexpected.  Andy warned us that if we won there would be a good chance that there would be a vindictive mindset and attacks, but figured most of them would be verbal.  We had no idea it would become as physical as it did.  Regardless of what they say about the incidents of anti-gay versus anti-Prop 8, it was about 250-to-1.

Prince: Let me take you back, because you mentioned money.  You had the First Presidency letter that came out, but then ultimately there was a very impressive and effective ground game to raise money from Latter-day Saints.  Something happened between the First Presidency letter and all of that money pouring in.  How did that ground game develop?

Jansson: I’m sitting here smiling, trying to figure out exactly how to word this.  There are a significant number of people who are members of the Church, who are incredibly successful in the business world and have a significant net of contacts, friends, etc.  I watched that network activate towards the last days of the campaign.

Prince: Is this what they call bundling?

Jansson: I understand bundling, and no, it was not.  Typically in bundling, when you get a contribution you get one guy who hits up twenty people for $50,000 apiece, and the bundled amount is donated all at once.  That’s not now this worked.  This worked on the basis that there were fifty people who were contacted, and they all made separate donations.  There was no bundling; there was a phone call made, or phone calls, or emails, multiple emails.  There were text messages.  Whatever was available to us at the time.  I was amazed, as I watched this event unfold from the end of September through the middle of October, to see a pretty steady donation level that was starting to drop off a little bit at the end of August, but then picked up again and spiked in those early days of October.  That spike in the early days of October was the result of what I call the “Mormon Network.”  It was amazing to watch.  I have to tell you, I have a great deal of respect for people that had read the letter, read it again, and decided they needed to take action on their own.  I can tell you that that was not replicated within any other fundraising segment.  Is that a safe thing to say?

Prince: Yes.  The way Bill put it to me was that in Prop 22 it was Lucy and the football, and in Prop 8 we were assured, as a church, that they wouldn’t lift the football again; but they did.  Is that an apt way of characterizing it?

Jansson: I can tell you this much—and if you talk to Gary Lawrence he may not allow you to use this.  I will tell you exactly what he said, and he said it to me on a couch in a hotel in Los Angeles before we ever got this thing kicked off the ground.  What he said was, “Here is what’s going to happen. The Latter-day Saints are going to show up.  They need to be key to this, because it’s not going to win otherwise.  The Catholics will participate because they have enough of a centralized command structure in their organization that they will be able to encourage people to donate, from the highest authorities in the Church.  Evangelicals will raise their hands, say hallelujah, praise God, go home, and sit and watch.”  Gary Lawrence was dead on.  You and I know that that really can never appear in print.

Prince: Yes.

Jansson: It was frustrating, to say the least.  We did get some significantly large donations from a handful of Protestants, Evangelicals, what have you, that were remarkable.  When you take a look at them, some of those donations were the singularly largest individual donations of the campaign.

We had a bus tour that ran throughout the state.  It started up here in Sacramento, went to San Francisco, went to Oakland, went down the coast, ended up at four or five places in Los Angeles, San Diego, Imperial Valley, and a very interesting thing happened.  We would show up at churches, most often Evangelical churches.  There were no LDS churches targeted for the bus stop.  They were all mega-churches or local community churches of some standing that had agreed to have the bus come in.  They would welcome their flock to come down and support us.

Ron Prentiss and I ended up conducted about a third of those tours.  An interesting thing happened.  We would have crowds that would number anywhere from a couple hundred to five or six hundred people.  People would come pouring up to the stage with money in their hands, saying, “Where do I donate?  How can I support you?  Where do I send the money?  What’s the address?”  Yet, there had been a dozen webinars held throughout the state encouraging them to make donations to us, but the only participants in that webinar were the ministers of the church.  The congregants never got the message.  I’m not going to say anything about priest craft.  I was surprised, and Ron was too.  I was impressed with his reaction to that.  I turned to him one day and said, “Do you believe this?”  He said, “No.  You know what?  The message isn’t being delivered to the members.”  I said, “You’re right.”  I knew why, and I’m sure Ron figured it out later.  When you look at it from the standpoint of where your income is derived as a paid pastor in the church, sometimes diluting that is not a good idea.  Did I really say that?

Are there any other questions you might have about the campaign itself?

Prince: You mentioned early on Matt Holland.  How did he get involved in NOM?

Jansson: I don’t know how he ended up on the board at NOM.  I don’t know how long he had been on the board of NOM before we got involved.  All I know is I got a phone call from his uncle saying, “You ought to give him a call.”  I thanked him for it because it was good to get.  Now we had an insider who could help police what was going on with NOM.  That was Matt, and he was awesome.  Then, as you well know, the Utah Valley University job opened up.

Prince: This has been a remarkable journey.  Thank you.

(Mark Jansson, November 16, 2015)

Jeppson: The older I get, the less patient I become.  I’m OK and I’ll stick it out, but Proposition 8 and this whole thing were devastating to my family.  It was horrible for my family.  I have three brothers and a sister and my mother living.  When I first came out and was very frank and honest with them about it there were divisions, but everybody came together.  “We love you.  We’ll help you.”  But as soon as Jennifer’s article came out, it was a problem because my mother is a very private person, and here was the family name out there.  She couldn’t even talk about it for months, couldn’t even talk to me on the phone about it for months.  I had a brother in Southern California who had been very accepting, but was pressured very hard to donate during Proposition 8.  That was a real problem, because the donor names were all publicized.  He came up to the surface and I asked him about it.  I said, “This doesn’t sound like you.”  He said, “Well, I was asked to do it, and we follow our leaders.”  That put him on the defensive.  Everything was just awful.  My family has not recovered from it to this day.  My mother is fine with it.  I have a younger brother who has had two sons come out over the years since then, so things in some ways have calmed down a bit; but in other ways the divisions are irreparable.  Some things just can’t be bridged at this point.  It’s really tough.

(Buckley Jeppson, October 5, 2015)

Karger: In these documents, Dick Wirthlin is the grand strategist of all this gay marriage stuff.  Of course, his brother Joseph was an apostle.  When I was watching the Prop 8 campaign out here, I happened to see a television commercial, and they were Wirthlin’s from Massachusetts, talking about how their 2nd grade kid was forced to learn about gay marriage.  I found their phone number and called them up and said, “Are you any relation to Dick Wirthlin?”  It’s an unusual name.  “Um, well, no, we’re not.”  “Really?”  It was the sister of the couple in the commercial.  They were out of town and she was watching the kids.  I said, “Are you LDS?” and she said, “Yes.”  So then I knew she was not quite as forthcoming.  I found out it was Joseph Wirthlin’s grandson and great-grandkids.

(Fred Karger, June 18, 2014)

Prince: OK.  Talk about how you first picked up the scent that there was something going on that involved the Mormons.

Karger: I first realized when I was watching the Secretary of State’s report that we would look at every day to determine the money that was coming in of $1000 or more.  That’s what they reported on a daily basis at that point.  There were two donors from Mesa Arizona, Craig Cardon and Brock Hyatt.  I can’t remember the exact amount; it might have been $25,000 each, something like that.  It was quite a bit of money.  I had never heard of these gentlemen, and I just started doing a Google search.  I realized that they were very prominent, successful businessmen, and both members of the LDS Church.  That was kind of a surprise, because I was wondering what these two Arizonans were doing and why they were so interested in giving that massive amount of money for the California election.  I think those were the first two.

I was also looking at some of the big donors, of $100,000 and up, to do some potential boycotts.  While they didn’t fall in the boycott category, I did make a mental note of that.

Then, money just started coming in in chunks, from California and other states—big money, $10,000, $25,000, $50,000.  I expected to know the California names, but I had never heard of them.  I had been in Republican politics for over 30 years, so I generally knew most of the names of the substantial contributors.  Granted, there are always new ones, but these were all new.  I just started with Brian Wilson, who was helping me on the project, to Google these names.  Then, we started to see this whole pattern that many had gone to BYU.  We looked at other public records, including the Federal Election Commission, to see if they had given money to candidates before.  Most of them never had, except to Mitt Romney.  So there was a pattern, and I just kept looking at it.

Every day the money was just pouring in.  There had been a dry spell for four or five weeks, right after it was named Prop 8 and the campaigns were beginning.  It was a big mystery to me, because I thought this was going to be the biggest campaign next to the presidential election.  But I was wondering where was all the money on the other side.  Focus on the Family put in about $50,000 but then the floodgates opened and all this money started pouring in.  It was up to about $550,000 a day, I believe.  And at that point, it seemed to be all from LDS Church members.

Prince: At some point you came into contact with Nadine Hansen.

Karger: I was getting tips, and I don’t even remember how it happened, from an anonymous person, giving me ideas.  It’s a good question, Greg, how that actually came to pass.  When I want to the Wall Street Journal to Mark Schoofs, who was doing a story, it was already pretty far along, and I had already been in touch with her, although I didn’t know if it was a man or woman.  I was just getting emails and we had never spoken.  So I had asked this person if he or she would be willing to talk to the journalist who was working on the story.  That was Mark Schoofs, and Nadine said yes.  I thought it would be primarily for background, because she was tracking the money.  But she appeared in that story, and then I realized who it was, and I talked to her after that and thanked her.  But Mark Schoofs was the guy who was able to talk to some church members and really put the puzzle together.  He wrote about the conference call where everyone was dinged for $25,000.  And sure enough, when you look at the campaign reports there are pages and pages of names who, on the same date or within a day or two, gave $25,000.  So it became crystal clear to me that this was an orchestrated effort by the Church itself to pass this initiative.

Prince: What happened next, as far as your involvement?  You knew that the money was coming in, but were you aware yet of the directive that was sent out and read from the pulpit?

Karger: I think I had heard about that.  This is now six years, and it’s a little foggy on the whole order.  I can’t remember when I heard about that.  But once the Wall Street Journal story broke, I started writing pieces for the Huffington Post and became much more involved.  I had taken the information to the No-on-8 campaign and they were not interested.  I know what it’s like in a political campaign: you want to know what your opponents are doing.  That becomes a huge part of your strategy—if they are raising money, if they are not raising money, what their messaging is, all of that.  It’s opposition research.  In any big campaign, that is an integral part of it.  As a campaign operative I knew the value, but they were not interested.  I would forward that information to a very high contact there, but they were not interested.

So I just decided to make this one of my undertakings, because I was already doing the opposition research.  I had my Californians Against Hate website and I was writing things for the Huffington Post at that point.  So I took my boycott idea.  I anticipated doing many boycotts to draw attention to the major donors, but then I ended up really putting my focus on the Mormon Church.

Prince: Rick Jacobs was telling me that the No-on-8 campaign was really asleep at the wheel.

Karger: It was a campaign run by a committee, and that’s always a problem.  A committee can be a finance committee or a steering committee, but you need a consultant who knows what he or she is doing to run it.  These were all nice people, they were very successful with the associations they were with, including Equality California, which is the political arm of the LGBT movement in California.  But they were a lobbying group.  They were masterful at working 122 members of the legislature.  And they were really able to work the LGBT caucus and the Democratic majority.  So they were very successful in working 122 members of the State House, which is a very different skill than the 17 million voters out there.  It’s apples and watermelons.  I think they just were not equipped to do the type of campaign that needed to be.  The campaign manager had run many of these “No” campaigns, but nothing to this extent.  

One of the reasons I wanted in on this was that I just knew the importance of this issue and the attention it would get.  With an open presidential race on that ballot, that obvious was going to be number one; but I thought this was the second-most interesting election in the country.  That’s why they really needed a top team.  They were doing fundraising successfully, but their messaging was very slow.  It was an adequate campaign, but it wasn’t the kind of campaign you needed when you lost just eight years earlier by twenty-three points.  The same fourteen words were put to the voters of California just eight years before, and they were a twenty-three-point loss.  That’s where the public was then, and not much had happened since.  I fully expected the “Yes” side to prevail from Day One.  How do you turn around twenty-three points?  I don’t care if you have the best consultants and the most money.  It was very much an uphill battle, so I’d say they did a very adequate job.  But they just didn’t hit it out of the park like it would have been necessary in order to defeat Prop 8.

Prince: Wasn’t the “No” campaign ahead in some of the early polling?

Karger: It was ahead in most of the polling, and I think even in the internal polling.  But it was a confusing question because “No was Yes,” and “Yes was No.”  [That is, a Yes vote was to ban gay marriage, and a No vote was to allow it.]  I actually think that many people went into the polls against gay marriage and voted No on Prop 8, thinking that they were voting to end gay marriage; and I think the same happened with the Yes voters, that some of those were people who supported gay marriage.  So there was the confusion factor, and I also think there was what we in California call the “Bradley Factor.”  I happened to be in the room when that was discussed in 1982, when George Deukmejian, who was our client, was running for governor against Tom Bradley, who was the mayor of Los Angeles.  My boss at the time, Bill Roberts, said, “People are not honest with pollsters.”  This was twenty-six years before Prop 8.  In 2008, people were more sophisticated, more used to polling and getting calls; so if someone called and said, “Are you against gay marriage?” they might have been embarrassed to say that to a pollster.  They might have said, “Oh, no, I’m against Prop 8,” but they didn’t really believe it.  It was not something like a Jerry Brown-Meg Whitman campaign.  It was a little more complicated.  I just think that people weren’t necessarily honest with the pollsters.  There was a lot of information still to gather and people were not informed at that early juncture, but I never believed those polls.  I was convinced that it was an almost impossible undertaking to defeat Proposition 8, and I didn’t care what the polls said.  They gave a false sense of security, but it was pretty evident to me that the public hadn’t moved twenty-three points in just eight years, when not much had gone on, on the gay marriage front.  I think three states had allowed it, and there and been nothing like the publicity since Prop 8.…

Prince: How do you gauge the magnitude of the Mormon influence on passing Prop 8, if you say it was an uphill battle?  The crucial piece of the puzzle is the Mormon Church involvement in it.  How do you gauge that the Mormon Church was a decisive factor in Prop 8 passing?

Karger: Oh, because they took over the entire campaign.  My theory—and a lot of the documents that I have indicate it—is that they were very much behind Prop 22 as well as Prop 8, but they didn’t want to be out front.  In 2000, they were instrumental with Pete Knight, who was the state senator and sponsor of Prop 22, in that whole operation, including having testimony from BYU—Lynn Wardle, I think, wrote the initiative and counseled them how to do it.

In those days they were trying to decide whether to do a statute or a constitutional amendment.  That was pretty interesting to me.  They blew it then.  They should have gone with a constitutional amendment.  The California voters, and they had plenty of polling to see this, are a little hesitant to go with constitutional amendments.  They are much more likely to go with a statute, because they can always undo it.  A constitutional amendment becomes very difficult to undo.  I think with Prop 8, they wanted to cement it into the constitution, and they probably regretted not having done that eight years earlier, so this was their chance to do it again.

The Mormon Church didn’t want to be out in front on the qualification.  They had gotten burned a couple of times, in Hawaii and Alaska, when they were very out front and didn’t do as good a job of masking their involvement.  But here, I think, they decided to let the Catholic Church do it.  The Catholics were going to be in charge of $1.5 or $2 million to qualify this thing, because it was all done with paid circulators; and then the Mormon Church—this is my theory—would come in and finance and run the campaign.  They know how to get things done.

Before, we used to hire Mormon wards in campaigns for precinct walking.  They were the best.  My boss started doing that.  Of course, he was the guy who started Dick Wirthlin and Gary Lawrence in the survey research business.

Prince: Decision Making Information.

Karger: Yes, DMI.  Bill Roberts, who I worked for, and Stu Spencer—the firm was called Spencer-Roberts—were the ones that started DMI with those two.  They used to talk about these two young Mormon PhD’s whom they set up in the survey business, who ended up buying them out and having it themselves, and were very successful.  I’m sure they did plenty of surveying to see in 2007, when they were doing it, if a constitutional amendment would fly.  My guess is in 2000 they did the same thing, and they figured they didn’t want to get greedy, so they would go with this statute, a ballot proposition, as opposed to a constitutional amendment.

