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QDoc Movie (P)reviews – ‘8: The Mormon Proposition’

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8: The Mormon Proposition. Directed by Reed Cowen. Screening 7pm tomorrow as part of QDOC.

I consider the passage of Proposition 8 in California to be the biggest setback to the gay marriage movement. Activists, allies, and the hundreds of couples that were newly married were all taken completely by surprise. Everything had seemed to be going our way. The California Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage, City Hall began issuing licenses to thousands of people, and polling showed that the majority of Californians were in favor of letting the progress towards equal marriage rights stand. When a last ditch effort initiative, Proposition 8, appeared on the ballot in 2008, it seemed destined for defeat.

But no one counted on the Mormons rolling into town.

8:TMP exposes the secret influence and leadership of the LDS church in the fight to pass Prop 8. They were no strangers to this type of fight. The church had devised a brilliant strategy to defeat similar marriage legislation in Hawaii a few years before. They had all of the ingredients ready to quickly raise money, dispatch volunteers, and create a misleading media campaign in a state hundreds of miles from the church capital in Salt Lake City. The church created a front organization called National Organization For Marriage. The church asked members of other faiths to participate. The LDS church wanted to keep its deep involvement as quiet as possible so as not to stir up bad public relations around the country. There would be public backlash. The 503C tax exempt status would be in jeopardy. The conflict between their private hatred of homosexuals and their public “tolerance” would be questioned. The church is like the Wizard of Oz, hoping no one throws back their curtain.

Director Reed Cowen tells this story using a strict Mormon point of view. The director, narrator, and nearly all of the interviewees are LDS. The churches attitude towards marriage in general, and homosexuality in particular, are brought under the lens. He exposes the church’s past, namely its own marriage struggles when polygamy became a church tenet late in Joseph Smiths life. He does a great job explaining the churchs view of the after life and how homosexuality threatens the entire bedrock of their ideas about heaven. He also describes their organizational secrecy and how they managed to operate under the radar. The film calls into question the church’s tax exempt status and shows damning footage of their obvious political activity.

This close dissection of the LDS church’s political activity is important to all of us fighting for equality. We will soon have our own ballot initiatives for gay marriage. The church has a well oiled machine, ready to roll out in a moments notice. The same fate that befell California is being prepared in Mormon basements as we speak. This film can serve as the enemies blueprints. Hopefully the next time this battle gears up, we can be ready to deal with the challenges of fighting one of the most secretive, organized, and insidious institutions in the United States.

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