Mormon Inquiry

Mormon Inquiry


Getting the Prop 8 contribution story straight

posted by Dave Banack

The LDS Newsroom released a statement correcting media misstatements regarding the recent filing of its final report of financial assistance to the Yes on 8 campaign.

On Friday, 30 January, the Church filed the final report of its contributions (all of which were non-monetary) to the ProtectMarriage.com coalition. The report, submitted in advance of the 31 January deadline, details in-kind donations totaling $189,903.58.

The value of the Church’s in-kind (non-monetary) contribution is less than one half of one percent of the total funds (approximately $40 million) raised for the “Yes on 8″ campaign. The Church did not make any cash contribution.

The statement further claims that the LDS Church “has been filing required contribution reports throughout the campaign” and that it believes it has “complied with California law.”

And that’s the point the media seems to be missing. The LDS Church and its members have a right to voice their opinion and make financial contributions, whether in cash or in kind. The law requires certain disclosures to be made; the LDS Church has apprently complied with those requirements. Plenty of other organizations have done the same. An LA Times article notes that Focus on the Family donated $657,000 and the California Democratic Central Committee donated $350,000. So what’s wrong with the LDS donations?

For an example of how to misstate information, see this SF Chronicle story. The first sentence reads: “Mormon church officials, facing an ongoing investigation by the state Fair Political Practices Commission, Friday reported nearly $190,000 in previously unlisted assistance to the successful campaign for Prop. 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California.” That misleads readers on at least two counts, first suggesting the filing was made in response to the FPPC investigation rather than the filing due date of January 31, and second suggesting that some information in the latest report was improperly omitted from earlier reports, which the LDS statement denies was the case.

Readers will notice how careful the LDS statement is to make the point that no direct cash contributions were made by the LDS Church. I think this reflects a desire by LDS leaders to avoid having Mormons who make financial contributions to the LDS Church think their cash donations are simply being redirected to support a political campaign. LDS leaders apparently prefer to have individual Mormons make their own direct financial contributions to political campaigns (and I’ll note that some individual Mormons undoubtedly contributed to the No on 8 side of the campaign). This makes sense in terms of empowering individual Mormons to choose where their political contributions go, although from a financial perspective there isn’t really any difference between cash contributed directly to the Yes on 8 campaign and cash spent to pay the salaries and travel costs of LDS employees assisting the campaign. It is still an expenditure of resources that comes from the financial contributions of individual Mormons.

But how the LDS Church contributes to a campaign, if at all, is a decision for LDS leaders to make — there is nothing illegal or improper about the resources the Church expended to support Prop 8. And the policy of letting individual Mormons make direct cash contributions voluntarily, on their own initiative, to whichever side of the issue they favor, seems hard to criticize.



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HiveRadical

posted February 4, 2009 at 2:05 pm


The irony. Whether speaking of the ideologues or of the media they both forsake the very thing they claim is absent in the Church’s dealings with their statements. They either ‘point out’ or decry ‘dishonesty’ or ‘a lack of disclosure’ while they, in the very act, demonstrate their disregard for such things.



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Eric

posted February 4, 2009 at 3:43 pm


The difference is the LDS is a regilious organization.



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Leland

posted February 4, 2009 at 4:06 pm


Eric,
Churches are allowed (by law) to take a position on a ballot initiative and make contributions toward the passage or defeat of ballot initiatives.
Churches are not allowed to endorse a candidate for office, nor are they allowed to contribute to the campaign of any candidate.
People need to get the difference on this straight.



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JimD

posted February 4, 2009 at 4:49 pm


The argument that the Church is a religious organization presumably has to do with its tax-exempt status under the Federal Internal Revenue Code.
That is beyond the scope of the FPPC investigation. The FPPC is a state agency. They’re only investigating whether the Church’s disclosures were accurate, and the most they can do (presumably) is impose a fine.