So I think that they came in once it qualified, and then they put their operation into play.  There is nothing like it in the world, as far as efficiency, and they were successful in doing everything they did.

Now, I’ve been told by people that if Gordon Hinckley were still alive, and not Thomas S. Monson, it would have been run differently, and they wouldn’t have been quite as blatant, and maybe I wouldn’t have discovered their involvement.  But with campaign reporting now, and the instant reporting that we get, which was not around in 2000, where every night you’d find out where the money was coming from; and with the Google search, which we didn’t really have in 2000, it’s pretty easy to put the puzzle together.  Otherwise, I never would have figured this out.  If I didn’t have the ability of online research for these thousands of contributors coming in, of $1,000 or more, I never would have figured this out.

So I think it was a combination of Thomas S. Monson’s naiveté, maybe listening to others in the First Presidency or the Apostles, that allowed them to be this involved in this election.  Maybe Gordon Hinckley would have had a better way of doing it, although from a lot of the correspondence I’ve seen from when he was the church president, he was very involved.  I guess they thought those documents would never see the light of day.  They were very stealthy, very secretive in all their operations, with front groups and everything they did to mask their involvement.  They got caught this last time, and I think they just went a little too far in trying to exert their influence and power to show these other religions that they wanted a seat at the table, that they were a major player and that they deserved to be reckoned with because they funded and passed Prop 8 and put 25,000 troops in the field.

I think that is why they did this.  I think it was less about gay marriage, because that was already banned in California.  They didn’t know what the Supreme Court would do.  No one did.  We were all surprised—I’m sure they were—that they allowed it.  But they had their backup plan in readiness, which worked for a few years.  But it’s a modern era, I think maybe it was some sloppiness or just a little greed that ended up showing their hand.…

(Fred Karger, July 8, 2014)

Kendell: My sister is a very devout Mormon.  She and I were having this conversation last month when I was in Salt Lake.  She is very supportive of me.  My oldest daughter is a lesbian and married her partner in Utah during that window, and my sister and her husband, both very devout Mormons—my brother-in-law is a branch president—were the witnesses on their marriage license.  So she is very supportive.  We had this conversation—we kind of had talked about it before, but you have to keep having these conversations—and Sharon said, “Kathy”—my family all call me Kathy—“what do you think about the church doctrine?  Does the Church need to change its doctrine around marriage and how it regards marriage?”  I was like, “No.  First of all, that would be impossible.  I don’t see how that could happen.  The changes you would have to make would be so Herculean, in terms of the whole doctrine around marriage and relationships, that I don’t think that could happen.  No gays are clamoring to be married in the temple.  There is a doctrine difference.  I get it.  I don’t care if the Church even believes that I am an abomination and that I will be two or three levels below the Celestial Kingdom.  That does not bother me at all.  The issue is that the Church blocks the civil law from recognizing our relationship.  That is the problem.”  It was so great, because my sister had this amazing insight.  She said, “You’re right.  Why can’t the Church shift on its approach to the civil law?  We allow liquor stores; the Church doesn’t allow drinking, and yet we find a way to license liquor stores and allow people to buy liquor in Utah.”

That’s sort of an interesting analogy.  The point was that the Church has found way to accommodate non-believers without changing its own doctrine.…

Wow.  I remember a conversation—we’re jumping ahead a little bit, but the point is appropriate here—in the middle of Prop 8.  I should have written this down.  I wish I had kept better notes or a journal.  I don’t know if I called Marlin, or if he called me.  In the middle of Prop 8—and we communicated a couple of different times.  I would shoot him an email now and again—but he called me or I called him, but I remember vividly the conversation.  I was standing on the laundry porch in our house on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and I was expressing to Marlin my profound disappointment and chagrin at the Church’s involvement.  I said, “You know, Marlin, they are telling the most horrible lies about who we are as LGBT people.  The membership of the Church is funding that, and your position as part of this coalition in support of Prop 8 is giving this an imprimatur of respect.  It is odious what they are doing!  You have a responsibility.  This has never been what the Church has been about.”  He apologized, and I remember vividly that he said, “Kathy, I hear what you are saying.  We got in bed with the wrong people.”  I was like, “Whoa!”  I said, “So what are you going to do about it?”  He said, “It’s out of my hands.  I don’t know what we can do, but I hear what you are saying.”  I don’t know if he said, “I’m sorry,” or “I regret it.”  I think he said something like, “We should never have done it.”  The only quote that I know for sure, because it was burned into my memory, is, “We got in bed with the wrong people.”

Then it was probably three months later that the box got delivered to the campaign headquarters, and people started going through the documents.  I remember feeling like someone had shocked my heart when I saw Marlin’s name all over these documents.  I was rocked by that!  I immediately thought, “Wait a minute!  He is the architect of everything they have been doing.”  Then I was suspicious of the phone call.  I thought, “Why did he call me?  Was he milking me for information?  How could he say how sorry he is when he was a key part of how they operated?”  I went through a many-months-long moment of really questioning the authenticity of our relationship.  

We have since worked it out.  We had another meeting at the Church Office Building many months later on another matter, and before we actually met I said, “Look, I’ve got to clear the air about something.  I think we are close.  I have always believed we were close, even though we have different perspectives and I live a different life than you live.”  He was nodding his head, like, “Of course we are.”  I said, “I love you, and I thought you loved me.”  He said, “Yes, of course, of course.”  “Marlin, I am doubting everything about that.”  I told him, and I think he got tears in his eyes.  He apologized and said, “Kathy, I understand why you are thinking that, but that was before Prop 8.  I was not involved in Prop 8.”  So we worked it out, but I remember feeling like I was standing on quicksand when I first say those documents.…

I don’t want to overstate it, but lots of good soldiers did really terrible things.  I hate the idea that he would do it, but I also understand the doctrinal thing: “Of course, this is a threat to our doctrine.” And I do remember us having this conversation.  He said, “This is a threat to everything we stand for.”  I said, “We totally disagree.  I do not feel that way at all.  It could be a threat to everything you stand for if the Church decides it has to change its doctrine and marry same-sex couples in the temple.  But that’s not what anyone is seeking.”  I think they were operating in this bunker mentality.…

The path that is not taken is always worth speculating on a little bit, even though that is a fool’s errand to some degree.  But if the Church hadn’t gotten involved—and the main reason that Prop 8 passed is because Frank Schubert is a very, very cunning and manipulative prevaricator.  Because he had so much money, mostly through Mormon giving, he was able to push that message out really widely.  If he hadn’t had the money, if there hadn’t been Mormons giving their entire life savings to pass Prop 8; if they had raised only $10 million instead of $27 million or whatever it was, then he was confined to the urban media markets, where there is a more diverse floating pool.  But he was able to saturate the state, he was able to stoke the worst kinds of fears.  We might have lost anyway, but it was so close.  When you are talking two percentage points, $17 million makes a huge difference.

Prince: And it had been headed for defeat until the Church jumped in.

Kendell: I think it was too early to tell.

Prince: At least the polls were going that way.

Kendell: Well, one of the worst things Mark di Camillo did was that headline in June or July that said that Prop 8 was going down in defeat by double digits.  I remember seeing that headline, and I was just nauseous.  I thought, “Oh, my God, this is way too soon!”  But as we were trying to raise money to defeat Prop 8, all people said was, “Oh, but it’s going to lose.”  “No!  This is way too early to say that.”  The ads hadn’t even started yet.  I don’t know Mark de Camillo, but if I could get him in a room, I would say, “I think it is the height of irresponsibility, particularly on an issue where peoples’ lives and personhood are at stake, to do polling and put it out there before the voters have any information.”

As soon as Frank Schubert’s first ad hit, around what kids are going to be taught in schools, we started dropping like a stone.  Our support was a mile wide and an inch deep.  It was not firm at all.  So the only thing that polling did was galvanize the Church to jump in and say, “Oh, my God!”  And it made our supporters, the LGBT community and allies, completely complacent about the threat.

(Kate Kendell, December 3, 2014)

Kern: In college, I got a job offer and ended up moving to San Francisco in October of 2008, which was a month before the election.  Once I got there, I remember my first two weeks attending the San Francisco Young Single Adults Ward.  The Proposition 8 ward campaign thing was in full swing.  What that entailed was participation in phone banks and several sign-waving endeavors that were scheduled throughout the month.  I was kind of late to the party, so I hadn’t signed up for any of the stuff.  I wasn’t very comfortable with it to begin with, but just by virtue of the fact that I showed up while this was all happening I wasn’t involved in the sign-up process, but certainly was aware that this was a very important thing going on in the ward.  I do recall the bishop got up and spoke at the pulpit and said, “A number of ward members have come to me and expressed discomfort with this, and I have told them that if they will pray about it and ask if this is the will of God, that they will receive an answer.”  He said that that happened with several people, and several people got on board with it as a result of that.

There were a few more nuanced comments from the activities coordinator, who was spearheading one of these phone bank activities or sign-waving activities.  He did acknowledge, “Many of us have friends whom this effects, and this may be difficult for some of us.”  But he kind of presented it as an act of faith to go forward with this, despite misgivings.  So those first two weeks I was attending the ward and swimming in all of this.

(K. C. Kern, July 31, 2014)

Knox: All the best data I’ve ever seen was that essentially the Knights of Columbus put up about half of the $40 million for the Prop 8 campaign, and the LDS Church put up the other half.  But the LDS Church was coming out of a situation of plenty of money, where the Catholic Church was doing that out of a position of real hardship financially at the time.  That’s how horribly inappropriate it was for them to be involved in such a thing.  They were closing parochial schools all over the country and laying people off in charitable organizations, and yet they found $20 million to fund Prop 8.

I think it’s worth noting that one organization learned from this experience, and the other didn’t, and doubled down.

(Harry Knox, October 27, 2015)

Mifuel: But anyway, I was in San Francisco.  I was in a Young Single Adult ward.  It was very interesting, in terms of how closely they were trying to keep actual activity for the Yes on Prop 8 Campaign on the down low, but still have it work.  It wasn’t overt, as people think it was, but at the same time it was a combination of watching people announce activities—“We’re going to be meeting for this for Family Home Evening.  We’re going to go ‘tracting,’ knocking on doors.”  They never mentioned the overt script from the pulpit, but it was one of those things, because everybody is friends and everyone talks about what their intentions are, that it was clear that people were for Prop 8, majority-wise.

It was to the point where it felt uncomfortable for anybody who was even apolitical.  People were bearing their testimonies about “how we support the leaders.”  I felt quite irritated, personally.

People would go from door to door.  I remember being asked if I would participate, at least twice.  At the time I had a medical emergency in my family and I couldn’t participate.  I was invited to go on a walk through the neighborhood, and the way that they presented it was, “Oh, we’re not actually supposed to go out and tell people that we are for or against it.  You’re just asking people what they think.”  But I wasn’t convinced of that at all.

Do you have any questions about what went on?

Prince: Yes.  Let’s back up.  There was a point where you knew nothing about church involvement in Prop 8, and then you knew something about it.  What was the transition?

Mifuel: That transition was very interesting.  I didn’t go to church for a couple of weeks—I think it was during September—and suddenly there were announcements about activities, of going out and doing these walks surrounding Prop 8.  I had heard from other friends that there were stakes reps who came in and said something like, “OK, something very important is coming up on the ballot, and every member of the Church should be aware of it.”  Then they presented it in a way of, “Think about how we have to defend our beliefs.”  That’s the way it was presented.

I did not buy into it.  I’m a supporter of gay marriage, in the sense that I actually prayed about what was going on when things started happening in San Francisco.  I had a really, really strong spiritual experience in favor of it, and so it was weird for me to have a wonderful, spiritual experience, and then go back to church and see everybody talking about it, saying, “Oh, we have to vote Yes on this!” as some sort of self-defense.  It didn’t make sense to me at all.  That’s when I knew what was going on, when I understood that people were intended to vote Yes.

Prince: So if that was September, it was three months out from when the First Presidency letter was read at the pulpit.  Were you unaware of that?

Mifuel: I was unaware of the First Presidency letter at the pulpit.  I was aware that people were receiving instructions—not reading the First Presidency letter, but stake presidency members visiting the wards and saying, “We have received something from the First Presidency, and this is what they are saying.”  Videos started circulated, answering questions about this or that.  

As I said, I had the experience of coming in already with this intent to vote No, because I prayed about it, and seeing everything contrary to that.  The people kept saying, “We are being told that to vote No is going against the Church.”

Prince: Were you aware of others who had similar feelings—that they were a little bit reticent about what was going on?

Mifuel: Oh, yes.  Wards were divided!  It was awful!  Even now, it is the elephant-in-the-room that nobody wants to talk about.

Prince: Do some of those divisions remain?

Mifuel: Oh, absolutely!  Absolutely.  There are Facebook groups, not necessarily in our area, people who stand in defense of marriage for the future, if this fight comes up again.  There are alliances for this type of thing, and it’s absolutely ridiculous.

Our stake is in San Francisco.  Ward members are going to be two steps away from being directly involved in one side or the other.  It was extremely polarized.  A lot of friendships were lost, and I saw a lot of people leave.  It was a dynamic where if you weren’t voting Yes on Prop 8, you felt estranged.  You felt like you were in unfriendly territory.…

Prince: What about the immediate aftermath of the election, and then the long-term aftermath—the unintended consequences.  Start with the immediate first.

Mifuel: The immediate was very much, “It’s a miracle!  God is on our side!”  I thought that was really offensive.  Then it was kind of weird, because about two days later, everyone forgot about it.

Prince: The miracle being that the polls had shown that it was likely to go down to defeat, and then it won?

Mifuel: Right.

Prince: Was there any spiking the ball in the end zone that you saw?

Mifuel: No spiking of the ball.  I know that the night before the election there were some kinds of last-minute phone call attempt types of things.  I did go to an “unofficial FHE” [Family Home Evening] where people were doing last-minute calls, encouraging people to vote and then asking them how they stood on Prop 8.

My own personal spiritual journey, I was like if somebody didn’t agree with them, was that, “You know what, I’ll check to see what is going on, rather than avoiding participation.”  So when I did go, they did have phone calls.  I never read the script from right off the screen, but from what I hear it was like, “Hi.  I just wanted to call to encourage you to vote tomorrow.  By the way, how will you be voting on Prop 8?”  That was the approach that they took.…

Prince: Did the callers identify themselves as being LDS?

Mifuel: No, they didn’t.  They just gave first names, at the very most.  But they didn’t identify themselves as being LDS at all.

(Carina Mifuel, July 30, 2014)

Miller: When Prop 8 hit, I got a phone call.  Jim [Parkinson] will tell you he got the same phone call.  Someone in the stake presidency said they wanted me to come to a meeting at the stake president’s home.  He said, “You need to bring your checkbook.”  I said, “Why?”  He said, “Because the Church is coming out in favor of Prop 8 and they want us to support it.  They want us to contribute to a campaign against gay marriage.”  I said, “First, I’m not coming.  Second, as a judge in California, I don’t participate in the political process.  So I’m not going to get involved.  And also, I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with that.”  At first he was kind of shocked.  I don’t think he knew what to say, and he hung up.

I did get a call back later from someone else in the stake presidency who basically, bluntly told me that I might have to make a choice.  I felt like it was in appropriate, as a judge, to be involved in it.  I got a call back from someone in the stake presidency who said, “You might have to make a choice between being a judge or not.”  “Sorry, but I’ve made my choice.”

Again I went to my bishop and said, “I can’t be a participant in any of this.”  He was again very understanding.

It became very clear that the stake and the wards were going to become very active.  I don’t know if they were asked to do that by the General Authorities.  I don’t know how any of that originated.  I know that the stake set apart a male to be in charge of the political aspects of Prop 8.  I know that specifically.

Prince: What part of California?

Miller: Ours is the Palm Desert Stake.  Then it became very clear that the bishoprics were being asked to promote this in the wards.  Assignments were being made to individual people in the wards.  They included such things as being given voter lists, and asking the ward members to call the voters and give them information about Prop 8.  There were assignments made in Priesthood Meeting.  They handed out these voter lists at Priesthood Meeting and gave out instructions.  They did this at our bishopric meetings.  Again, I told them, “I will not participate in this.  If you are going to talk about it in bishopric meeting, do it at the end and I’ll leave.  I want to be able to truthfully say that I didn’t participate.”  And again, I had a great bishop.  He understood.  I never was asked by him to resign, or anything like that.

