Tag Archives: Utah

Utah Think Tank Challenges “Common Ground” with “Sacred Ground”

As a response to post Prop 8 comments from local LDS Church leaders and a supportive poll of Utah voters on an openness to equal rights for the LGBT community, several Utah legislators — working with Equality Utah — put together the Common Ground Initiative, in an attempt to create a dialog, and encourage Mormon leaders (who have undoubtedly large influence over legislative policy in the state) to make good on their statements.

In response, The Sutherland Institute, Utah’s leading (only) think tank and Heritage Foundation offspring — infamous here for holding an “Earth Day” event hosted by Roy Innis and other energy industry hacks — has pieced together their own campaign to counter the adult discussions with petty divisiveness titled Sacred Ground. (pdf)  They’ve scheduled several “State of the Union – Stand Up for Marriage” events here locally (targeting bloggers, legislators, and local media) hosted by Utah’s worst Wing-nut (and believe me that’s saying a lot) LaVar Christensen (Direct Quote: “Tolerance is the religion of people who no longer believe in anything.”) , and completing the campaign with a published book and YouTube campaign.

What is notable about this vindictive effort to oppose a rational dialog between Utah legislators and religious leaders before it even begins is not the content, or the fact that Sutherland is aggressively campaigning against equality. Their fear of change is to be expected.  What stands out is the creativity and thoroughness of their campaign, which involves complete media outreach — which I’ve been subjected to almost daily as a local radio host and blogger — and a full (and also first time, for the state) embrace of “new media.”  Their efforts to target bloggers glares especially, as it surpasses the outreach seen so far from either the minority Democratic Party, or the near super-majority state Republican Party.

Sutherland’s campaign not only poses a threat to any meaningful discussion and inclusive legislation here in Utah, but it also stands to circumvent the (admittedly tepid) efforts of the Utah Democratic Party and other activist groups to build online outreach and a coalition behind the “Common Ground” Senators and other progressive policies.

In essence, despite recent polling that shows Utahn’s are open to equality based legislation, Sutherland stands a real chance of winning this one within the state simply by getting their irresponsible message out further and faster.

Watch Sutherland’s “Sacred Ground” video here

UPDATE: We’ll host an on air discussion today with Michael Mueller of Utahns for Marriage Equality. Live stream/chat begins at 4pm (MST).  Click to join in. Podcast will also be available after the show.

Prop 8 Campaign’s Hypocritical Effort to Hide Donors Gets Slapped Down

U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. has ruled against the Prop 8 campaign in their attempt to hide their donors from public disclosure. I don’t yet have a copy of the decision, but I’ll hunt it down and get a more detailed analysis.

You can find a great rundown of the case at Melissa’s place. She went to the hearing today, so I expect she’ll be providing more information on the hearing soon. Basically, the campaign alleged that their donors’ first amendment rights were being violated by the disclosure requirement.  Their argument was that the potential harassment and boycotts chilled the donors expression via money to the campaign.

To wit, the Judge said:

The court finds that the state is not facilitating retaliation by compelling disclosure.

Of course, all of this was quite funny, and massively hypocritical, given the context of the Prop 8 campaign’s attempted blackmail of equality minded donors. Well, what’s good for the goose must surely be good for the gander.  We should be getting that full list of campaign donors any day now.  I sort of doubt that we’ll see anything too major on there.

One more note on Prop 8 disclosure. A Late Contribution document has already been filed, and the Mormon Church itself (not Mormon people, but the actual Church) gave over $30,000 ($30,354.85 to be exact) in the last few days of the campaign. (Downloadable PDF here) Not the huge mega-donation they have used in some other states, but people should know just how instrumental one religious movement was to the passage of this discriminatory measure.

A Marriage Equality Movement In Search Of A Campaign

The numerous issues inside the No on 8 campaign, and their disappointing mismanagement, has finally bubbled up into the traditional media (we were talking about it a week ago).  The SacBee writes about the trouble at the top:

Key staff members – including the campaign manager – were replaced in the final weeks as polls turned dramatically against the No side. Their replacements say they found an effort that was too timid, slow to react, without a radio campaign or a strategy to reach out to African Americans, a group that ultimately supported the measure by more than 2 to 1.

Gay marriage supporters are looking to the courts to overturn the decision. But if another political campaign is waged, said Dennis Mangers, co-chairman of the No on 8 Northern California Committee, “we’ll have to do better.”

No on 8 campaign manager Steve Smith was shoved aside three weeks before Election Day, after he was slow to counter TV ads in which the measure’s supporters claimed that same-sex marriage would be promoted in schools if the measure failed.

And Smith was replaced by a committee – half the consultant class in Sacramento went through the revolving door of that campaign.  And they set about to answer unchallenged ads from the Yes campaign and get on radio.  But the message remained somewhat timid, and the campaign didn’t put much effort into minority outreach or field operations.  Late volunteers were told to go out on a street corner and wave signs.

What’s remarkable is that the best activism and creativity I’ve seen from the LGBT community in years has come in the immediate AFTERMATH of this vote.  The talent was out there, but wasn’t channeled during the campaign.  Activists are using wiki-based technology to set up a national day of action on November 15 called The Impact.  A comedy troup in LA used the Yes campaign’s own words to “advocate” for prohibiting divorce.  And Utah lawmakers are turning the tables on the Mormon church by using their alleged tolerance to make major advances for gay rights in the Beehive State:

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have said they do not object to rights for same-sex couples, as long as those rights do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family.

Now, gay-rights activists and at least five Utah legislators are asking the Church to demonstrate its conviction.

