Sundance to premiere film documenting Mormon push to defeat gay marriage

The Mormon church poured money and effort into the campaign to pass Proposition 8 in California, the initiative that outlawed gay marriage there. Director Reed Cowan’s documentary about the effort was accepted into the Sundance film festival and will make its debut in Park City next month. The film features interviews with Mormon leaders and delves into the Mormon anti-gay marriage movement as it was taking shape in the 1990s. Understandably not included in the film, is the major role in helping to defeat Prop 8 played by Colorado Springs-based evangelical organization Focus on the Family.

prop 8

In addition to anti-gay Mormons, the documentary, “8: The Mormon Proposition,” features Fred Karger, head of the pro-gay rights group Californians Against Hate. Since Prop 8 passed, Karger has been tracking NOM, the National Organization for Marriage, the nation’s main anti-gay marriage organization, which he argues is a front group for the Mormon church and improperly funneling resources into anti-gay marriage campaigns in states across the country. NOM has celebrated victories against gay marriage this year in Maine and New York. The organization is under ethics investigations in California and Maine.

Karger this week announced that for the Sundance festival premiere, Californians Against Hate is organizing “a ground presence in Park City and Salt Lake City the likes of which has never been seen before.”

In September, Karger was subpoenaed in a lawsuit filed by NOM that seeks to protect the organization from revealing its donor list as required by law. Karger sees the subpoena as tactic meant to silence him with the threat of enormous legal bills. He explains at the Californians Against Hate website:

It’s been three months since I was subpoenaed by the National Organization for Marriage and Protect Marriage, the official Yes on 8 campaign committee that raised $40 million last year. They served me with a subpoena on Labor Day weekend as part of their federal law suit to end disclosure of all campaign contributions in California.

In one fell swoop, these rabid opponents of LGBT civil rights want to forever hide the identity of all their donors, and stop me from my pursuit of truth and transparency. They want to continue to raise millions and millions of dollars to ban same-sex marriage while keeping their donors’ names secret.

They want to silence me by dragging me through our costly legal system. They are clearly doing this to harass me and hurt me. They don’t like the fact that two states, California and Maine, are investigating the National Organization for Marriage due to the complaints that I filed.

Director Cowan and film producer Steven Greenstreet posted video statements at the film website upon news of the Sundance acceptance.


The extent of the Mormon role as a main player in passing Prop 8 has long been suspected. In February, however, the Colorado Independent broke the news that Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family gave $727,250 in cash and services to the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 campaign in California.

Ernest Luning reported that those previously unreported sums included a $100,000 check that came just days before the organization announced it planned to lay off nearly 20 percent of its employees.

“While there has been public scrutiny of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its attempts to influence the campaign to reverse a California Supreme Court ruling allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, Focus on the Family and related donors pumped more than six times as much as the Mormon church did into the campaign, records show,” wrote Luning.

The Proposition 8 campaign was the most expensive social-issue ballot question in national history at just over $83 million, with proponents of the marriage ban raising $40 million and opponents raising $43 million, California election records show. Voters approved the measure with 52 percent of the vote, but both sides are arguing the constitutionality of the measure in state court.

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