Every other month, the bishopric would go to the stake presidency and we would have a meeting of all the bishoprics.  I’ll never forget this one.  I wasn’t quiet about my opposition.  I told them, “I don’t believe this.”  If people asked me in church, I told them how I felt.  I didn’t talk about it from the pulpit, although many others did talk about it from the pulpit and did pray about it from the pulpit.  But I never did.  If I was asked, I told people how I felt.

So I’ll never forget this one bishopric meeting with the stake presidency.  I said, “If you start to talk about this, please do it at the end of the meeting, because I want to leave.”  But this one meeting, Brother Morris got up and started to go on about this stuff.  I said, “I’m going to leave.”  As I was leaving they said they had political signs that they wanted people to put on corners and in the fronts of their yards.  He said, “We can’t hand them out at church,” fearing that that may be a political act, “so we’re going to have these at the bishop’s house and you can go over there after this and pick them up.  Then you can leave them at your houses and have ward members come there to pick them up.”  I said, “You have to be kidding me, guys!  You’re concerned about distributing political signs here, when right after you finish that you’re going to have a big discussion about how to distribute the voting lists and how you can arrange for church members to go stand on the corners during the day, with placards and all that kind of stuff.”  At that point, I just left.

But there was a huge amount of pressure in the wards in our stake for members to participate in this.  It was organized in bishopric meetings, and lists were handed out in Relief Society and Priesthood meetings.  A lot of people don’t believe that that happened.  Maybe you have heard that it did.  I know that in some wards and stakes it wasn’t that way; but at least in ours it was very, very heavy-handed.  I thought it was all wrong and inappropriate, but that’s how it was done.

So that’s my experience.  I do know that most church members were very supportive of it and felt that this was a commandment, that the Prophet had asked them to do this, and it was what they had to do and they were going to do it.  I know some people who even had gay children who were very supportive of Prop 8, because it was what the Prophet was telling them to do.

Prince: In your stake were you aware of any monetary figures that people were presented with?  I guess a better way to word it is, were they presented with a quota—that they were expected to write out a check for a certain amount?

Miller: I didn’t go to any of the meetings, so I don’t have first-hand knowledge of that.  But I was told that at those meetings, especially the ones that were organized by the stake presidency, that people were asked to give specific amounts.  I don’t really know for a fact the discussions on that.  I made it very clear, during that very first phone call, that I did not support this position, that I did not feel it was appropriate for me, as a judge, to be involved.

(Douglas Miller, September 4, 2014)

Wendy: Our bishop came to our house and asked if we would get out our checkbook and say how much we could donate to Prop 8.  We had five kids and did not have the means to do that, so we told him, “We pay a full tithing and a fast offering, and we really don’t have any extra money.”  So he asked if we could donate our time.  We said yes.  I have to say that I really just did it without thinking.  I did not even think about it because I had heard my entire life that when the Church asks you to do something, you do it.  You don’t question.  It’s an opportunity for service, blessings come from it, and when a church leader asks you to do something, it’s as if God was asking you to do it.  So you just don’t say no.  People that say no, there is a bit of a stigma to it.  They are looked down upon.

So I said yes and I didn’t think about it.  I really wish I would have put more thought into it, looking back and considering what I know now; but I didn’t think about it.

Greg: Was the subject of gay marriage even on your personal radar?  Had you ever really thought about it?

Wendy: No, I hadn’t.  At that point, I didn’t know any gay people—or didn’t know that I knew a gay person.  I grew up in a very conservative town and a super, super-conservative family, even on the scale of Mormon conservatism.…

Greg: Do you recall the attitude within your ward?  Was it about the same as your attitude?

Wendy: Yes.  It was like a fervor, a zealousness.  People were excited to get out there.  My husband and I just went out for one day, but there were people signing up for several days because they were so excited to fight this.…

We had a sign in our yard.  It got stolen once, so we got another one.  Once I learned, years later, that I had a gay son—in 2012—I remember thinking, “He was nine, turning ten during our Prop 8 experience.”  He didn’t know he was gay at the time.  I remember having this moment where I thought, “He walked home from school every single day past a Prop 8 sign.”  Then, when he had the realization that he was gay, looking back at that time period of our lives, I wondered what he must have thought about his family and his church.  He must have thought we hated him and his church hated him.  What an awful thing for this boy to experience; and how many other boys experienced that same thing?  It was just a horrible thing.…

(Wendy Montgomery, July 16, 2014)

Wendy: All the times that we speak, whether it’s in a Mormon congregation or before a non-Mormon group, in three years I have yet to be able to talk about our work with Prop 8 and not gotten emotional and started crying.  I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life, but if I could have just one do-over, it would be for that.  I have such shame and regret over that, and the pain that I caused my son.  He was nine, turning ten through all of this with Prop 8.  He didn’t know he was gay at that point.  He said he always felt different, but didn’t have the vocabulary.  He wasn’t starting to be physically attracted to boys at this point.  He was still a little boy.  But when he realized he was gay, he remembered Prop 8.  He remembered the sign we had in our yard.  It was talked about so much in church.  They passed out yard signs and bumper stickers in Gospel Doctrine class.  You signed up for your route if you went walking.  Some of the most atrocious things I have ever heard about gay people were in that time period.  I sat there silently; I don’t think I ever said anything negative about gay people, but I didn’t defend them.

(Wendy Montgomery, March 14, 2015)

Greg: At what point were you aware that the Church started to jump in?

Lee: I was on the high council and I went to the stake president, President Crawford, and I told him, as the Prop 8 thing was getting going and the Church was obviously getting very involved in it, “I think the Church wants to present a united front, and I’m not going to be part of that front as a member of this high council.  You might find another calling for me somewhere.”  He said, “No, we can work around that.  We’ll work around it.  We want you to stay.”  So I just went along with his advice on that.

But then, after a month or so he called me in and said, “I just can’t work around it anymore.”  I wasn’t particularly outspoken.  When they brought it up at church meetings I just didn’t say anything.  I knew how everybody else felt.…

Greg: Staying on Prop 22 for a bit, that’s quite a different approach, in terms of church facilities, than they took with Proposition 8.

Carol: Yes.  I was very unhappy that they had that going on in the church, all those signs lined up on the wall, passing them around.

Greg: Was there any of that going on with Prop 8, or did they take that off the church premises?

Carol: No.  I think they learned.

Lee: We didn’t see it right at church, although we had that meeting.

Carol: They had meetings at the church, but we didn’t go to the meetings.

Lee: Well, we went to the one with the Relief Society and Priesthood.

Carol: Yes, that was with Prop 8, and it was in the church during Sunday School and Relief Society time.

Greg: So they were talking about the subject but they weren’t passing out printed materials in the chapels?

Carol: No.…

Greg: I interviewed Nadine Hansen, and she was the one who figured out that at least half of the Yes on 8 contributions came from Mormons.

Lee: I would guess more than that, but I only looked at our area.  I looked at the names, and every single person there, except about two, were people I knew in our stake area.  It was a Who’s Who of our stake.

Greg: Within your area, what do you think the percent would have been?

Lee: I think at least 80%.  And one of the people I didn’t know had the name Moroni, so I thought he must be LDS.  But I didn’t go and look at the whole state.  It wouldn’t have meant anything to me.

(Lee and Carol Oldham, January 14, 2015)

“On October 12, 2008, the greatest turning point of my life, our Sunday school and Relief Society time was taken up with a propaganda film created by the church that used all the political tactics and deceptions other churches and political parties had been using.  My husband and I sat stunned.  We heard our leaders use the same arguments that more unscrupulous people had used to deny a minority the freedom of choice they deserved.  (We knew that an attorney friend of ours had taken the truth about the deceptive ‘Five Consequences’ propaganda to our church leaders in Salt Lake personally and the authorities had shrugged their shoulders at the truth.)  On that day my husband, who had recently been a high councilor, walked out of the building, never to return.”  (Carol Oldham, “Proposition Eight,” January 14, 2015)

Pappas: During that time, we knew of young adults who were banished from their households.  People were in such turmoil about “how do I adhere to what the Church is saying?”  So there was a rash of homeless youth that were coming out of homes.

Prince: With Prop 8 being the catalyst?

Pappas: Yes, with that whole conversation that happened and with the Church’s involvement with Prop 8, it really created unrest here.  It was a huge time for people to have their names taken off the records.  People were writing letters—“For anybody who wants to do this, this is what you have to say.”

(Stephanie Pappas, April 9, 2015)

Carol Lynn: I’ll just tell you my entire personal story around Prop 8.  

As you know, just before the letter was read over the pulpit, the text of what was to be read finds its way onto the Internet, and it was all over.  So I read that and there was a lot of conversation going on around it.  I decided that I needed to express my feelings on it so I made four telephone calls to church headquarters.  Two were to public relations people: to Southern California, Keith Atkinson, who had been a friend of mine since B.Y.U. days.  He wanted to talk about all of this stuff and so I had a long conversation with him expressing my grief on what was going to be happening. He pretty much agreed and said, “I understand and I thank you for calling.  We’ll just see how this plays out.”  

And I called the P. R. Office in Salt Lake.  I didn’t know any names at that time, so I’m not even sure who I talked to.  But somebody answered the phone, a man. I’m sure I asked for his name but I don’t remember what it was. I identified myself, “This is Carol Lynn Pearson calling from California, and I am calling to register my grief at what our church is doing now and this letter that’s going to be read mobilizing the members to get involved with Proposition 8.”  I said, “This is what you’re going to be facing,” and I just talked and talked and talked and talked.  I don’t remember what this gentleman said.  I’m sure he was polite; I don’t believe he revealed any feelings about anything, but said, “Yes, I am receiving phone calls in various aspects of feeling about this and I will make note of your call, thank you.”  

And then I called the offices of Jeffrey Holland and Marlin Jensen and just got their secretaries, and I just said the same thing.  I identified myself and I said, “I want you to write this down and tell Elder Holland or Elder Jensen that I am calling to register my grief about what my church is entering.  There is going to be nothing gained by it and many, many things lost.  If Elder Holland or Elder Jensen has any interest in talking to me, this is my phone number and I would like it.”  I didn’t expect either one of them to call and I didn’t hear anything from Elder Holland, but actually, Marlin Jensen called me back. I was kind of surprised to hear from him.

Greg: Why did you call Marlin?

Carol Lynn: Because he had, by that time, something of a reputation as one of the General Authorities who was more aware of this issue and had better understanding about the situation around gay people.  And I’m not sure what he had done but people kind of latched onto, “Okay, this guy sort of gets it.  He sort of understands that there’s more going on.”  That must have been what it was.  So he did call me back, and I remember we had at least a half-hour conversation. I remember some of the things that I said to him, and I know what he said to me.  “Well you know, Sister Pearson, I have thrown in my lot with the Prophet and that’s where I have to stay.” I said, “Elder Jensen, I appreciate that, but you are an historian, and I believe that you know where history is moving on this subject, and I need to tell you that as far as I’m concerned, it is obvious that in some few years, however many they may be, when we Mormons get a good look on our own history, we will have this list of things, this long list of things that we are very proud of.  We will have another list of things that we are not at all proud of. I can write out that list of things that we’re proud of as well as anybody alive.  But when we have to acknowledge this list of things that we’re not very proud of, we will always be uncomfortable with the Mountain Meadows Massacre, of course, we will always be uncomfortable with our history with racism, we will be uncomfortable with polygamy. I believe that we will be uncomfortable when we understand that at a given time in history, when we could have been in the forefront regarding issues that we conveniently call ‘women’s issues,’ such as bringing back the concept of God the Mother, instead of doing that we chose to actively fight against it.  But I think that our greatest shame will be reserved for how we have treated our gay brothers and sisters in these last several decades, because I am not aware of one black man who took his life over how he was made to feel in not being able to hold the priesthood in our church, and neither I nor any of my feminist friends have taken our lives over the fact that issues that were and are deeply, deeply important to us, have been not only marginalized, but really worked against.  However, hundreds, and I do mean hundreds of our best, most devoted, brightest LDS gay men – some women but mostly men – have taken their lives because we have made them feel so hopeless and worthless.  Elder Jensen, when we understand the damage that we have done to our gay brothers and sisters, our shame will be enormous.”  

He was just kind of gasping a little bit when I said hundreds have taken their lives, and I don’t remember what his specific response was to that because I just kept talking. I just kept talking for the entire time. I remember one other thing that I said, and I remember his response.  I said, “You know, Elder Jensen, we Mormons pride ourselves on our preparedness.  I’ve got wheat out in my garage.  We like to think that we are prepared.  But the Brethren do a pitiful job of preparing the members of the church for the inevitability that a significant percentage of them will give birth to a gay child and when they do, they are left with nothing.  They have nothing in this little backpack on their back that the Brethren have prepared for them, but maybe they pull out The Miracle of Forgiveness, which is not helpful at all, but deeply destructive.  Because we can predict that if perhaps five percent of our children are of a homosexual orientation, that means that there’s a significant number of families that will be directly impacted by every one of those gay children that are born.  But how do we prepare them?”  And this is where Elder Jensen said, “Sister Pearson, you are so right on that.  That is absolutely one thing I can take back to the Brethren, and I will.  We don’t prepare our families for how to deal with this.”  Those are the two specific things that I remember from that conversation.  But he listened very willingly and graciously and thanked me for what I was sharing with him.

Greg: Was that your first contact with him?

Carol Lynn: Yes.  So the next Sunday the letter was read, and I kind of looked around and it was just sort of a non-event.  The people were listening: “Hum, okay, alright.”  There was nothing that was highlighted or pushed or anything. I later became very much aware that my dear stake president and the whole stake presidency were just praying that the Church would not enter into Proposition 8.…

I heard reports – you know, some from the Internet, but also from people that I knew, like a good friend of mine in the neighboring Concord Stake.  My ward is Walnut Creek 2nd Ward, Oakland Stake.  This person I’m speaking of in neighboring Concord Stake, which did not have the benefit of an enlightened leadership like my Stake did, she’s totally out of the church now.  And this is one of the things that absolutely set it off, what happened in the whole Prop 8 thing.  She told me for her and several friends whose stories she knew, some appointed person in the Ward came to their homes to get their commitment about a monetary donation and said, “We’ve determined that the fair thing to ask of people is that they give, I think ten percent of what they would have given in tithing, meaning one percent of their over-all income.

Greg: That’s about how they used to do ward budgets.  Some areas they would do that, like a surtax.

Carol Lynn: I know it was at least one percent. I think my friend just refused.  But she told me about her friend in her ward who had been given a number in money that they were expected to give, which was supposed to have been ten percent of whatever tithing had been; but the implication that my friend took away from that was that they had had access to the tithing number.  Now I don’t know if that was the case, but my friend had the feeling that that had happened.  And her friend responded to that number saying, “We don’t have the funds to give that kind of money,” to which this point person in the Ward said, “Well, we feel that you do, and we know the kinds of vacations that you have been taking.”  Reference was made to vacations.  So that’s one of the bad stories that I received, and I’m sure I’ve got that one down in my diary somewhere.…

It seemed for a while that Prop 8 probably didn’t have a chance; with all this stuff going on around it, it probably would not pass.  And then, I remember being in Salt Lake traveling when the Brethren did their big conference broadcast to all of the buildings.  I’ve forgotten who, but several of the Brethren who were in charge of all that said, only a couple of weeks prior to the vote, “Young people, we’ve got to enlist you.  You have to give us all your energy; we have to pass this Proposition over the top, we have to do it for the Lord, we have to do it to preserve our families, we want you to get on your Twitter—I didn’t even know what that meant then.  So they were using all these words that the kids would be using.  This old man knew nothing about what he was saying, but all they heard was, “We’re in the Last Days; you are our army; you are marching; we’ve got to win this for the Lord.”  I remember I was in Salt Lake at the time that was given, although I didn’t hear the broadcast; I read the things in the newspaper.  I had a clear memory of walking in the airport, walking down to the gate where my plane was to take me home, just feeling so sad, saying to myself, “I don’t think I want to go to church next Sunday.”  And then it was either that next week or whenever that the vote happened.  Prop 8 won and all of the church sources were celebratory, and I just said to myself, “I don’t think I can go to church this week.  And I can’t go to church the next week.”  I just flat stopped going to church.  I don’t remember if I had a conversation with Craig, who was the counselor who was in my ward that I had a lot of good conversations with.