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Japhy Grant

posted February 4, 2009 at 6:23 pm


The difference is that the church lied earlier and said it had only spent $2,000 in in-kind contributions. Also, it appears that many of the contributions reported now ought to have been filed much earlier. Though the church maintains that it is filing appropriately, that’s exactly what the FPPC is going to determine. Considering the earlier lie, it does seem that the latest filing is an attempt to avoid a broader investigation into church financial contributions.



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JimD

posted February 4, 2009 at 7:50 pm


The difference is that the church lied earlier and said it had only spent $2,000 in in-kind contributions.
Can you link to a story where an official church source is cited as making the claim that the church only had, or ever would, donate that amount?
Also, it appears that many of the contributions reported now ought to have been filed much earlier.
My experience is that the people making those claims have no *clue* as to what California law actually says. They’re assuming the law backs up their intuitive notions of “fairness” or “openness” (which notions are, of course, always subject to their political prejudices). Such is not always the case.



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Green is green

posted February 4, 2009 at 8:15 pm


“And the policy of letting individual Mormons make direct cash contributions voluntarily, on their own initiative, to whichever side of the issue they favor, seems hard to criticize.”
REALLY! MY UNDERSTANDING CONTRADICTS WHAT DAVE BANACK SUGGESTS AT THE END OF HIS ARTICLE. There was no policy in the mormon church to support individual Mormons in voluntarily make a contribution to stop prop 8. It would have been fair if the mormon leaders would have ask their followers to make up their own mind, and if they pleased to contribute to whichever side of the issue they favored or not to contribute at all. On the contrary, what the mormon leaders did was to abuse their power by indirectly imposing their wishes on their followers by ordaining them to contribute to pass prop 8. It was just onesided. But oh well, let’s God judge us all.
Noel



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Seth R.

posted February 4, 2009 at 8:33 pm


You know Dave…
I’ve been fairly vocal online trying to defend the LDS Church’s conduct here, and their right to do what they’ve been doing. But…
For crying out loud, why do they have to make it so hard?
Does the Church honestly think that lame excuses about legal technicalities are going to cut the mustard here? Is anyone going to give a flying fig that they were simply following some tax law timetable?
No they aren’t. And frankly, I don’t give a flying fig either.
If the LDS Church had more income to report, they damn well should have done it last Fall. In the midst of a political donations controversy, the LDS Church deliberately sat on the numbers knowing that more donations were going to be reported in the future, and said zip, zilch, nada.
I mean geez… Did they really not notice that the media and good chunk of America was scrutinizing their actions? Are they really this clueless about public opinion? This whole thing could have been greatly mitigated if they had just freaking told everyone they had more funds to disclose, but that it was all legal.
Is that so hard?
Seriously, the LDS Church has to get over this mentality that “no comment” is an effective response to the media. As long as they keep acting like they’re hiding something, your Church and my Church will never be trusted and accepted in America, or anywhere else.
I’m sick of this knee-jerk secretivism that seems to pervade the Church Office Building. Disclosure is the name of the game these days. It’s hard to defend a Church that keeps acting like my four year old when I catch her sneaking cookies.
Message to Salt Lake – I’m trying to help you out here, but you’re making it very, very difficult.



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Leslie Tanner

posted February 4, 2009 at 9:16 pm


First of all, the LDS church owns its’ own broadcasting system with satellites in every stake center worldwide. The leaders make broadcasts to members at least twice a year so this is not unusual. I’m sure the phone bank facilities were donated etc. I’m sure it took some time to figure out the valuation of such services since they didn’t purchase these services. How can Fred Karger accuse them of not fully disclosing before the deadline lapsed?? Other organizations are also finalizing their reporting at this time—what’s with singling out one organization and holding them to the “super” standard?? Also, organizations can donate up to 20% of their valuation to political causes and not violate their tax exempt status. That means the LDS church could donate MILLIONS if not BILLIONS and still not violate their tax exempt status. Everything possible is on http://www.lds.org click on newsroom and everything is disclosed included what was broadcast to members etc.



