Mormons Prepare for WA Marriage Equality Fight
by Joanna Brooks, courtsey of Religion Dispatches
If National Organization for Marriage-paid signature gatherers have their way a referendum to roll back marriage equality laws passed by the Washington state legislature in February will appear on the November 2012 ballot.
And if Referendum 74, “The Washington Same Sex Marriage Referendum,” does make it to the ballot Mormons who support marriage equality will be ready to act. Sara Long and Scott Holley are LDS Church members and founding members of Washington Mormons for Marriage Equality. I spoke with them this weekend about the campaign season ahead.
Everyone has been bracing to see what role the LDS Church takes in each state-level ballot fight over marriage equality. Tell us about Washington.
Scott Holley: My wife and I moved from Massachusetts to Washington just a few weeks before gay marriage became legal in the state [in February 2012]. Because I had heard so much about what happened in California—how many members left the Church, how many wards became battlegrounds—I became really concerned about Church involvement. I called the group leading the charge against marriage equality and asked them if the LDS Church was getting involved, and the staffer on the phone said, “We’re meeting with church leaders right this minute; they’re at lunch with Focus on the Family and [National Organization for Marriage-sponsored] Preserve Marriage Washington.”
To this day, we don’t know whether it was local or general church leaders who met with Preserve Marriage Washington—we believe they were local leaders. But a reporter for the Boston Globe was able to confirm that the meeting took place.
A letter about Referendum 74 has been read in some Washington stakes—but not all, so we’re not sure if it came from Salt Lake City or not—and the letter encouraged members to vote for the initiative but instructed them not to use ward contact lists for campaigning or to say they were campaigning or voting on behalf of the LDS Church. The letter even specified that the letter itself should not be printed or distributed, only read by the bishop to congregations.
It seems like there is a heightened awareness on the part of LDS leaders that members are tracking what’s happening more carefully.