(Carol Lynn Pearson, January 12, 2014)

Steve: I figured if you’re writing a book on this—you asked me if we ever got any pressure to contribute to Prop 8.  The answer is no, and I found out why.  Mark [Bragg] was the stake president at the time.  He said that every stake was given a financial target, a contribution target, by Salt Lake.  I don’t know how regularly, but they would get regular communications from Salt Lake pressuring them to raise that amount.  “You haven’t reached your target.”

The reason I never felt any of it was that our bishop at the time was Allan Rodriguez, and his last big job at the time he was bishop was to be in charge of reorganizing Tower Records, getting it ready to be sold off, to be liquidated.  He had a big job, and he let it be known, when he was called as bishop, that he was going to be a Sunday-only bishop, nothing during the week.  “Don’t bother me with fundraising stuff,” things like that.  That’s why we never heard anything about it, because Allan did nothing.

(Stephen Prince, August 21, 2015)

Rees: So fast-forward to Proposition 8.  At that time I was on the high council.  Proposition 8 was in full force.  We were getting a letter from the First Presidency that was going to be read in Sacrament Meeting in June of 2008.  I was being contacted by the media:  “We understand that the First Presidency is producing a letter that is going to be read.  What do you think about this?”  I said, “I am on the high council, and as an officer of the Church, I really can’t comment.”  But I gave them the names of some people.  I don’t recall exactly, but I remember that I was being contacted by the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post.  There were a lot of media outlets, and not simply print, who were contacting me.  I had been the editor of Dialogue, and I was somebody they tended to contact.  So I said, “No, I can’t do that.  It’s not appropriate for me.”  So I didn’t.  But I said, “I’ll write an op-ed piece and submit it to the Salt Lake Tribune,” which I did.  They accepted it.

It was called “Between Church and State.”  It was an editorial that did not take a position on Proposition 8.  It just cited the First Presidency statement of 1947, that “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds to the doctrine of separation of church and state—the non-interference of church authority in political matters.”  So that was the prelude, and then I went on to say, “Ecclesiastical leaders were instructed to read from the pulpit on Sunday, June 29, a letter from the First Presidency on the subject of preserving traditional marriage and strengthening families.  It was written in support of an amendment to the California Constitution.  The letter asked members to do all they could do to support the proposed amendment by donating their means and time.”  And then I said, “While some see the letter as a test of their willingness to follow the Brethren, others feel that it is their civic and moral duty to vote against the amendment, which they see as violating the central democratic principles of non-discrimination and equal civil rights.  Some see a conflict between the recent statement and previous statements from the First Presidency.”  I cited the First Presidency statement of 1963, which said, “We call upon all men everywhere, both within and outside the Church, to commit themselves to the establishment of full civil equality for all of God’s children,” and then in 1969, “Each citizen must have the equal opportunity and protection under the law with reference to civil rights.”

I was saying some people in California felt a conflict; I wasn’t saying one of these was right or wrong.  I brought up Proposition 22 and talked about the fact that it was divisive, and some people felt coerced in Proposition 22.  I said some people who objected to that feel the same thing with Proposition 8.  But I said that the suggestion that they should not vote in a particular way, because it had been a principle of the Church to not engage in politics of any political party, they are not asked, much less required, to vote one way or another.  That was from a statement of the First Presidency in 1903.

I said in this editorial, “While the First Presidency may intend this letter to adhere to the spirit of this statement, there is little doubt that many, perhaps the majority of members, will interpret it as a mandate.  The dilemma for members who have allegiance as church members and citizens is that when there is a conflict between the two, they cannot satisfy.  In such instances they must feel free to make a moral decision based on their best judgment, without fear of censure, reprisal or retribution.”  I cited Joseph Smith, “Teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.”

I didn’t take a position on Prop 8.  That was on the Sunday before the First Presidency letter was read.  The next Saturday night, a group of people in the San Lorenzo Ward—Gene’s and my book, The Reader’s Book of Mormon had just come out and they said, “We’d like to know more about it, so let’s get together.”  So a bunch of us got together at a member’s house on Saturday night.  As I was leaving they said, “A bunch of us are going to wear these rainbow pins tomorrow to church.  Here is one for you.”  I said, I am on the high council.  I can’t wear that.”  She said, “Well, take it anyway.”  So I took it home and put it in the bathroom.

The next morning I was getting up and getting ready to go to church, and I saw that pin.  So I got ready, tied my tie and thought, “Well, I’ll pin it behind my tie.  I’ll be in solidarity, but not openly.”  So I went to church, the letter was read, and five people besides me wore their pins openly.  I didn’t.

I had gotten a call from someone the night before saying, “I’m really worried that I might lose my temple recommend, because I am not in favor of Proposition 8, and I am planning to vote against it.”  I said, “Don’t worry about that.  We’ve been told that that is not going to happen.  With Proposition 22, people were assured that they wouldn’t lose their temple recommend if they voted against it.”  Elder Holland reaffirmed that with Proposition 8, that people would not lose a temple recommend.  So I assured them that, but I thought, “I’ll go in and talk to the bishop, just to make sure he understands that.”

So I went into his office and flipped my tie back, and he laughed.  I said, “You can see where I am.”  He laughed, and apparently didn’t even notice that they key speaker in Sacrament Meeting wore a pin on her lapel, or that the Primary president and other people did.  I said to him that I had gotten this call from somebody worried about it, and he assured me that that wasn’t a problem.

Then I said, “By the way, I need to get my temple recommend renewed.  Can we do it now?”  He said, “Yes.  But there is one question in there that I really want to focus on.”  I said, “What’s that?”  He said, “Do you affiliate with any group whose teachings are contrary to those of the Church?”  I said, “I don’t, unless you count the Democratic Party.”  He kind of laughed.

So we finished the interview.  I had given him my old recommend, and he said, “I’m going to keep this.”  I said, “Why?”  He said, “Because I think that in response to that question you are affiliating with people who teach something contrary to the Church.”  I said, “I absolutely am not.”  I told him that I felt there was no conflict, but he said he did, and that he was keeping my recommend.

What I didn’t know was that he then left and told the Priesthood Executive Committee, in violation of confidentiality, that he had taken my temple recommend.

I was still on the high council at that point.  I then was going to the reunion of the Baltic States Mission.  I flew to Salt Lake—the stake president had said he wanted to meet with me, but I said, “Can we do it when I get back from Salt Lake?”  While I was gone, I received an electronic release, on my computer, from the high council.  I was shocked.  I went to the reunion, and when I returned I tried to get a meeting with the stake president.  I wrote a letter to him, and he wrote back to me saying that he was disciplining me—here it is:  “You know that on the topic of Proposition 8, you are on a very different page from the leadership of the Church, and have openly and publicly expressed your disappointment relative to the leadership’s position, and your view on that position is inappropriate.  Because of the very open and public expression you made, I had a duty to ensure that no one was confused relative to whom you were representing, and it was imperative that everyone knew that your views were your own, versus the church leadership’s.  What you are describing as ‘disciplining you’ was just ensuring that there was no confusion relative to own the views you were expressing.”

This was in relation to something that happened after my release, but before this letter.  He also said, “Your public disapproval…,” but I deliberately did not make a public statement.  Even in my ward I did not.  When the high priests group leader gave us signs and placards to put up, I didn’t say anything and I didn’t take anything.  But the high priests group leader said, “Of course, you’ll put them up, and they’ll have them down the next day.”  I said, “Excuse me, but who are ‘they,’ and how do you know this?”  He apologized.  That was the only open thing, and on that I didn’t take a position.  I was just challenging his handling of this.

What I found out—I had been teaching the gospel to a man that I had known since UCLA.  He loved the Church and had for many years, but had never joined.  We lost track of one another, and he wrote a letter to Dialogue saying, “I’m trying to track down Robert Rees.  Does anybody know where he lives?”  We lived a mile from each other in the San Lorenzo Valley.  He contacted me and said, “This is Les Grimke.  I just want to let you know that I have always admired your work.”

We got together.  I understood that he had had the missionary lessons.  He was married to a lovely woman at this time.  So I said, “I think you ought to have the lessons again.”  He was kind of a “dry Mormon.”  But I said, “I probably shouldn’t be the person teaching you.”  So the missionaries started teaching Les and Shannon.  They decided to get baptized, and asked me if I would baptize them.  I said it would be an honor to baptize him; the missionary was going to baptize her.  Then they called and asked if I would speak at their baptism on the topic of the Holy Ghost.  I said, “Sure.  I’d love to.”

They told that to the missionaries, and the missionaries called and said, “The Grimke’s want you to speak at their baptism, but you can’t, because you have been censured.”  I said, “What do you mean?”  They said, “Well, we have been told that you have been forbidden from speaking or doing anything publicly in church.”  I said, “That can’t be the case.  I would know about that.”

I called the ward mission leader, and he didn’t know.  I called the executive secretary to the bishop and he said, “Let me find out.”  He called back and said, “Yes, the stake president announced to the bishops’ council and to the high council that you were forbidden from speaking, teaching, praying or bearing your testimony.”

Prince: And this was the first you knew about it?

Rees: It was the first I knew about it.  That then prompted me to contact President Pope and say, “What in the world is going on?”  I contacted my bishop and asked him what was going on, and that was when I got the letter from Pope.  I said, “I deliberately did not speak out publicly.  You cannot find any evidence of that.”  He said, “Well, the letter you wrote to the Tribune, I have a copy.”  I said, “Read it carefully.  I do not take a position on Proposition 8, and I am not critical of the Brethren.”  He said, “Well, by my interpretation you are.”

(Robert Rees, August 10, 2014)

“On Saturday I participated in a ring exchange ceremony and found myself sitting on the front row with the bride’s grandfather—Senator Harry Reid.  We had two great conversations and I even had a conversation with his three bodyguards.  The subject of Prop 8 came up and he reminded me that he went to the brethren and told them they were about to make a terrible mistake.”  (Carol Lynn Pearson to GAP, April 28, 2015)

Prince: Prop 8 was exactly the same wording as Prop 22.

Rosky: Exactly right.  So all of a sudden they said, “Whoa!”  But that was a sign of how much times had changed.  And also, I think, one of the unique things about Proposition—although not everyone saw it this way—was that 18,000 same-sex couples had gotten married since Prop 22 fell, and so there was a sense of taking something away that had been given.  That is always a little bit sharper.

(Clifford Rosky, March 31, 2015)

Prince: All right, put on a different hat.  You are a Californian and you are living through Prop 8.  Talk to me about the Mormon Church role in it, as you saw it.

Ryan: I thought it was really painful and startling to see a large, well-funded institution take such a public stand on a policy issue, and to push it with every lever that they had at every level of the system, both in terms of having families go door to door, giving that message from the pulpit, using families to pay for this, to fund it.  I had never seen anything as blatant, in terms of the insertion of a social, cultural, religious group into the public policy arena.  It was pretty staggering, because it was constant and didn’t stop.  It just kept escalating.

Prince: But the Catholics were also involved.

Ryan: The Catholics were involved, too, but the most visibility on it was the Mormon Church.  The Catholics were very involved, but the Mormons were raising more money.

Prince: What were the Catholics doing?

Ryan: The Catholics were probably paying money through the backdoor.  I didn’t really have time to investigate everything that they were doing, but I’m sure that there were priests who, even though you are not supposed to do that, were giving messages from the pulpit about raising money and supporting this.  I wasn’t going to those churches, so I didn’t hear that kind of commentary.  It just wasn’t as visible in the media.  The media coverage was greater, in terms of the Mormon Church’s involvement, than the Catholic Church.

(Caitlin Ryan, March 15, 2015)

Sainz: In 2008, I worked on the Prop 8 campaign.  We decided, as a tactic, to take these straight parents who were opposed to Proposition 8 to the campaign office of Yes on 8.  What I will never forget, only because I came to know these people later on, was that we happened to walk into the office that day of the political consultants who were running that campaign, and when we walked in, there was this glass conference room.  Sitting in that conference room—I didn’t know them at the time—I now recognize were all of the Mormon senior staff leadership who were leading Proposition 8.  They just happened to be there coincidentally for a meeting.  When they saw the cameras coming into this office, they very quickly scampered away.  It was a glass conference room, so they very quickly, like cockroaches, moved out to other offices so that the cameras would not see them.

(Fred Sainz, August 15, 2014)

Anon.: I knew years ago that we were going off on the wrong direction on this.  I tried to figure out where this was coming from.  It wasn’t coming from the First Presidency.  It wasn’t coming from President Hinckley.  The support for Prop 8 was coming out of the Twelve, I think from Elder Ballard more than anybody else.  He was head of Public Affairs.  I don’t know what to tell you.  It’s a tough one.…

My sense is that most of it came out of Public Affairs, under the leadership of Elder Ballard.  He was the one who really pushed it.  President Hinckley just thought it [gay marriage] was inevitable.

Prince: The Church’s involvement goes back to Hawaii in the early 1990s.

Anon.: Yes, and that was Loren Dunn.

Prince: And then Marlin Jensen was involved in it after Loren.

Anon.: But Loren really had a lot of passion for the issue, and he really got in and mixed it up.  I was the mission president in San Fernando, California in the 90s, and he would come down as Area President and talk about it.  Loren really mixed it up.  For him, it was a big issue.  There was some of his correspondence that got leaked out.  Somebody took it out of the Church Archives a few years ago.  So I think Loren probably lit the fuse on that business.  But as best I can figure, it was Elder Ballard who pushed Prop 8.

Prince: The story on the street—and it was substantiated after the election by Bishop Niederauer, who used to be the Catholic bishop of Salt Lake City—was that he had sent a letter to the Church requesting their help with Prop 8.  But I don’t think that’s the whole story.  That letter went out during the first week of June, 2008.  The First Presidency letter to all bishops in California went out on June 20th.

Anon.: Oh, we were well engaged before June.

Prince: Niederauer may have served as a trigger, but I don’t think that was the whole story.

Anon.: I was in the presidency of the Seventy at the time, and we just wore Whit out, running him back and forth between California and Utah.  And I know Elder Ballard was down there giving firesides, trying to stiffen the spine of the young single adults who were trying to figure out why we were worrying about all this.  They just could care less.

Prince: And that holds for anybody of that generation or younger.

Anon.: Exactly.

Prince: For them it’s, “What’s the fuss?”

Anon.: I was over the North America Central Area at the time, and I got a call from Craig Zwick, wanting me to raise money, particularly in the Colorado area.  There were quite a few wealthy people there.

Prince: Raise money for California?

Anon.: Yes.  I said, “Craig, who is telling me to call?  Is this coming from you?  If a member of the Twelve wants me to call, have him call me; but I’m not going to do it until then.”

Prince: Thank you!

Anon.: I know they were raising money all through Utah, because I was assisting Utah; but I was over the Central Area.  They raised money out of Washington County to go down there, and everybody’s name got in the paper.  It was a mess.

Prince: One of the things that makes it a compelling history to me is that a lot has happened since Prop 8, and it hasn’t necessarily been bad news.

Anon.: No, to me it has been very positive.

Prince: I think Prop 8 pushed the needle for the Church in a way that it may not have been pushed otherwise.

Anon.: Well, the change in the First Presidency made a big difference, when Dieter Uchtdorf went in.  He wanted nothing to do with that anymore.

Prince: Although he was there for Prop 8.

Anon.: Yes, but he was junior, and Prop 8 was already underway.  But when it came up again for Maine and other states he said, “We’re not getting into this.”

Prince: He said that?

Anon.: Yes.

Prince: Good for him.