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Chino Blanco

posted February 4, 2009 at 10:47 pm


At this point, attempting to “set the story straight” before the FPPC has announced its determination in this matter is really asking to compound and complicate whatever PR challenges might follow in the wake of the eventual ruling. Rather than trying to obfuscate and misdirect (hey, look over there, FotF spent even more!), this would be a good time to adopt a simple mantra: we tried to follow the rules, we think we followed the rules, we’re cooperating with the FPPC to make sure that we did.
Comments like Leslie’s directly above are well-intentioned but ultimately counter-productive. It’s simply not true that what was broadcast to the members is available at lds.org … if it were, folks wouldn’t have to head over to WikiLeaks just to get the complete transcripts.



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Geronimo

posted February 5, 2009 at 11:57 am


There’s a story that I use to illustrate where I’m coming from. There was this man, and he had a deep schoolgirl kind of crush..on another man. This man was gay. He wanted to tell the other man what he felt about him but he was afraid that the other man would try to punch him out if he revealed what he felt for him. Finally he worked up his courage, got the other man alone, came out of the closet and told the other what he was and what he felt for him and flinched back expecting violence from the other man. The other man just looked at him sadly and gently and said..”Gee, I wish I could still feel that way about someone or something.” I have nothing against gays, I just wont be pushed into any guilt trips about being straight and be told that I’m homophobic if I don’t accept the gay agenda. Anymore I’m not homophobic, just homo bored.



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Manifiesto

posted February 5, 2009 at 8:43 pm


Geronimo, what’s the “gay agenda” in your point of view? Standing up for equality, and against discrimination is not a gay agenda, it’s something that everyone should do, specially where the rights of a minority is put in the hand of a majority.
And in your story, having feeling for another person is pretty normal, even when those feelings are not mutuals in the two parties.
And don’t feel guilt for being straight, there are many straights who are not homophics.
Well, I guess I am trying to get the moral of the story or trying to understand what it all means.



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frankg

posted February 5, 2009 at 8:45 pm


I would ask people to look carefully at he reports and actual course of events in this case. Time has not been good to the MSM, and their flagrant disregard for reporting all the facts in stories foreign and domestic.
Photoshopped file photos, conveniently unreported facts in favor of the other side, columns written by people with undisclosed financial/political stake in a controversy, etc.
The church has a right to speak out on these issues.
I get tired of people demanding actions of others they wouldn’t accept for themselves, such as demanding neutrality of people or institutions in a free country over issues such as a legal referendum.
And I see people spinning the same old shopworn incomplete story to kick up dust against the church on this issue, once again leaving out the whole context of the story as it suits their agenda.



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djinn

posted February 5, 2009 at 10:41 pm


Here is a report with a spokesman from the Mormon church saying that they spent no money at all on Prop. 8.
http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/politics&id=6496949
Money quote: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints put zero money into this,” Eaton added.”
The report is from Nov. 9th, after the election.
Youur point, Dave, is what? Lying is just hunky dory unless actual financial or criminal penalties are attached? Good to know. I’ll keep that in mind if we should meet.



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Dave

posted February 6, 2009 at 12:20 pm


djinn, thanks for your comment. I think you should read the article more carefully. First, the statement you quote is plainly referring to direct cash contributions, and it accurately states that the LDS Church DID NOT make any direct cash contributions. The financial reports being discussed in the media relate to non-cash resources expended in support of the initiative such as a portion of salaries paid to employees or travel expenses. Second, the article does not identify the speaker you quote as a “spokesman” for the LDS Church. It appears he was just an individual at the event covered by the reporter who self-identified as a Mormon and who was interviewed by the reporter. I’m not questioning the self-identification, just your suggestion that the individual was speaking on behalf of the LDS Church.