The group Equality Utah says the Church made the invitation, and they’re accepting it. “The LDS Church says it does not oppose same-sex couples receiving such rights as hospitalization and medical care, fair housing rights or probate rights,” said Mike Thompson, executive director of Equality Utah.

These actions are useful to the future of marriage equality nationwide, and could be the backbone of a smarter, more grassroots movement.  Why were they not tapped at all for the No on 8 campaign?

Yesterday, Connecticut granted marriage equality to all its citizens, offering a glimmer of hope.  I am convinced that justice will eventually prevail.  But you have to treat the campaign like a campaign, and use the assets at your disposal.

On behalf of Utah, Let Me Say I’m Sorry (with video of SLC Prop 8 protest)

I have visited Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City every winter to see the buildings and trees lit up for the holidays – and I promise it’s the most beautiful sight you’ll ever see.  They won’t turn on the lights for another 21 days, but I would have given anything to have been there tonight.

Let me explain.  

In a week when much of the country is celebrating monumental progressive victories, I feel nothing but the constant shame of knowing how much money and manpower the Mormon Church and residents of Utah have poured into the passage of California’s Proposition 8.

I’m 26, gay, and from Salt Lake City…  To say the fight over Prop 8 – and the other three anti-gay ballot measures that were enacted into law this week – is personal is one hell of an understatement.

I’m used to watching progressive victories from the sidelines. It’s always been hard to reconcile the thriving liberal oasis of Salt Lake City and Park City with the rest of our ultra-conservative surroundings.  I’m all too used to the long arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that extends into every aspect of life in Utah – as well as into your psyche.

I need to apologize – to every couple in California whose marriages hang in the balance; to every closeted gay kid in Utah who is even more terrified than before – on behalf of Utah itself. It rips me up that my heritage has suddenly turned so dark – but the gathering rage of the last few days has given me a new, first glimpse of hope.

So how dare they!  How dare they take on a fight AGAINST equality – and do so in the name of faith and religion and marriage and values.  How dare they defile the love I hope to one day celebrate at my own wedding. How dare they twist my mother’s spirituality – which has always been the bedrock of our family – into something hurtful.

I envy my mom’s faith sometimes – I wish I could be so sure of things.  Which brings me to this week.  As I have watched the outpouring of support for LGBT equality – the righteous rage evident in protests throughout California to the countless blog posts America Blog and Daily Kos – I have been made sure again.  Sure of the goodness of humanity and the great potential America.

It has made me finally confront what I’ve been so studiously ignoring these past few months: my own sense of responsibility – as a Utahn – for this hateful mess.

I remember all too clearly the day I heard that Canada had legalized gay marriage and I realized in an instant that I had never let myself dream or even hope for such a thing in my own country.  It was like the world shifted out from under me and I could breathe for the first time and it was too good to be true.

I believe that I will see marriage legalized throughout the United States in my lifetime – just not yet.  It’s almost unbelievable to be typing those words, to be honest.  But as we fight until we reach that day, I am equally aware that there will be moments of reckoning.  This is one of them.  My children – those grandkids my mom can’t wait to meet – will ask us how such things could happen, how times could ever have been so dark.  And in the wake of the devastating passage of Proposition 8 in California, they will ask me what I did to stop it.

My answer cannot be “nothing.”

So now it’s our turn.  Tonight, there was a protest in front of the LDS Temple in Salt Lake City.  They were expecting maybe 100 people at best…  But over 3,000 Utahns turned out to show their support for LGBTQ equality.

I’ve spent every winter of my life looking up at the lights of those trees.  But I would trade a lifetime of Christmases to have been there tonight to protest the role of the Mormon Church in passing Prop 8.  I would give anything to have been there standing with my friends and family to prove to America – and if I’m honest, to prove to ourselves – that not all of us are agents of intolerance.

That even on this darkest of nights – and even in Salt Lake City, Utah – love and hope and justice and equality can shine brighter than the lights of any Temple on earth.

Crossposted at www.amplifyyourvoice.org

Hey, At Least We Had a Satan-Free Convention

I know there was a lot of bad blood coming out of how the CDP Convention wrapped up, but consider this: that controversy was over how we passed one resolution on Iraq and not another.  It’s not like it was about something like this:

Don Larsen, chairman of legislative District 65 for the Utah County Republican Party, had submitted a resolution warning that Satan’s minions want to eliminate national borders and do away with sovereignty.

In a speech at the convention, Larsen told those gathered that illegal immigrants “hate American people” and “are determined to destroy this country, and there is nothing they won’t do.”

Illegal aliens are in control of the media, and working in tandem with Democrats, are trying to “destroy Christian America” and replace it with “a godless new world order – and that is not extremism, that is fact,” Larsen said. […]

Republican officials then allowed speakers to defend and refute the resolution. One speaker, who was identified as “Joe,” said illegal immigrants were Marxist and under the influence of the devil. Another, who declined to give her name to the Daily Herald, said illegal immigrants should not be allowed because “they are not going to become Republicans….”

No matter what the intra-party squabbles are, let’s understand that the real whackadoos are in that other party.  We can resolve differences between ourselves as reasonable people.  We don’t think Satan is an undocumented immigrant.

Another thing to consider: one of the resolutions that the CDP passed yesterday was in support of high-speed rail, which we learned yesterday that the governor may be trying to defund and effectively stop.  One of the resolutions we DIDN’T pass was in support of Clean Money, which actually is moving through the legislative process, with a hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.  So resolutions pale in comparison to what’s really happening in Sacramento.  Just a little perspective.