Anon.: And the First Presidency took that position too.  That was the word I got.

(Anon., March 3, 2015)

Spencer: My contact with Rich Ferré and his wife began when I ran for Congress on the Democratic ticket in 2008.  I supported civil unions.  It’s pretty interesting, because when Hillary Clinton came to Utah in 2008, she promised she would come back because she had one delegate here.  She came back, and we were down in West Valley City and I had a chance to visit with her quite a bit.  She said something very interesting to me.  She said that she couldn’t understand what the point was of the Church participating in Proposition 8 in California, because it was so ugly.  She said that in New York, when the Church wanted to build a temple, they ran these commercials containing a beautiful message, so positive and upbeat.  Her feeling was that gay rights are civil rights, and regardless of what a person believes within their faith, no church will ever, ever be forced to perform a gay marriage.  If churches believe that a marriage in a church is the only one recognized by God, why are they so concerned with what happens on the town square?  Do they not have faith in their own message?  She was very kind and very interesting about that.…

One night, Jay Leno was talking about Prop 8.  He put up a picture of Brigham Young and all of his wives and said, “Is the LDS Church really the best spokesman for what marriage should be?”  We have to deal with a perception that is somewhat our reality.  The Church, I’m afraid, is beginning to be known for what it is against, instead of what it stands for.

(Bennion Spencer, April 22, 2015)

Prince: The difference was that Prop 8 became embodied in the California Constitution?

Thurston: Yes.  The idea was, “If they say that’s unconstitutional, let’s change the constitution.”  In California, that’s an easy thing to do because it only requires 50% of the popular vote to change the constitution.  That’s really a terrible idea, because people can flip back and forth.

Prince: Is any action of the legislature necessary?

Thurston: No.  So at this point the Church became very out-in-front and decided, “We’re not going to pretend like we’re behind the scenes; we are going to orchestrate this.”  The only pretense was that there was a coalition.  I’m not saying that that was an entire pretense.  Obviously there was a coalition.  There were evangelical Christians, there were Catholics, and there were Mormons.  I’m sure there were some meetings involving this coalition of groups, but in practicality the Mormons ran the election, because we are much better at that than anyone else.  We mobilize, and we mobilize well.  There were talks in Sacrament Meeting, there were Priesthood and Relief Society meetings devoted to it.  Every precinct had people out walking. 

I remember reading some of the material: what you were to do was to go door-to-door and ask people, “What do you think about gay marriage?  Is it a good or a bad thing?”  If they said, “I believe in it,” you were just to thank them politely and go to the next door.  If they said, “I do not believe in gay marriage,” you were to take their names down, and try to encourage them to get involved in the cause.  But in any event, you knew who they were and where they lived.  If people were on the fence, then you gave them materials and tried to convert them.

Then on the polling day we had enough people here who were Mormons that you could go down to your local polling center and sit outside and watch as people came in, and check off on your list the people who said they were opposed to gay marriage.  Close to the end of the day, if you didn’t see all of the people you had contacted who said they would vote yes on Prop 8, you would either make phone calls or go their house and knock on the door and say, “Can you please go out and vote?  We need your vote?”  So in this way you kind of managed the outcome so that it was far more likely that people who supported Prop 8 would go to the polls, than people who were opposed to it.

Prince: Was there a contrasting “Get Out the Vote for No on Prop 8” movement?

Thurston: No.  Nobody was organized.  One of my sons went to a rally for “No on Prop 8” and he was just astounded at the total lack of organization on that side of the fence.  There were a few ads, that kind of thing, and signs; but certainly nothing organized on the scale that we organized it.  So when the vote came down it was 52% to 48%, but I don’t think that was a true reading of California by any means.

Prince: The polling just a few months prior to the election had Prop 8 losing by about six points, as I recall.

Thurston: Yes.  Many people were surprised the vote came out the way it did.  I wasn’t.  Once I saw how the Church organized itself, I was convinced they were going to win.  And if you followed the money—I know you talked to Nadine Hansen, so you know all about that—I would say that what Nadine put together understated the number of contributions that were made by LDS people.  It was a seat-of-the-pants type poll.  They simply got a list of all the people who donated money, and then they asked people who were allies if they could identify specifically those who were members of the Church.  That’s easy when it’s people in your own ward, but we didn’t have allies in every ward, by any means.  As I looked at the list, which was pretty late in the game—they had already identified most of the people and I had given my input—I noticed in areas where we used to live names that I knew were Mormon names.  They were unusual names, and they weren’t identified as Mormons.  I couldn’t say for sure that they were Mormons, but I was very confident that there were a great number of Mormons who were uncounted in that.

Prince: And they weren’t $50 donors.

Thurston: No, they were big donors, many of them.  I think Nadine came up with an estimate that in excess of 50% of the money was LDS, but I would guess it was more like 75-80% of the money that came from LDS sources.  So it was a big deal.

A few personal notes.  After the California Supreme Court ruled as it did and Prop 8 got put on the ballot, I was very dismayed that the Church would even get involved this time, and I made no secret of telling people.  Basically what I said was, “The Church ought to be involved in this to support gay marriage.  After all, we are a church of family.  Gay people are going to be having relationships and we are not going to stop that.  We can’t legislate against it.  If they are going to have those relationships, why not give them a means by which they can formalize that relationship the same way that heterosexuals do, so that we can, with a straight face, go in and say, ‘We are going to treat you the same way we treat our heterosexual brothers and sisters, and that is that you need to be chaste until you are married.’  But they have to have an end goal.  They have to have marriage as something to look forward to; otherwise, it’s just going to be what we would consider promiscuity.  So if the Church would just support gay marriage, it would relieve so many pressures and we could salvage so many of our young kids.  They are gay and they are leaving because there is no place for them in the Church.”

Prince: Or, even worse, committing suicide.

Thurston: Or committing suicide, yes.  But that was not to be, and we got the letter from the First Presidency read in all of the Sacrament Meetings.  The letter didn’t just say, “There is this ballot measure and it’s a good idea to vote for it.”  It basically said, “We want you to mobilize yourselves and devote your time and your means to support this.”  So from that point forward it became a loyalty test.

Lance Wickman is a good friend of mine.  He is now the Church’s general counsel.  We were in the same law firm and were partners.  More than that, we lived in the same town, Glendale, and often carpooled to work together.  I was his counselor when he was bishop there.  So he is a good friend of mine and he is a fine person.  He later said in an online interview that Prop 8 was never intended as a loyalty test.  I know that Lance never felt, in his heart, that it was a loyalty test; but it was in California.  There is no question that it was a loyalty test.  If you weren’t loyal, if you weren’t part of the group, you were very suspect as far as your own testimony went.…

So after the Church’s letter was read, it just ate on me.  We were on a vacation to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia and were doing some family history research back there, looking at places where our ancestors had lived.  I just couldn’t get it off my mind, so one day when Dawn went out to visit with someone who had a lot of local knowledge, I stayed back and drafted a letter to my bishop.  I said, “Not only can I not support this, but these are the reasons why.”  I was fairly detailed.  I then sent it to him, because this time I didn’t want to just sit it out.  The response I got from my bishop, who is a very good guy, was kind of, “Well, it seems like the Church’s position is in accord with the Proclamation on the Family.”  He therefore basically dismissed all the points that I had made in my letter, because the Proclamation on the Family, in his mind, was scripture and therefore none of what I said mattered.

I responded to him by saying, “Well, you know, the Proclamation on the Family says that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God.  I can get behind that.  I believe it is too.  But it doesn’t say that gay people can’t get married.  It doesn’t even say that their marriages are not ordained of God.”  But that doesn’t get you very far.

The next thing that happened was that they decided in our stake that a joint Priesthood/Relief Society meeting would be held in which this whole Prop 8 thing would be discussed.  By the way, I told my bishop, “Feel free to share this letter with the stake presidency.”  He did, but he redacted my name.  I guess he felt more comfortable not letting the stake president know who had written the letter.  So in this joint meeting, first of all Dawn went to Sunday School that day and I didn’t.  I have a tendency just to study my own studies during Sunday School.  She said that it was essentially hijacked by the pro-Prop 8 people.  She was so dismayed.  She is not a confrontational person.  She would never stand up and confront anyone about that.  But she said, “I just can’t sit there during the Priesthood/Relief Society meeting and listen to this anymore,” so she left.  I said, “I need to be there, because I have gone on the record, and I can’t just duck this.  I want to take their best shots.”

So I sat through it.  There were three speakers.  The bishop spoke, and he basically compared people who would oppose the Church on this to the people in Noah’s day, the wicked people who were destroyed.  So we all needed to get on the boat and push this forward.  Then a counselor in the bishopric talked about the details of how we were going to walk the precincts, which I previously described to you.  Then a member of the stake presidency who is a very good friend of mine and a great guy, who didn’t know that I was the one who wrote the letter, stood up and essentially quoted almost verbatim the Meridian Magazine article that Gary Lawrence had written.

Gary Lawrence is a political pollster, very connected in the political community, and was a key person in the passage of Prop 22.  I think his firm maybe even had helped in the Hawaii thing.  His is about as anti-gay as you can be.  He had written this article in Meridian Magazine entitled, “Wonder What the War in Heaven Was Like?  Wait Until You See Prop 8 in California.”  He went on to compare all of the things that were going on—how Lucifer’s enticing the spirits in heaven related to how the gay lobby was working in California to defeat Prop 8.  This was quoted almost verbatim in the meeting by this member of the stake presidency.  So the fact that they were attacking those who would support Prop 8 suggested to me that my letter had played a definite role in the decision to do that.  You can imagine that I felt very bad after that meeting—I felt like I was being personally attacked.

It wasn’t long after that, that you and I were both on the same program at Sunstone and we shared our “Why I Stay” talks.  At the same time that I went to Sunstone, I had been working with the Joseph Smith Papers project.  In fact, at one point I had been referred to as one of the editors of the legal portion of the papers.  Later, they changed their terminology.  Dawn and I had gone with the editorial group of the whole project on a wonderful trip that followed the footsteps of Joseph Smith from his birth to his death.  It was all paid for by Larry H. Miller.  During that time I had gotten to know Elder Marlin Jensen pretty well and had enormous respect for him.  He seemed like a real person of the people, not a hifalutin kind of guy who had to wear a suit-and-tie during this whole trip.  He could get out there in his Levi’s and be a real person.

I said, “I’d like to speak to you about Prop 8 if you don’t mind.  Can I make an appointment with you?”  He said, “Sure.”

Prince: When was this, relative to the election?

Thurston: After the First Presidency letter but before the election.  I sat in his office.  He was very gracious.  I explained my position.  I said, “I wanted you to know, because I’m on the Joseph Smith Papers, and this is how I feel.”  He was close to tears and said, “I just really feel for our gay brothers and sisters.  I don’t know what we can do, but I appreciate where you are coming from.  I value you.  Keep up the good work.”  That was the basic message.…

Prince: You could see the anguish in his face.  But that footage got cut from the broadcast version because the people from WGBH thought that Helen was being too kind towards the Mormons, and they wanted something edgier.  So Marlin was walking the walk.

Thurston: I knew that, because I had read that online even before I went to see Elder Jensen.  [This is the actual transcript of that portion of the interview with Marlin:  “And yes, some people argue sometimes, well, for the gay person or the lesbian person, we’re not asking more of them than we’re asking of the single woman who never marries. But I long ago found in talking to them that we do ask for something different: In the case of the gay person, they really have no hope. A single woman, a single man who is heterosexual in their thinking always has the hope, always has the expectation that tomorrow they’re going to meet someone and fall in love and that it can be sanctioned by the church. But a gay person who truly is committed to that way of life in his heart and mind doesn’t have that hope. And to live life without hope on such a core issue, I think, is a very difficult thing.”]  So I knew, in going, that I would probably be talking to someone who wasn’t antagonistic to what I had to say.  What impressed me was not just that he wasn’t antagonistic, but that he was genuinely sympathetic to it.  But I recognized that he was a fairly low guy on the totem pole.  There is a huge difference between the Seventy and the Twelve.  Everybody around there worships the Twelve.  The room hushes when they walk in.

So anyway, Marlin and I talked for about a half-hour.  He said, “I really want to continue our conversation, but I have a meeting with Elder Packer.  If you don’t mind waiting, you’re welcome to hang out in my office.  The meeting should only last 20 to 30 minutes.”  So I did wait.  Then he came back and we spoke for probably another hour or so about this.  It was a good thing for me because it bolstered my own spirits. 

It wasn’t too long after that that Gary Lawrence issued this little paper, “Six Consequences if Prop 8 Fails.”

Prince: So he was the author of that.

Thurston: He was.  It was unsigned.

Prince: Was it published in paper, or just posted on the Internet?

Thurston: It was published in paper.  It was a sheet that was handed out in many Mormon meetings, if not every Mormon group.  He was the leader of the pro-Prop 8 forces in California.

Prince: By assignment from Salt Lake?

Thurston: Yes, because he had been so active in the previous ones and because he knew politics so well.  He knew what would sell.  So he had written this.  He is not a lawyer; he is a former bishop, and many people think very, very highly of him.  But on this point he and I differed, to say the least, a great amount.  As I read what he wrote, it was clear to me that most of the so-called consequences were legal consequences, and they were just plain wrong.  They would not be consequences of Prop 8 passing.  They were already consequences of California having laws that protected gay people from discrimination.  So I just felt like something had to be done, and since this was well within my area of expertise, why not go ahead and research it, and do something about it.

Prince: Did it look to you like he had had any input from competent attorneys?

Thurston: No.  And that’s something that has always mystified me.  The Church doesn’t lack for attorneys, but they were so involved in trying to pass Prop 8 that even attorneys—I ran across all kinds of attorneys after I wrote my commentary on the Six Consequences who absolutely disagreed with me and would pull out stuff.  They never could actually meet me head-on to my arguments, but they would keep pulling out these other arguments that they said were reasons why Prop 8 should be passed.  So there were lots of attorneys on the pro-Prop 8 side, including one of the ones who was in charge of running the whole thing in California, Whitney Clayton.

Prince: He was in charge from the ecclesiastical arm.

Thurston: Yes.  Certainly he knew better—if he had read that thing, he should have known that it was just plain wrong.

So I wrote this commentary.  Bob Rees and I consulted back and forth on it.  There were other things that were being passed along that did not, I think, originate with the Church.  They originated more with these evangelical groups.  So Bob responded to those, and I responded to Gary’s legal points—again, not being sure at that point that it was Gary Lawrence who wrote it, although I suspected he did.

Prince: How did you find out later that he had written it?

Thurston: That’s kind of a funny thing.  Maybe four or five months after the election there was a conference at Utah Valley University, and I was invited to speak in the conference on this subject.  There was one session that had to do with the Church and politics, and so I spoke about my involvement with Prop 8.  On the same program, Gary Lawrence had been invited to speak, but not on that.  He was invited to speak about a book that he wrote on how we could approach missionary work better than we did.  I actually agreed completely with the material in his book.

On that program I met him for the first time.  We shook hands and I said, “Obviously you and I disagree on the whole gay thing.”  So I gave my talk, and he spoke after me and, during the course of his talk, in a very facetious way he said, ‘All right, I’m the idiot who wrote The Six Consequences.’”  I hadn’t called him an idiot or even referred to him in my talk, even though by that time he had acknowledged to me that he wrote them.  I did say some things in my talk that were critical of The Six Consequences, again without naming him.  But he felt like, when he stood up, that he should say it.  So he said, “Well, I’m the idiot who wrote The Six Consequences.”  Well, that talk was videotaped and put online, and the gay lobby immediately jumped on that.  You can Google “I’m the idiot who wrote Six Consequences,” you get this little snippet of Gary Lawrence saying that.  Actually you can’t get it anymore, because apparently he went and threatened anyone who posts that with a copyright infringement lawsuit.  So you can’t see the clip anymore.  Anyway, that’s how I learned that he was the author.

Another thing that we learned later and hadn’t been aware of is that Gary himself has a gay son who essentially was ostracized from the family, at least from the son’s account of things.…

Prince: What was the reaction to your response to Gary Lawrence’s flyer?