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Chino Blanco

posted February 6, 2009 at 2:12 pm


If there were to be fines levied in this case, my sense is that the FPPC would hold the recipient campaign committee responsible for any shoddy reporting, not the donor.
In other words, meet Jeff Flint. He ran Orrin Hatch’s 2000 presidential campaign out of Sacramento, a connection which I believe helped him land his gig running the campaign for ProtectMarriage.com.
But that’s neither here nor there, what really matters is something that occurred a couple years prior to Orrin’s poorly-managed run for the White House:

Respondent Curt Pringle … was a candidate for State Treasurer … in the … 1998 general election … Respondent Jeff Flint was the paid campaign manager …
In the campaign statements filed for the 1998 calendar year, Respondents failed to disclose subvendor information for payments totaling $1,629,292, in violation of section 84211, subdivision (j)(6), and section 84303 of the Government Code. Of the subvendor expenditures not disclosed, approximately $1,590,800 was for payments to Russo Marsh & Raper, Inc., to purchase broadcast advertising, and approximately $38,491 was for payments to Flint Nelson Associates and Linda Kasem, for travel and office expenses.
… the evidence in this case establishes that Respondent Jeff Flint is primarily responsible for the occurrence of the subvendor reporting violations.

Jeff’s sloppy and arrogant. Not a good combination for someone hired to manage the most closely-followed ballot initiative in our country’s recent history. In any event, there’s no point for me to go on at length about this. Whether I’m right or wrong, we’ll all know soon enough.



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Your Name

posted February 6, 2009 at 5:41 pm


“there is nothing illegal or improper about the resources the Church expended to support Prop 8″
Perhaps not illegal, I’ll grant you that. But for a Church to support taking people’s rights away, that’s pretty “improper” to me, especially when you consider the Golden Rule (the “sum of the laws and the prophets”). I trust the LDS will keep what they have done to others when it comes time to getting their rights taken away. Is that truly what ‘they would have done unto themselves’? I sincerely doubt it.



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Your Name

posted February 6, 2009 at 6:02 pm


“Seriously, the LDS Church has to get over this mentality that “no comment” is an effective response to the media.”
Someone in the hierarchy should have read “Never Say ‘NO COMMENT’ – How Spin Doctors Answer Questions” – would have saved them a lot of headaches.
Geronimo…
“I have nothing against gays”
Sure comes across like you do. You certainly don’t seem to be in favor of treating them equally before the law (which, btw, is the actual gay ‘agenda’ – it kinda resembles the Constitution).
“I just wont be pushed into any guilt trips about being straight and be told that I’m homophobic if I don’t accept the gay agenda.”
Most gays reserve the “homophobic” label for those who compare our relationships to incest, rape, child-molestation, “marryin’ a plant” (or a “rock”, a “bicycle”), beastiality, necrophilia (and on it goes) – ALL of which can be found regularly, right here on Beliefnet. Since you are merely against equal treatment for gays, I won’t call you homophobic, just prejudiced against gay citizens.
There. Feel less guilty?
frankg,
“The church has a right to speak out on these issues.”
They may have the “right” to speak out, but what they chose to speak out about was just as wrong as speaking out against inter-racial marriages. Many churches did that back when. They had that “right”. Didn’t make it ‘right’ though.
“over issues such as a legal referendum”
It wasn’t a “legal referendum”. The CA Constitution can only be changed by a 2/3 vote in the Legislature and not by a mere popular vote. Sorry, but that is simply more dis-information on the part of the LDS.



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djinn

posted February 7, 2009 at 2:23 am


Dave, the LDS Spokesman, Don Eaton, is listed in many places as, surprise, an lds spokesman. Further, he said ‘the church put zero money into this.” This remark says nothing about ‘direct cash donations’ as you mention, but who cares. If the church pays for something, they’re spending money on it. You’re parsing words beyond any sort of standard meaning. Are you saying if you buy me lunch, you didn’t really pay for it because you didn’t hand the money directly to me? Not convincing.



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djinn

posted February 7, 2009 at 10:28 am


The problem is not with individual members of the Mormon church at all. Please understand that. What happened here is that the institutional church rather loudly proclaimed that they did not spend money on the issue, except perhaps for a couple of plane tickets. Now it turns out they did, to the tune of $190,000. No no no. This really does not look good. It just doesn’t, and you shouldn’t waste your time defending it.



