It’s passing strange that the Mormons, of all people, are so bothered by the idea of same-sex marriage that they have donated 40 percent of the funding — almost $11 million — to promote Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that would amend the California Constitution to make it illegal for gays to marry.
If you don’t like to be reminded that your grandparents were polygamists, why entangle yourself in another group’s struggle for marriage rights?
You might think that Mormons would be more tolerant than others toward nontraditional marriage practices, since their antecedents practiced polygamy for more than a century after the church was founded in the 1830s. The Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) stopped sanctioning plural marriages after 1904, but existing polygamous arrangements were allowed to continue, and many of these lasted until the 1950s. Polygamy is still practiced among Mormon splinter groups like the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS.
The fact that many mainstream Mormons are embarrassed by their polygamous heritage makes their activism in California appear not only intolerant and mean, but also clueless. Entangling themselves in another group’s struggle for the right to marry is bound to bring comparisons with their own.
Even so, the good guys are winning the money race, but just barely. With just 10 days to go before the vote, the no-on-8, pro-gay marriage side has raised $31.2 million. But anti-gay forces are nearly even, with $27.5 million.
Fittingly, one of the largest donations to the pro-marriage cause came from WordPerfect founder Bruce Bastion, a gay ex-Mormon who gave $1 million, in part to counter the efforts of his former co-religionists.
On the other hand, this leader of a wealthy and powerful homophobe organization apparently didn’t get the memo that the majority donors to the cause were members of a former polygamist sect:
From his base in Tupelo, Miss., Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Assn., said his group gave $500,000 to the Yes-on-8 campaign for moral reasons.
“We believe in the Bible, and the Bible teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman,” he said. “That is how the human race continues.”
Wildmon said he fears that if the initiative doesn’t pass, children will be taught about same-sex marriage in schools. And he worries that other things might follow.
“If you change the definition and have no moral standard, then honestly what is wrong with polygamy?” Wildmon asked. “On what basis do you deny three men getting married, or a man with five wives?”
Wildmon is lying, of course. The Bible does not teach that “marriage is between one man and one woman.” Quite the opposite. Polygamy was practiced by Abraham, the father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and by both King David and King Solomon, among others.
And as Wildmon surely knows, current laws against polygamy will not be affected by Prop 8, one way or another.
Update 11/10/08: The final tally shows that as much as 70 percent of Prop 8 funding from individuals came from Mormons.