Thurston: As you might expect, there were polar opposites.  I had a bunch of hate mail and I had a bunch of people saying how much they appreciated it.

Prince: Was there ever a church response?

Thurston: There was never a formal church response.  One thing I was careful about was when I wrote the paper, I didn’t try to say Prop 8 should pass.  I didn’t try to say the Church should accept gay people as full-fledged members, and gay marriage is a good thing.  All I did was rebut the arguments that Gary Lawrence had made.  What could the Church say?  I was right.  So you can’t really take action against somebody for that.

Prince: But it doesn’t mean they were happy about it.

Thurston: No, and they weren’t happy about.  There is another thing that I should mention, that I think is interesting for the story.  Only days before I published that, I sent a copy to Lance Wickman.  I had thought that perhaps Lance had been involved in some oversight of what was going on, since he is a lawyer and is the general counsel of the Church.

Prince: Was he general counsel then?

Thurston: Yes.  He was general counsel before he was made a Seventy.

Prince: And after.

Thurston: Yes, and after.  And he still is, even though he is emeritus as far as his Seventy status goes.  So I had an exchange of lengthy emails with Lance on this subject, and I told him how I felt.  Of course, he and Elder Oaks were the ones who were involved in that interview that is online.

Prince: Yes, on the LDS Newsroom.

Thurston: Yes.  So I kind of assumed that he was more involved than he was.  But he wasn’t involved.  Apparently he did not get involved in the Prop 8 campaign in California, and had been essentially unaware of Gary Lawrence’s Six Consequences.  Basically, he was very cordial in terms of responding to me.  But he kind of said that technically what I said was right, that Prop 8 wasn’t the problem—that Prop 8 wouldn’t cause all these things to happen.  He said it shouldn’t have been phrased in terms of consequences of Prop 8 passing, but many of them were consequences of gays being accepted and having rights.  Really what Gary Lawrence’s thing should have said was, “This is what has already happened in California, and it’s likely to happen across the world and stop it now.”  If he had phrased it that way, he probably would have been right.  A lot of these consequences, such as gays being able to adopt, had already happened in California.

Prince: And we no longer have drinking fountains for “Colored” people either.

Thurston: Right.  All of these things are going to come to pass.  Anyway, I got the distinct impression from this interchange with Lance that he was going to put a stop to Gary Lawrence’s thing—that he agreed that the Six Consequences were not well phrased.  I believe that that order went down the line to Whitney Clayton, but at that point our great organizational scheme seems to have fallen apart, because it never got down to the grassroots level.  That thing was being passed around right until the election.  My son said that in his ward they were handing it out at the Halloween party, which was days before the election.

I later learned, from people who would correspond with me from different parts of California because they found out that I wrote this, that Elder Clayton had been at a meeting in their area and he had made a comment something like, “We can’t have lawyers arguing with each other, so let’s not use this anymore.  Wink-wink.  But basically the points are still valid.”  Something like that.

Prince: But it wasn’t lawyers arguing with each other in the first place.

Thurston: No, it wasn’t, although I did get a great deal of pushback from other lawyers.  For example, there is a guy named Duncan who has taught at BYU and is all over these very right-wing organizations that oppose gay marriage.  He wrote an article in Meridian Magazine criticizing me.  When I wrote this, at the very bottom in a footnote I had put who I was, that I was an active member of the Church, my legal background, that I had graduated from Harvard Law School, etc.  I was just identifying myself so that when people read it they wouldn’t say, “This guy is obviously an anti-Mormon.”  I wanted people to know that I consider myself to be a good, active Mormon.  I’ve been in three bishoprics, I’ve been on the high council, paid my tithing, held a temple recommend—I wasn’t against the Church.  In fact, I thought I was protecting the Church from problems in the future.  Duncan criticized me in this article in Meridian Magazine, saying that I was touting my religiosity.  He never really met my points head-on, but he raised a bunch of other points.  So I tried to write a letter to Meridian, just responding to his points in a very cordial way, but they would not publish that.  That’s not a magazine that is a true journalistic magazine.…

There was one letter that was kind of funny.  It was from a woman who described herself as Orson Pratt’s great-great-granddaughter.  I’ll just read part of it:

It is with hesitation I commence my greeting with fanciful niceties such as “Dear Mr. Thurston,” as there is nothing dear about you.  Having read your blasphemous dissection of the Six Consequences Re: Prop 8, I am appalled but not speechless, as I will now proceed to dissect you in like manner.  Your over-educated arrogance is inexcusable, pompous and, frankly, adversarial.  Obviously you have chosen your side, and it is not God’s.  Do not claim to be an active member of the Mormon faith while carrying on so mindlessly.

Needless to say, during this period between the time the letter was written and the election, and even a few months afterwards, kind of my whole life was wrapped up in this.  I didn’t want it to be.  I was just trying to put out fires, responding to things that were sent to me, people that were making arguments.  I’m probably too diligent in responding to people like that very carefully, but I felt it was necessary.…

I’m going to circle back to it, but there is another thing that I need to get in here.  I’m trying to be somewhat chronological.  At some point, and I think it was before the election, I got a call from Lance Wickman.  He said, “I have to be in Orange County to perform a wedding.  I’d like a chance to meet with you.”  I said, “Sure.  I’d be happy to meet with you.  I’ll come down there near the temple.”  He said, “I don’t mind coming out to where you are.”

Prince: Was this an “Elder Wickman” meeting, or a “Lance” meeting?

Thurston: It was a “Lance” meeting, I think.  He was very kind.  We went to a little restaurant and had lunch near where I live.  He said, “The reason I wanted to talk to you is that I just wanted to make sure you weren’t going to leave the Church.”  I said, “No, I’m way too stubborn for that.  It’s my church as much as anyone else’s church.  I will continue to say what I think, but I’m not leaving the Church.”  We had a nice conversation.  He really didn’t want to try to convince me that what I had done or said was wrong, or that I should change my attitudes or my mind.  I think he just wanted to let me know that I was valued, and to the extent I was feeling that everyone was against me, that that was not his attitude and his viewpoint.

But during the course of our conversation, he mentioned that from his standpoint as a lawyer, while we considered gay marriage to be a moral issue, the fact that it was on a ballot in an election made it a political issue.  With regard to political issues, church members were free to do whatever they wanted to do—that “we do not dictate their political views.”  That’s how he intellectualized the fact that I could be opposed to Prop 8 and so could everyone else in California if they wanted to.  Since it was raised in the political arena, as he put it, we were free to do what we wanted.  Unfortunately, that never was communicated to the people in California.  Ever.  And it should have been.

Prince: That should have been out there in front when they first got into the issue.

Thurston: The letter from the First Presidency should have said, “We feel this is best, but we understand that we are dealing with politics here, and each member is free to vote and support whichever side they want.”  But that was never understood in California.…

Thurston: Bits and pieces are coming into my mind.  As I was talking to Lance—and this is no secret; I think everyone pretty well knows this—he said, “The Brethren really do feel that gay marriage is not a good thing.”  Maybe his point in saying that was that they were somehow being politically motivated, that this wasn’t their true feeling.  He said he believes this really is their true feeling.  And I do, too.  I think they are being very genuine, that they believe that this is a real threat.  The other thing he said was that they could see that the avalanche was starting, and if they could somehow salvage California and win in California, which was such a big state and considered to be a liberal state, that that would stop the avalanche.  It would be like building a great big retaining wall, and it would stop there and that would be it.  That was a monumental miscalculation, because what it really did was that it fired up the other side.  Avalanche was a bad metaphor to use.  Maybe a forest fire would have been a better metaphor, that they were trying to set backfires that would have created breaks to stop the big fire; and instead, the winds changed and it caused a greater inflagration than if they hadn’t set them.

(Morris Thurston, January 17, 2014)

Solomon: I feel like the Mormon Church, particularly around Prop 8, became so aggressively involved in this area.  I thought, “OK, if you don’t want to have gay weddings in Mormon churches, that’s fine.  That’s absolutely up to the members of the faith or the leadership of the faith, whatever the governing structures may be, to make those decisions.”  I would never insist that every Mormon church has to consecrate gay unions.  I wouldn’t ever suggest such a thing.  I did feel, and continue to feel, that homosexuality runs at a fairly constant rate through all populations.  There are a large number of gay people who are, themselves, Mormons.  My heart is always broken for those people, because I know from various things that I have read and seen, and people I have known what they have experienced.  I had a friend whom I mentioned to you when we first had lunch, who is a Mormon lesbian.  It has been devastating to her to feel that she is cut off from the Church.  I know one gay, Mormon guy who is essentially a destroyed person.  He is an alcoholic and he is self-destructive.  He is immensely talented, and he is a completely sad figure.  Whenever he is drunk and going on a tear, we are back to the Mormon Church and being thrown out of the Mormon Church and growing up with this sense of evil, and so on and so forth.  I grew up with this much milder disapprobation, and I know how poisonous that was for me.  The idea of what it is like to lose everything is awful.

When, however, the Mormon Church moved beyond not wishing to support the acceptance of gay people within the Mormon Church, and it became a matter of the Mormon Church trying to prevent anyone else from accepting gay unions, as happened most visibly in Proposition 8, it was very hard for me after that not to think of the Mormon Church as an evil organization without which the world, as I see it, would be better off.  It was hard for me not to feel a real suspicion of anything that was attached in any way to Mormonism, because I thought that to insistently and so aggressively pursue those policies when there are people who are starving, there are people who are dying of AIDS, there are people who have no education, there are people who have no drinking water—I thought, “All of those resources?  Really?  So that people like John and me can’t have the kind of life that we have?  Is that really the priority of a church?”  I read the Old and New Testaments many times.  I know there are those various lines that sort of get called in, but essentially I feel like the message is of love and mercy and turn the other cheek.  All of that seems to be so central.  I just thought, “How does that engage with financing Proposition 8 in California, to take away marriage rights where they have already been established?  What is the harm that these people who are getting married are doing?”

We are sitting here because of Helen Whitney.  Helen is one of my closest, closest, best friends in the world, and I have real problems with the fact that she was doing that Mormon film, because I really saw the Mormon Church as an evil force in the world, and she didn’t.  She persuaded me, over time, in our conversations, in her film, in introducing me to you.  We are morally complicated, and we all do good and bad things.  Every organization there is does good and bad things, and she certainly allowed me to see a lot of what was really good and beautiful and wonderful in Mormonism.  I found her film incredibly powerful.  It certainly shifted my understanding enough so that I was eager to meet you, and so that I’m sitting with you now and trying to speak as much from my heart as I possibly can.

Despite all of that, I really feel that the church leaders have blood on their hands.  I feel that there are Mormons who have committed suicide or have destroyed lives because of the attitude of the Church.  But I also think that when you get Proposition 8 through, it sends a message to all kinds of people who were tentatively thinking that maybe this was an OK way to be, and that they were going to have an OK life.  It makes them think, “Everyone hates us.  It’s not just my mom, my church, my family; the kind of person I am is repulsive to the world.”  Some of those people end up killing themselves even if they’re not Mormons, even if they’re not religious.  Whatever it is, the pervasive atmosphere that is created by that is to say, “These people are lesser.”  It takes a lot resilience to hold your head up and say, “I am not lesser!”  Some people can do it, some people can’t do it; and some of those people who can’t do it will be destroyed.…

So I have, as it were, these two nexes of sadness about the Mormon Church.  One is what effect those attitudes have on Mormons.  Two people who are really wonderful, and one person who I think might well have been wonderful if he hadn’t been destroyed, for all of whom this has been such a devastated experience.

Prince: And where would they be had they still remained in that community?

Solomon: Yes.

Prince: Certainly in a better place than they are now, all three.

Solomon: Yes.  And with the two women, at least, they have been cut off from all of what they, themselves, perceive to be the good that there is in Mormonism.  And whose interest can that possibly serve?  Not theirs; but also, I think, not the Mormon Church’s.

And then beyond that, the thing that makes me feel really outraged is the idea that the Mormon Church would then presume to try to get involved in decisions that essentially don’t have anything to do with Mormonism.  In the same way, I understand perfectly well why the Catholic Church would preach against abortion.  Having had children, I find the idea of abortion sad and difficult.  I don’t think it’s a simple or easy thing.  But I certainly feel that it shouldn’t be the purpose of the Catholic Church to prevent other people from doing what they believe to be right.  They can certainly argue for what they believe to be right in the court of public opinion and try to persuade people, but I don’t think that it should happen.  And frankly, in my own view, if the Mormon Church still supported polygamy, and if it appeared to be a system that was not exploitative of the women, or whatever the other issues around it had been; I feel like if there were a faith in which that was accepted practice and if it were non-exploitative, I don’t feel it’s my position to say, “You can’t do it.”  I feel it is my position to say, “You can’t murder people.”  I feel it is my position to say, “You can’t cause grievous harm.”  Maybe it just sounds like a banal libertarianism.

It does seem to me, though, that there is a difference between the Mormon Church saying, “We don’t accept gay people within the Church, we don’t accept gay marriage within the Church, we don’t accept people who act on their homosexual desires within the Church;” and trying to interfere with what happens outside of the Church.  That seemed to me to be bad and very alienating.  As I say, if it weren’t for Helen, I would be out there to say, “You can keep the Mormon Church out of my community.”

(Andrew Solomon, March 28, 2011)

Waite: With Prop 8, there was more of an urgency.  “We really have to get out there, because this isn’t looking good.”  And also, there was a lot of, “Hey guys, you remember what we did in Prop 22.  We can’t let that just go to waste.  Look at all the work we put into that, and now we have to redo this.”

Prince: When the Church jumped in on Prop 8, the polls said that it was likely to be defeated, so there was a reason for a sense of urgency.

Waite: Yes, there was a big sense of urgency.  Now Bakersfield is very conservative politically, unlike some of the coastal areas.  But even here, there was a sense of, “Our county is going to be very important in making sure this passes, because we know that up in the Bay Area, they’re not going to get the votes.  So we really have to get the vote out here.”  So yes, there was much more urgency in Prop 8.

Prince: Let me take you back a little bit.  Between Prop 22 in 2000, and Prop 8 in 2008, was it basically an issue that just went away?

Waite: Yes, pretty much.  I don’t remember it ever being discussed, at least in church.  I think it pretty much went away.  When Prop 8 came back, it was a little surprising.

Prince: OK, let’s focus now on Prop 8.

Waite: I was the first counselor in the bishopric at the time.  In our weekly bishopric meeting, our bishop had been instructed that we were going to be pushing this Prop 8 issue and the Church was going to get heavily involved, and we were going to need everybody’s support.  That was how I was first introduced to it.

It was soon after that that they called a stake meeting.  Part of it was a broadcast from Salt Lake—they had a video feed from Salt Lake—and then the other part was local leaders speaking about Prop 8, and the importance of making sure that it passed.  It was close to that time that a letter from the First Presidency came down, asking members to give all that they could to support it, both time and means.  I think that was the centerpiece of a lot of stuff that went on in our stake.  In our ward it was, “The Prophet is asking us to do this, so let’s do everything we can to do it.”

Prince: Was there any discussion from a different point of view within the ward?

Waite: Not in our ward.  I don’t remember there being any resistance from our ward.  I remember being a little surprised that there was some resistance in other places.  I struggled personally with it.  I wasn’t real comfortable with us just coming out and saying, “No, we’re not going to allow gays to get married.”  I remember there being a lot of internal struggle on my part with it, but I wasn’t vocal about it.  I never let it be known to anybody other than my wife—not to our bishop and not to the other ward leaders.  I figured, “I’ve got to stand up and support this.”  So personally what I did—it was loud and clear to me that the Prophet was asking us to do this, that we were being asked directly from Salt Lake and the First Presidency and the Prophet himself.  So I figured, “If I follow the Prophet, it will work itself out.”

