Film Looks at Mormon Role in Boosting Prop 8 Defeat of Same-Sex Marriage

Article excerpt

Is it a love letter from liberal Mormons to their church, or a Michael Moore-style hit piece aimed at Mormon leaders?

The film 8: The Mormon Proposition explores the role of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in repealing same-sex marriage in California nearly two years ago. After debuting at last winter's Sundance Film Festival, the film opened in 15 cities nationwide on June 18.

Director Reed Cowan had originally set out to document homeless and suicidal Mormon teens when another topic caught his attention.

In 2008, about six months after California's Supreme Court had struck down a ban on gay marriage, voters approved Proposition 8, a referendum that restricts marriage to heterosexual couples.

The LDS Church's support for the referendum went all but unnoticed--for a time--until Mormons' significant deployment of moral and financial capital was discovered. Earlier in June, the LDS Church agreed to pay a $5,500 fine for not reporting all of its nonmonetary contributions in support of Proposition 8.

In the documentary, gay Mormon couples, families and ex-church members chronicle the church's campaign behind Proposition 8. Televised advertisements endorsed by the church urged the public to preserve traditional families. Church leaders warned that same-sex marriages ruin society and endanger souls, and they mobilized their congregations accordingly.

"Money, volunteers and a message. One organization with all three of these rose above the rest that summer, saying to the rest, 'Come follow me,'" says Dustin Lance Black, a narrator of the film. Black, best known for penning the screenplay for the Oscar-winning film Milk, also writes for HBO's Big Love, which explores polygamy among modern fundamentalist Mormons not affiliated with the LDS Church.

Black is not the only cast or crew member with Mormon roots. Director Reed Cowan, co-director Steven Greenstreet and producer Emily Pearson also grew up in the faith. …