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Fred Karger Headshot

Where Have All the Mormons Gone In the Fight for Marriage Equality?

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012 will go down in history in our political fight for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights. In Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington voters stood up to the usual campaigns of bigotry and hate and a majority in each state voted for the freedom to marry for the very first time. Before last Tuesday we had lost 33 marriage votes in a row and most by very lopsided margins.

Since the first gay marriage vote in Hawaii in 1998 we have always been vastly outspent by our opponents in every election until we finally evened the score in fundraising after 10 years and 29 losses on California's Proposition 8. We even outraised our opponents $44 million to $40 million. Our narrow defeat on Prop 8 was the turning point in our civil rights movement. Never again would we be outraised. Never again would we watch as the Mormon and Catholic Churches and some of their wealthiest members spent millions and millions of dollars to take our rights away. We were now beginning to fight back aggressively against our adversaries. My favorite sign from a post Prop 8 demonstration in Los Angeles was "No More Mr. Nice Gay."


Boycotts do Work

I ended up as the bad guy in the Prop 8 campaign. I organized and led boycotts of four businesses owned by the largest donors to the Yes on 8 campaign. We settled two of those boycotts and a third, the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel owned by centimillionaire Doug Manchester, admitted to losing $1 million per month from the boycott. Mr. Manchester had given $125,000 to qualify and pass Prop 8, so we partnered with Unite Here Local #30, the San Diego Hotel Workers Union to send a message to him and perspective donors. You can give massive amounts of money to take away our rights, but we in turn may not want to spend our money at your businesses. Mr. Manchester has since sold his hotel.

So boycotts work. The two we settled Bolthouse Farms and Garff Automotive Group led to both companies giving the same amount of money to LGBT organizations to offset their owner's six figure contributions to pass Prop 8.


Mormon Church Busted

During the summer of 2008 we were monitoring all the money coming into the Yes on 8 campaign. That is when I discovered the massive involvement of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) in Prop 8. I shared the information with the Wall Street Journal which broke the story. It turned out that Mormons were not only running the entire Yes on Prop 8 campaign, but they had contributed $30 million of the $40 million raised.

Since the Mormon Church did not report its vast involvement in Prop 8 to California election officials, and instead claimed to have only spent $2078, I filed an unprecedented sworn complaint against them with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).

Several top Mormon Church leaders attacked me, called me a liar and even subpoena me in their federal lawsuit in California they had filed to strike down our 35 year old campaign reporting law so they could keep all the money they spent secret. That backfired and the Mormon Church not only lost its federal lawsuit, but the FPPC prosecuted, investigated, fined and found the Mormon Church guilty on 13 counts of election fraud because of my ethics complaint.

Secret Mormon Church Documents Unearthed

A few months after filing my charges against the Mormon Church I was given hundreds of official Mormon documents that showed how they had run and funded every single anti-gay marriage campaign going back to Hawaii in 1998. That was the very first voter approved ban on gay marriage. The Mormon Church directly gave that campaign $400,000 which was enough to defeat marriage equality in Hawaii 70% to 30%. We've posted some of these documents on our web site www.RightsEqualRights.com. The memos and letters show just how devious and involved the Mormon Church was in that first marriage vote. Other documents in my possession show the Mormon Church's leading role in all other gay marriage campaigns throughout the country.

No Mormon Involvement in 2012?

So imagine my surprise when for the first time in 14 years the Mormon Church appears to have sat out the five anti-gay marriage elections this year (including North Carolina's in May). Why you ask? Well, while SSM (same-sex marriage) as they refer to it in their documents is extremely important to the Mormon Chuch, having the first Mormon President of the United States trumps gay marriage any day. They did not want to become an election issue again, especially in Mitt Romney's campaign.

The Mormon Church is extremely political. They admit to having 220 people in their "Public Affairs" department alone. Records from the California investigation against them show that they had 77 full time Mormon Church employees in their Salt Lake City office working to pass Prop 8. Yes 77 Church employees! They even had to provide their names for the investigators.

Mormon Church Established National Organization for Marriage

The Mormon Church created the so-called National Organization for Marriage (NOM) in 2007 to qualify and pass Prop 8 in California. They had Mormon Apostle Jeffrey Holland's politically savvy son Matt Holland do that and serve on the NOM's first Board of Directors. Now the NOM Board has grown and three wealthy and prominent Mormons have taken Matt Holland's place. Mega donors Broc Hiatt and Craig D. Cardon have joined Orson Scott Card on the board, so the Mormon Church has control of NOM which ran and funded all the losing campaigns on November 6th.


NOM Vastly Outspent This Year

For the first time members of the LGBT community, our organizations led by the Human Rights Campaign and Freedom to Marry, as well as so many of our allies were able to vastly outraise NOM and its supporters. Not just by 10% like in Prop 8, but 3 to 4 times the money than NOM was able to raise. This huge monetary advantage enabled the campaigns in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington to do a lot more and do it much earlier. A big early money advantage in a political campaign is often insurmountable. With more and more early voting in the states, the last two weeks of TV and direct mail from NOM was too little too late. NOM's commercials of fear and hate designed by its political hack Frank Schubert were run late because they were low on money. So late in fact, that they were lost in the last minute barrage of other political ads. NOM was even called out on its lies and tactics this time.

Has the Mormon Church Left the Fight?

So this raises the question, what will the Mormon Church do now? Will they do the right thing and leave the anti-gay campaigning to others like the Catholic Church and its political arm the Knights of Columbus? Will they pass the baton to the likes of Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed and the American Family Association? Or will they come riding back in on their White Horse and use all their money and political acumen to try and turn the tide in future gay marriage political and legal battles? I for one certainly hope not.

We know for a fact that the Mormon Church has been bleeding members since its role in Prop 8 was unmasked. Let's all appeal to the Church President Thomas S. Monson, a living prophet, to do the right thing and hang up his spurs. Let all Americans be happy and live their lives honestly, openly and without the heavy hand of the Mormon Church.