At the meeting that we had at the stake, I remember watching the video from Salt Lake and then listening to our local leaders.  Our stake president had mentioned that he had recently gone to a meeting with all the local stake presidents, and they had a teleconference with some leaders in Salt Lake.  He shared with us that in that conference they had mentioned how, when this was brought to President Monson, President Monson had smiled and said, “This will pass.  We are going to win this.”  I remember that really impacting me, thinking, “Wow!  The Prophet is really involved in this and he sees what’s going to happen.  If we are going to win, this is like a test of my faith; so I’m going to just go forward and do the best I can.”  And that’s what I did.  I helped as much as I could on the ward level.  I did the phone calls, I knocked on doors, I gave money.

The leader on the stake level was a high councilor.  He had designated leaders on the ward level that were helping to organize getting out signs.  We would stand on the corners with our signs; we would have designated times where we had to go on the busy street corners and stand with our Prop 8 signs.

Prince: Were the phone calls done from home, or from a phone bank?

Waite: You could do either.  Our ward organized phone banks, so there were certain designated nights where you would go to certain people’s houses and everybody would call.  I never did that.  We just did it from home, because I was busy working.  I had a list, and it was the same list that I would have been using at someone’s phone.  I think they had people go to people’s houses because everybody would be there and you felt like you were part of it, so it made it easier for some people to call as a group.  But for us, they just gave us a list of several hundred people that we would call and try to talk to.  And then they gave us a list of people and we were to knock on their door and give them a pamphlet and try to find out which way they were going to vote.  We turned that information in to the leader.…

I have a small business here in town, and one of the employees, who I had expected was gay, came into my office days before the election.  She said, “I know this is sensitive, but can you tell me where you are coming from?”  She knew I was for Prop 8.  She opened up and told me how it was affecting her, how difficult this was, and asked if I would rethink my position.  That was a really, really tough conversation for me to have.  I knew that, for me, it just came down to following the Prophet, but I couldn’t say that to her.  I wasn’t going to say, “I’m voting for this because I believe there is this man in Salt Lake who talks with God, who says this is what we need to do.”  So here I am; I’m searching for arguments.

I don’t know if the Church circulated them, but there were all kinds of things being circulated through email and through pamphlets that were telling members other reasons why Prop 8 was important.  They had nothing to do with “Follow the Prophet”; they had to do with the fact that if it didn’t pass, they would be teaching our kids in school how to be gay, we would be forced to seal gay couples in the temple, it would hurt the Church and it would hurt the fabric of our country.  There were these lists of arguments—at one point, in our bishopric meeting, our bishop had a list that some attorney had written of seven or eight consequences if Prop 8 didn’t pass.  It was from a legal perspective.  I remember him bringing this and saying, “Look at this.  We ought to talk about this in our fifth-Sunday Sunday school meeting.”  I remember looking at it—and I’m not an attorney—and I could tell that it wasn’t accurate.  It just didn’t make any sense.  Fortunately, I was able to convince the bishop not to talk about the list specifically, that we could talk about other things.

Prince: In fact, that list was written by Gary Lawrence, who is not an attorney.  It elicited a very strong reply from Morris Thurston, who is an LDS attorney who lives in Orange County.  That was a sideshow on its own.

Waite: What members were looking for was a defense other than, “This is our faith, and this is what I believe God wants me to do.”  They were looking for other reasons, and I think that’s why that was effective.

Prince: Do you think they were looking for it more to be able to explain it to their non-member friends than to convince themselves?

Waite: Oh, yes.  I didn’t use those exact arguments, but here was one of my employees and it clearly was a very passionate and very sensitive issue to her.  All I could tell her was, “Look, I feel that the government is intruding in our private lives, and they are trying to tell us how we define marriage.  This is how the majority of the people define marriage, so what right do they have to change that?”  She wasn’t buying it, and she had very good arguments.  She just shot it down right away, and I had to say, “Well, I’m sorry.  I guess we disagree.  I’m sure it will work out.”  But it was terrible.

Prince: Was she the first gay person you had discussed the question with?

Waite: That’s a good question.  Yes, I think she was.

(Sherod Waite, July 18, 2014)

Williams: So Prop 8 hit.  I was there with the angry marches at the temple.  I helped organize them.

Prince: The marches after, or before the election?

Williams: After Prop 8 passed.

Prince: What happened earlier in 2008?

Williams: The only way I would describe it to people is that when I was a grade school kid, I was bullied pretty badly.  One of the ways I dealt with that was to become a bully to other people, and I bullied people who were weaker than I.  I saw what was happening in Prop 8 as being exactly that.  Mormons have been bullied by the Christian world, called a cult, not true Christians, all these things; and so the Mormon Church wanted to prove to all Christianity that they had the same enemies, and that they could bully someone weaker than they were, and prove a point to the Christian world.

Prince: And to run with the big dogs in the process.

Williams: And to run with the big dogs.  It was playground politics.  I had a letter published in the San Francisco Chronicle saying just that.  “The Mormon Church has been bullied all of its life, and now it has become the bully to prove something.”  Mormons desperately want to be liked.  It’s so bizarre.  They desperately want to be accepted by major America, but they make an error every single time on how to be liked.  They polarized the gay community with such zeal!  I lost friends over it.  Facebook was brand new at this time, and we would get into these big, ferocious battles.  I got unfriended by so many Mormon friends.  I was like, “How can you do this?  How can you be part of this church?  You know this is wrong!”  But they were desperate to follow their prophet.

I think that on some subconscious level, some Mormons are wondering, “Is our prophet really a prophet?”  He never really prophesies anything.  He just reiterates the importance of not drinking coffee, and to stay away from pornography.  But he never talks about anything of substance beyond that.  So when a prophet finally did come forward in saying, “This is what we have to do,” Mormons leapt!  They leapt!  They put their shoulders to the wheel because this was really coming from God, and they really wanted to believe that their prophet was led by God.  I really see that as explaining the zeal behind it, but it was astonishing to me.

As the election got closer, we were still thinking that there was no way that Prop 8 was going to pass.  We were thinking, “It’s going to be fine.”  But as it became more clear that the Church was behind it, it was war.”

Prince: Were you aware, up here, of the sophistication of the ground game down there?

Williams: A little bit.  I would see the propaganda, the commercials, insidious stuff involving children, just awful stuff.  I saw race baiting, Civil Rights activists who had marched with Martin Luther King, having them denounce the gays.  I was thinking, “Mormons are paying for this?”  We were so far behind on Civil Rights, embarrassingly so.

Prince: Even to say they were far behind is giving them a huge benefit of the doubt.  They simply weren’t there.

Williams: No, not at all.  They were the problem.

So all this stuff was happening.  It was a deep betrayal.  On some level, I still love this church, I love these people.  My parents are Mormon.  My grandparents are Mormon.  My aunts and uncles are Mormon.  This is everything about my family, and all of a sudden I was completely ostracized.  I have the most superficial relationship with my parents.  My father, to this day, cannot talk about his gay son.  My mom couldn’t talk with me about it either.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer, and at that point it was just too late.

Prince: Did it feel to you like Prop 8 had become a Utah thing?

Williams: Yes.  Nadine Hansen was publishing all the donors, although I didn’t know until after the election, with Fred Karger’s work, that they were the principal force behind it.  But it was clear when Prop 8 passed, because we gathered 3,000 angry people around the Salt Lake Temple.  We knew where the money came from, and we were embarrassed and shamed by it.  Here there was this beautiful moment in history where the first African-American President was elected, and yet gay America was just struck in the gut.  It was devastating, and we were angry.  We circled temple, they shut the gates, and we just marched around and around.  That was one of many times that we did that.  It was happening all over the place too, but it was happening here in Utah.

(Troy Williams, March 30, 2015)

Yates: In 2008, Prop 8 came around.  I was in church on the Sunday in June when the read the letter over the pulpit, encouraging us to use all of our time and resources to support the effort.  I think that week or the next week in Relief Society, they started talking about putting signs in our yards and canvassing neighborhoods.  People were pretty much signing up.  I don’t remember exactly how long after that it was, but it seemed like it was pretty soon.  It really ramped up quick.

I just felt sick.  I thought, “OK, what am I going to do here?  I just can’t do this.”  Because I didn’t sign up to do anything, I was approached by one of the counselors in the Relief Society.  She said, “Jennette, we saw you didn’t sign up for anything.  Will you put a sign in your yard?”  I said, “No.  I’m not comfortable with that.  I really don’t want to.”  She looked shocked, and I said, “I just have issues with that whole thing.”  So she let it go, and I let it go.  But the more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I was.  I was just appalled that weeks would go by and we would have actual lessons in Sunday School, where they would combine the Relief Society and Sunday School, and we would have discussions from the bishopric telling us about all the terrible things that were going to happen if Prop 8 didn’t pass.  They brought out that “Six Consequences” document and read it, word-for-word.  I remember taking notes, because I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  The bishop was looking at me—I could feel him watching me, because I must have been making body language or facial expression.  But it was clear that I wasn’t happy.

It just got worse and worse as time went by, up to the election.  I think I remember hearing from Lee and Carol Oldham about the video that they saw in their ward.  It was going to be presented in our ward.  I made an appointment and talked to the bishop, and I just told him how I felt, and that I just couldn’t support this.  I felt terrible that the Church was doing this, and I didn’t understand how we could be working so hard to take away rights of people.  What was it going to hurt us?  He was kind, but he clearly let me know that what the Church was doing was absolutely what God wanted, and that we should all support it and that it was going to be good for society if we passed Prop 8—it was going to protect our children, all they lying that we had heard.

I pretty much cried throughout the whole meeting.  I went home and started thinking about what I was going to do, because I couldn’t support it—and what it would mean if I didn’t.

(Jennette Yates, January 16, 2015)

Young: I wonder if you could talk to Elder [Marlin] Jensen now that he’s not a Seventy anymore.  We met with him right in the middle of Prop 8, and we met with Elder Holland.  Elder Holland—I’ll tell you more about this when we have our official talk—was very back and forth.  Sometimes we thought he was on our side, and other times he would say, “I have to tell you whatever P.R. is telling you.  We are a caterpillar, and all the legs have to move at the exact same time in order for us to keep moving forward.”  But then at other times he would cry when we would talk, and he seemed to have compassion.  Then he would say, “No, we are going down with our flag waving.  I don’t believe we we’ll win, but we’ll certainly go down with our flag waving.”  I wanted to say, “But your flag will be red, covered in blood.”

Prince: And they are conflicted.  I’ve known Jeff for forty-plus years, and I’ve known Marlin for probably fifteen.  I have a closer friendship with Marlin than I do with Jeff.  I think these are exceptionally good men, but when they are on duty, they are conflicted.

Young: They are conflicted.  Elder Holland gave me a blessing, and in that blessing—this was right in the middle of Prop 8—he told me to continue my work, that it was called of the Lord and I should keep doing what I was doing.

Prince: Was this after you had come out publicly against Prop 8?

Young: I had not come out publicly yet.

Prince: So what was the work to which he was referring?

Young: Because I had come to him.  We had come to him and said, “You have got to stop this!  This is crazy!  This is what is going on—this is divisive.”  We were begging him.  “Please!  What are you doing?”  We were just up there begging him to see what was going on.  We gave him the examples.  I brought him a blog, written by the Evangelicals, that said, “We wouldn’t normally associate ourselves with the Mormon Church, but in this case we had to.  It’s the smartest thing we did, because we saved ourselves $25 million in micro-marketing costs.”  I said to him, “Do you realize the Evangelicals are killing two birds with one stone?  Do you see what they are doing?  They have set the Church up for the fall.  They are having the Church do all the work and take the fall, and take down the gay community.”

(Barbara Young, October 2, 2014)

In 2008, when our church decided to do everything they could to pass Proposition 8, I felt like I was in another universe.  This was not the church I knew.  This was not what I had been taught or shown.  I had been taught—and these are actual words from tenets in our church—to be “honest, true, benevolent, and to do good to all mankind.”  I had been taught to speak “anything lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy.”  I suddenly didn’t recognize my own church.

There were, it felt like, maybe a dozen of us who were shouting from the top of our lungs, “Please don’t do this!  You don’t know what you are doing!  You are dividing families, LGBT kids are being cast from their homes, and, worst of all, you are killing our LGBT brothers and sisters, especially our youth.”

We shouted.  We screamed.  We ran around teaching everyone we came in contact with.  We spoke to reporters.  We wrote op-eds.  We countered the arguments for Prop 8 with mass emails and handouts.  A few started groups and forums where compassionate Mormons could find others who felt like we did.

We gathered at homes and parks.  We strategized.  We came up with plans.  We worked to the bone, trying to make others see the true nature of Prop 8.  But our voices weren’t strong enough.

There were many who, in confidence, let us know that they felt the same way we did; but they were afraid, so they decided to stay silent.

How were we going to reach that young, gay boy; that young, lesbian girl; that young, transgender child with our voice, when so many around them were drowning out our words?

The day arrived when our hearts broke into the tiniest, little glass shards.  Prop 8 had passed.  It felt like the people in our church just went on the next day.  They didn’t even comprehend the cloud of damage that had been done.  But those of us on the frontline knew the collateral damage, the pain, the hurt, the suicides.  We were crushed.  We felt our words had fallen on deaf ears.

But soon after, this beautiful, Mormon gay young man approached me, with tears in his eyes, and said, “Just when I felt all the people around me were against me, when it got so dark I no longer wanted to live, hearing what you did and said was like a candle in the darkness, and it lit up my whole world.”  In that moment, I knew it was all worth it.  We had been heard where it counted most, and slowly but surely we realized more people had been listening—not only listening, but finding their own voice.  We could literally see the spiritual consciousness being raised.  Soon there were more and more and more.  Mormons were coming out of their own version of the closet!  They were waking up and opening up their hearts.

(Barbara Young, remarks at San Francisco Human Rights Campaign Gala, October 11, 2014)

Young: I am so frustrated, because all last night and any chance I could before I left this morning, I have been desperately trying to find this blog.  What happened was that we had this No on 8 coalition, and we were in constant contact and sending each other things that we heard or heard about.  Somebody a spy in the Yes on 8 campaign, and they forwarded something where one of the heads—James Dobson or one of those types of people—had said in an email, “We don’t normally associate ourselves with the Mormons, but in this case we had to.  In the end it saved us $26 million in micro-marketing costs.”  I had taken that letter to Elder [Jeffrey] Holland and said, “They are using you!”  He said, “Can I have that?”  And he took it.  I’ve looked everywhere, and I must not have had a second copy.  I’m upset at myself for not coming home and printing up another copy to put it on my record.  I’ve been frantically going through any emails I have left over, trying to find it.  When you’re writing about this, I think it’s a huge thing to talk about how much the Evangelicals hated us, but yet they were willing to work with us and use us and say these comments that we saved them all this money, and yet they let us take the fall for it all as well.…

Steve’s cousin Marla was working at the Lion House, and she said she was their server during that historic meeting with [Thomas] Monson and the Catholic Archbishop and one of the Evangelicals.  She said there were four people at the table.  She said she was hearing them talk about this.  Her sister-in-law is gay, and she was thinking, “What is happening?”  It’s just interesting that she was their server.…

Prince: Another bit of background.  I’ve known Jeff Holland for over forty years, and my grandparents were part of the village that raised him in St. George.  I’ve had the sense all along that Jeff’s heart is in the right place on this, but his hands are tied.

Young: Everyone keeps saying that, and that’s one of the reasons I went to him.  Getting that letter after we had been there [she sent me a scanned copy of the letter, which is in the chronological file], I just felt that while we were there, he was completely duplicitous on it.  One moment I felt like, “Oh, he’s letting us know how he’s thinking.  ‘We think we’re going to lose this, but we’re going to go down with our flag raised, and we’re going to go down waving it.’” I thought, “Wow!  Is that a surprise!  OK.”  I was starting to get this huge picture of Jesus behind him, and I was thinking, “I can’t believe you just said that, about that flag.  It’s bloodstained!  How can you be so prideful?”  But in his other breath he would say to us, “OK, we all have to move forward together.  The caterpillar cannot move unless all the legs are going in the same direction.”  And then he would go back to this, “We must do this to save the Church!”  And then, he would give me a blessing and say, “Continue doing the work that you are doing.  The Lord wants you to continue what you are doing.  It’s important.”  I just didn’t know, and then he wrote that letter and I thought, “I just don’t know where he stands.”  I felt betrayed by him.  And since then, the things that he has said have been horrible.  So it’s interesting that you say that.