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djinn

posted February 7, 2009 at 10:33 am


frankg, if other people/institutions on the other side or whatever side did the same thing, their feet should held to the fire too. Sigh. This would not have happened under Pres. Hinkley.



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RickLDS

posted February 10, 2009 at 1:15 pm


Since you’re not Pres. Hinckley, that would be impossible to say.
So are you upset at those other organizations such as Focus on the Family or are you only singling out the LDS church. $2000 is only a drop in a $40M bucket. Have you demanded the same accountability for the “No on 8″ side of the campaign? THAT’s an agenda.



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djinn

posted February 10, 2009 at 9:10 pm


RickLDS, absolutely. If people who contributed to no on 9 hid behind a lawsuit and failed to make timely record of their contributions until the lawsuit was ruled on–stating that the contributions must be made public, than absolutely they should be called out. Absolutely. Unfortunately for your point, most (if not all) of the no on 8 people were proud to be known for their contributions, two of which I will mention, Google, which publicly supported no on 8, and Apple Computers, which not only supported no on 8, but contributed 100,000 to the cause.



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c

posted February 12, 2009 at 2:35 am


I’m going to side with djinn on the issue of whether GBH would have embroiled the church in a California ballot initiative on gay marriage: it was also on the ballot in 2000, and I don’t remember hearing much about the church’s involvement then. I suppose one could argue that the church felt less compelled to become involved because the issue was less controversial then, but still, its a fair claim to make that the church was more restrained in this arena under GBH



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c

posted February 12, 2009 at 2:46 am


can we really argue that the church was forthright about its contributions to prop 8? who can produce a quote pre-election which suggests the magnitude of the church’s donations? Obviously the churches accountants would need time to gather this information but I can’t recall reading anything that even suggested that the $2000 figure was misleading. Surely the church could have clarified media accounts about that figure at the time. Even if they could not provide an exact figure why didn’t they say something like “The number commonly quoted in media reports represents only the fraction of donations that the church has made and continues to make. The total amount of in-kind donations provided by the church is likely to be 50 to 100 times greater than the number most commonly cited in media reports about the church’s involvement.”
Should I be as willing to allow myself to be misinterpreted in my interviews with my Bishop?



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K =)

posted February 13, 2009 at 5:20 pm


Just have to argue the other way about the 2000 ballot question. Even with President Hinckley at the helm, there were letters read over pulpits asking members to sign petitions, and even walk the streets informing people about the proposition. It was just as important of an issue then as it is now, and the leadership of the church has never treated it lightly, especially making note to mention marriage between a man and a woman in their issuance of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” in 1995. (Here’s a link to it: http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,161-1-11-1,00.html)
Since it isn’t the prophet of the moment who heads the church and its policy, I doubt that President Monson did anything more or less than President Hinckley would have done.
=)



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Your Name

posted February 14, 2009 at 2:43 pm


“So are you upset at those other organizations such as Focus on the Family”
D@mn freakin’ right we are just as upset with ‘Let’s Focus on SOME People’s Families’. And anyone else who believes that some citizens ought not be treated equally under the law. To take SOME people’s rights away is UN-Constitutional (which is the reason PropH8 will be overturned). It is also Un-Christian because it is uncharitable (“the greatest of these is charity”) and because it betrays the “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” principle.
Surely Mormons can identify with not being treated equally underr the law? Is how you treated gay citizens the way you yourselves want to be treated? Because believe me, we can give it back in spades.
Or is that what cheezed you off – that we dare speak up in defense of liberty and equal treatment?



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djiinn

posted February 14, 2009 at 6:01 pm


Adding my name to the list of those who are at least as furious as organizations such as Focus on the Family; much more angry, in fact, as they hid, daintily, behind the skirts of the Mormon church allowing us to take all of the brunt. Pfffft, I say. And I mean it to sting. Not that we didn’t deserve it. The (appropriately proportioned) brunt.