(Barbara Young, April 24, 2015)

Criddle: We received the letter in June.  Several of the bishops in my stake were not happy about being asked to read that letter.  In the university ward I was very sensitive to this, because I had come from there less than two years before.  The man who served as my first counselor was still serving as first counselor there.  He is a good personal friend.  It was his Sunday to conduct.  He has a facility of speaking very fast, and he read that letter in record time.

Prince: Like the disclaimers on ads on TV.

Criddle: Exactly.  That added a touch of humor to a very painful moment in that ward.  I happened to be there that day, and I was also in the Berkeley family ward, where the bishop felt very, very conflicted.  I sat on the stand next to him and asked, “Bishop, are you going to read the letter, or is your counselor going to read it?”  He said, “Well, in bishopric meeting we decided maybe none of us would.”  I said, “Well, then give me time and I will read it.”  He said, “Oh, I’ll do it,” and he stood and read the letter.  People were very conflicted.

Prince: Did you see it in their body language as the letter was being read?

Criddle: It was a very mixed reaction.  There was great sadness in many faces, and business-as-usual on the faces of others.

Prince: Then, what happened?

Criddle: As the stake president I began receiving instructions that were very detailed and specific about what to do.

Prince: Were there financial quotas as there had been with Prop 22?

Criddle: Yes, there were very specific financial quotas, in terms of fundraising.  I had a world-class team to work with in my stake presidency.  Splendid people, supportive, thoughtful, committed.  We realized that we were heading into the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  Instructions we were being given about fundraising and grassroots lobbying were so different from what anyone had experienced before.  There was a regular return-and-report regime put in place—specifically what had been done and who had done it.  It was going to take considerable effort and thought and sensitivity as to how we were going to roll this out within our stake.

On the fundraising side, we had several weeks to reflect on what we would do before we needed to roll into action.  Our quota, as I recall, was $125,000.  We resolved that we would not make an assignment to anyone for any dollar amount, nor would we give a suggested contribution level.

Prince: Was it at the discretion of the stake presidency to divide that quota amongst the wards?  Was the quota for the stake as a whole?

Criddle: Right.  The assignment was given to me, as stake president, to raise this money.  I wasn’t given an assignment ward-by-ward.  Our stake has two singles wards, one for Young Single Adults and one for older singles; a Spanish ward; a Chinese branch; an inner-city ward—so to give a single assessment across all these different units would have made no sense at all.  So there was a single dollar figure, and I was asked to report periodically on our progress towards that figure.

What we decided to do within the Oakland Stake was to take the First Presidency’s letter seriously and literally.  Literally what it said was, “We encourage members to do all you can,” and so we resolved that we would use those words as our marching orders and mantra, and point out to our members that for some, doing all you can means being less vocal in opposition than you otherwise would be; for some it might mean dedicating a large swath of your life and resources.  We understood this to be an invitation to every person to individualize the response, realizing that this was a request from the First Presidency.

We also instructed our bishops that the three-hour block of worship services was not to be used for discussions of Proposition 8.  Not for fundraising, for sure; not for grassroots lobbying efforts, for sure.  We didn’t want any discussion of this political activity to invade the worship services.  The worship services were for worship; they were not for direct or indirect political activity, including this.  Even though the First Presidency was directing that people do all they can, that didn’t mean that it was worship service material.

Prince: From what I have heard from other places, yours represented the exception rather than the rule.

Criddle: Maybe.  We took the position that we were not general church leaders.  We were local church leaders and we had an assignment to accomplish certain goals, and this was the way we interpreted our assignment.  This was the way we felt, as a stake presidency, that it should be carried out in the Oakland Stake.  There was no criticism of how anybody else handled it, but that was the way we felt it should be handled in the Oakland Stake.  The bishops were very supportive of that, although some of the local members were very critical.  They felt the three-hour block was the time when people got together, and it should have been used more fervently to stir up the troops.  But that’s not the way we felt.  Occasionally there was a misstep in the three-hour block, and if we got reports of it, we counseled with the bishops and priesthood leaders and Relief Society presidencies to do all they could to keep this out of the three-hour block.

As to fundraising, we decided that bishops were in an impossible situation with tithing settlement at the end of every year.  Their main assignment is to encourage people to pay a full tithe and generous fast offerings, and to put them in a position of soliciting funds for political activities was untenable and unfair to those bishops.  So we resolved that as a stake presidency, we alone would do the fundraising, and we would do it separately.

We split the wards amongst us, and we each conducted one or more gatherings in private homes of a member of each of the units.  We asked the bishops to make one exception to the rule of using the three-hour block.  We asked them to make an announcement, at the beginning of their 5th-Sunday presentation, to explain to the ward members that a member of the stake presidency would be holding a gathering at Member X’s home at this particular time and day to discuss the First Presidency’s instruction on Proposition 8 as it related to contributions.

So we held a series of those meetings.  I held probably seven or eight of them, and each of my counselors held several.  We did two in some wards, and just one in others.  At each of those, we had a script that we used that focused on the background history of the Knight Initiative, what the difference was between a statutory initiative and a constitutional initiative, what the effects would be just as a matter of law, what the effects might be if the initiative didn’t pass and if it did pass.  We explained that the stake had been given an assignment to do all it could to raise its target of $125,000.  The purpose of our meeting was to invite a coalition of the willing to contribute.  Some of the members would say, “How much do you need from me?”  We would never give a number.  We left it open-ended.  Ultimately, we exceeded our assigned target by $25,000 or $50,000.  So the approach worked.  No one was pressed into coming to the meetings.  I think a lot of curious people who opposed the initiative came, just because they were interested in learning what the stake presidency would have to say.  But the bishops were completely out of the loop.  They didn’t handle the money, they didn’t ask for the money.  It all came through the stake president and two counselors.

Prince: That’s a model for the way it should be done.

Criddle: Not every stake has the same collection of people or resources, but that’s the way we felt in our stake it should be done.  

There were a few members of our stake who were separately contacted.  There was a separate effort to target individuals who, for whatever reason, Salt Lake had identified as having resources and, perhaps, prior church service, who might be into making additional contributions.  There were a couple of members of my stake who were approached and did make $25,000 contributions apart from the fundraising efforts of the stake presidency.

Prince: Did those solicitations come directly from Salt Lake?

Criddle: They came from places other than me.

Prince: Through the priesthood line?

Criddle: Yes, although one of the things that was murky and unsettling about all of this was under the color of what authority this was all being done.  The contributions were not made to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  We were pointedly told that they should not be.

Prince: They were made to Protect Marriage.

Criddle: Yes.  They were solicited by individuals who had certain positions or had held certain positions, but we were constantly being told that the requests were not being made by those individuals on those capacities.

Prince: That is a balancing act.

Criddle: One of the questions I was asked frequently, in these separate meetings that we held to invite folks to contribute funds, was, “In the temple, I made certain covenants.  Those covenants include dedicating all I have to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Is this coming from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?”  My answer was, “The invitation is coming from the president of the church, but not to contribute your resources to the church.  You have to sort that out however you feel.  As a technical matter, this would not be going to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”  I think many members felt conflicted on that level.

Prince: And you just let them resolve it however they resolved it?

Criddle: Sure.  They asked, “If I don’t contribute, will that prevent me from answering that question correctly?”  My response was, “If you come to me as your stake president and explain the situation, I would have zero hesitance about signing your temple recommend.”  All these issues that were around the edges that were left unspoken and unstated created real heartburn and anxiety and soul searching for members who desperately wanted to do the right thing, but felt internal conflict.

Prince: One of the documents you sent me was the Six Consequences.  Talk to me about how that got into the mix.

Criddle: The Six Consequences started out as a longer list, I think maybe nine or twelve.  Then it got whittled down to these six.  One of the people who was responsible for the effort in California, Elder John Dalton, who seems to me like a very good guy, was in an impossible spot.  He circulated these to all the stake presidents in California, with instructions to use these as talking points during the three-hour block of meetings.  When I received those, I contacted my area authority and said, “Look, we resolved not to talk about Proposition 8 at all during the three-hour block.  Even if we did, I couldn’t possible use these as talking points, and here is why.”  He said, “Well, you should do what you think is right.”  So we simply didn’t use them.  Where they came from, I’m sure John Dalton didn’t draft these things out.

Prince: No.  Gary Lawrence wrote them.

Criddle: That was my guess.

Prince: I had a lengthy interview with Morris Thurston, and he responded in writing with his rebuttal to all those points.  He talked about being with Gary Lawrence later, and Lawrence admitting that he wrote them.

Criddle: That was my impression.  I was speculating with my stake presidency where they came from, and my speculation was that the church’s political advisor gathered focus groups to try to sound out what sound bytes would help sell, and this is what emerged.  Every single one of them is just wrong, or if it’s right, it’s completely misleading.  I said, “We can’t possibly do this.”  In fact, these came out shortly after we completed our fundraising efforts.  I have to say that on a very personal level I felt that this wasn’t the message that I asked my Oakland Stake members to contribute to support.

Off the record?

Prince: Yes.

Criddle: I felt this was a fundamental betrayal.  Just a fundamental betrayal, of sending priesthood leaders out to request contributions in support of an issue where those monies would be used in this way to disseminate a message of deception. 

And also off the record, the church has the high ground only when it tells the truth.  By using these talking points, which I’m sure were designed by professionals to achieve the objective, I’m sure that people felt, “We’re in war with the Devil, and in war, no holds are barred.”  The church yielded the high ground, and that was so disappointing to any thoughtful observer in California.

So, back on the record.

Prince: Back on the record, that does raise to me a fundamental issue that I have never seen satisfactorily explained, and that is, what did people in the church really think they were acting to do?  In other words, I heard, and even up through the Supreme Court case heard that gay marriage is an attack on the institution of marriage, but I could never connect those dots.  Am I missing something?

Criddle: I think many church members felt the same way.  Others didn’t.  Based on my interviews and discussions with stake members, there were many who simply could not understand the opposition to Proposition 8.  They felt that the church leadership could see further down the road than they could, that the whole concept of prophets was the center of their message, and if we can’t rely on their vision and understanding and judgment on something so central to current life experience as this, why do we even have a church?  So there was great frustration on the part of many over the anguish felt by those who simply couldn’t support it. 

It’s curious that, in my stake, there seemed to be a real politeness in Sunday Schools, Elders Quorums, High Priests Groups, Relief Societies, whenever this subject was raised—politeness towards one another, in spite of very strikingly different points of view.  That non-confrontational politeness was especially marked in Berkeley and Oakland, the places where I would have thought it would be more flashpoint.  

In the more uniformly affluent suburban areas, that’s where the more direct conflict arose.

Prince: I’ve spoken to people from other California stakes who say that the whole Prop 8 battle drove a wedge right through the middle of wards, and in some cases that wedge is still there.

Criddle: Oh, yes.  There is one ward in our stake which is in a very uniformly affluent suburban area.  It’s a ward of just under 600 people—not a huge ward, but the activity rate is astronomical.  Sacrament Meeting attendance is way over 300 every Sunday, even though we called people out to serve as service missionaries to serve in inner city and language units.  The true activity level is about 400 out of 600.  If you take into account the people who are sick and aged, that’s just about everybody.  That’s the ward that had, by far, the greatest conflict.  A highly educated, affluent group, generally conservative but not entirely.  That’s the ward that had the greatest conflict.

Prince: Do the conflicts persist to this day?

Criddle: People truly like each other, although the ideological split is certainly there to this day.  I don’t like the word conflict.  It’s not that people are at each other’s throat.  But an extremely active pro-Prop 8 person who planted signs on lawns and stood at street corners and couldn’t understand why more members wouldn’t, was all over them for not.  Not everyone felt that way.  He was very unhappy that the stake presidency would not allow any organization or discussion during the three-hour block.  Very, very unhappy.…

May I go off the record?

Prince: Sure.

Criddle: I think Whitney Clayton, who was the point person in executing the effort in California, was so intent on personally reporting a success that he did a great disservice.  I also think—and, in fact, more than think—I’m certain that he personally signed off on the Six Consequences, OK’d them, and took it on as his personal responsibility to use priesthood leadership lines to execute on that game plan.  He was not interested in hearing any information that would cast aspersions on those decisions.

Prince: That holds together with what I have heard.

Criddle: Again off the record, I have great respect for his office; I have zero respect for the man.

Prince: I’ve heard that, too.  But nonetheless, it did catch them off-guard in Salt Lake.  I have heard that from several of the Seventies, though not from Elder Clayton, with whom I have not spoken.

Criddle: My report to him was, “If you do this”—this was well before the election—“this will do more than anything in my lifetime to disestablish the church, at least in the San Francisco Bay Area.

(Dean Criddle, September 4, 2016)

Rampton: In 2008, when we heard the letter read in church, I was a little taken aback, but after listening to my family talk about it—and we had already gone through Prop 22—I took it very seriously that we needed to get involved and help with this.  Basically, I was thinking that it was a revelation.  “It’s important to God, so it’s important to me.”

I was newly married, and in a ward in San Diego, still attending San Diego State.  I took it pretty seriously, and I starting getting involved in the phone call banks.  We also did a bike ride at Coronado where we pasted signs on our bodies and rode bikes and got a lot of feedback, positive and negative.  We also would stand on street corners and hold up signs in support of Proposition 8.  We’d try to get as many people from the ward as we could.

At the Institute of Religion—there were “freedom spots” at San Diego State, and we held up signs that said, “Ask me why I support Prop 8.”  I think we also had signs that said, “Every child deserves a mother and a father.”  We were really proud of ourselves.  We stood there and tried to be civil and logical, and we believed our sources were good.…

We were just so arrogant, and believed that we were right about it all.  It’s hard for me to go back to that time, because I feel so different about it now, but I really think that at the time I felt that this was God wanted, and that the world’s way was different than God’s way.  I believed we didn’t understand the calamity that would happen if gay marriage became legal, and we needed to fight against it.  Every child deserved a mother and a father.

I remember being told, at the Institute of Religion, that this was a separation of the wheat and the tares, and being proud of myself that I was on the right side, and that members of the church who were not a part of Prop 8’s efforts were somehow fooled by Satan and were not doing the right things, and were not on the right side.

After it passed, we were really happy with ourselves.  We felt like God asked us to do something, and we did it.  Good job us.

I think I stayed in support of the thing, very True Believing Mormon, until about 2010, when I was pregnant with my second child.  A friend messaged me something, and I don’t even remember now exactly what it was.  It was something like, “Brigham Young said this.  Did you know that?”  I was about to go online and research and say, “No, that’s just not true.  That’s the anti-Mormon.”  So I went online and learned that it was true, and that really bothered me.  So then I just went down the rabbit hole, learning the history of my own church.  Back in Prop 8 times, I really believed that the church was always right—I just didn’t know my history—and when they had revelations, they were always true.  God knows what we need to do in life, and the prophets will tell us when to follow that.

So I kept learning all these things about how the prophets have been wrong before, where they have said things that are clearly not supported today by our current prophets.  I kept learning and researching more things, and I was kind of in shock.  It was really confusing for me.

I remember that I started listening to Mormon Stories podcasts.  I had been so passionate about gay marriage that I started looking into those kinds of things and being curious about gay Mormons and their perspective.  At that time the church was teaching, “Oh, well, to be gay isn’t wrong; just to act on it,” but I learned that in previous times in our church we thought that even just being gay was terrible.  That was a change, and I thought if they could change in the past, they could change in the future.…

Then I had this moment when I realized, “Oh, my gosh!  I was so wrong!”  Then I starting getting angry, and picking at everything in the church.  I was still an active, mostly-believing member, but I remember at tithing settlement I was all questioning.  “Where does the money go?  It seems a little weird that we don’t put more money into our humanitarian efforts.”  I just started questioning a lot of things.  That was the beginning of the end for me as far as the gay marriage debate.  I just realized I was wrong. 

(Emily Rampton, October 4, 2017)