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Djinn

posted February 14, 2009 at 6:04 pm


Oh, as to the “Nothing illegal” part; it appears that the church waited for the settlement of a lawsuit that would have allowed individual donors to not report. Suddenly, after the lawsuit was lost, instantly, poof! Not 2K, somewhere more like 190K donations. Hmmmm. I want to try that on my financial disclosure statements.



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Meg Stout

posted February 15, 2009 at 3:06 pm


It doesn’t appear, despite the difference between 2K and 190K, that anything illegal actually happened.
It will be interesting if the CA Supreme Court decides Prop 8 was a revision (requiring 2/3 majority) rather than an amendment (where majority is sufficient). This would retroactively affirm the original CA Supreme Court position that marriage should be extended to same-sex couples.
In a day where civil unions grant so many benefits and extra-marital sex between consenting adults is not “punished,” I’m confused at the outcry.
I’m LDS and many of my forebears were denied legal recognition of their “marriages.” The LDS attempted to get legal coverage for their practices and instead got the Edmunds-Tucker Act, confiscating Church property, disenfranchising Utah’s women, annulled laws allowing illegitimate children to inherit, etc. My forebears and the LDS generally suffered significant financial damage when their marriages were not recognized. Not to mention the mental anguish when the children went to schools where the curriculum was selected by the state to indoctrinate the kids against their parent’s unions and their religion.
No such governmental backlash is taking place for those in same-sex relationships. They can engage in the sex, have the parties, buy the formal clothes, enjoy the effective privileges that they would if they had a piece of parchment.
Since I was born while the state in which my parents lived considered inter-racial marriages such as their’s “void and prohibited,” I know the lack of legal recognition is a burr. But in today’s world, does it make any tangible difference?



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Chino Blanco

posted February 15, 2009 at 11:17 pm


Meg –
Why is marriage about property and children when you discuss the Mormon experience, but when you shift to a discussion of same-sex relationships, it’s suddenly all about sex and parties?
As if there were no LGBT folks on the planet who might share the same aspirations for the their families that we share for ours.
And, reality check, yes, our inadequate and unequal laws do have a tangible impact.
I wonder what Lily would think of your comment here?
http://i51.photobucket.com/albums/f394/Chino_Blanco/lily.jpg
Anyway, nobody’s interested in competing in your Oppression Olympics … it’s not about who’s had it worse in other times and places, it’s about doing the right thing here and now.



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Your Name

posted March 4, 2009 at 1:06 pm


Meg,
Aside from not bother to reply to Chino’s valid question, why don’t you tell us why marriage turns from being about family (for str8s only) to being about parties and sex (for the queers only, obviously)?
“It doesn’t appear, despite the difference between 2K and 190K, that anything illegal actually happened.”
It’s already been said – perhaps not “illegal” but certainly unethical. (Not that ethics and religion were ever paired.) And certainnly immoral – to vote to take some people’s rights away.
“It will be interesting if the CA Supreme Court decides Prop 8 was a revision (requiring 2/3 majority) rather than an amendment (where majority is sufficient). This would retroactively affirm the original CA Supreme Court position that marriage should be extended to same-sex couples.”
That is the logical outcome of an overtly UN-Constitutional ballot measure.
“In a day where civil unions grant so many benefits and extra-marital sex between consenting adults is not “punished,” I’m confused at the outcry.”
Meg, you so clearly need a clue, so here’s four:
1. Civil unions do
not confer the 1,176 FEDERAL benefits on ‘civilly’ ‘unionized’ couples. That’s why. Thanx 4 askin’.
2. Besides, PLY (people like YOU) keep on fergettin’ – some 30 States have either passed laws of changed their Constitutions to prevent even civil unions from happening, and/or to prevent any benefits being proferred that even resemble those given to married couples.
3. It is about the denial of both the Equal Protections clause and the Full Faith & Credit Clause of the Constitution to gay American citizens.
4. It is about the denial of the inalienable rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness to gay American Citizens.
Try a little doing to others what you would have them do to you so you’ll know what it feels like.



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