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Gregory Prince’s new book Gay Rights and the Mormon Church is the most comprehensive treatment available about the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on LGBT issues.
RNS: Your book gives step-by-step details about many of the major changes that have happened in the Church regarding LGBT issues, including the 2008 campaign for Proposition 8 in California. You say that Church leaders were surprised by the backlash when the extent of Mormons’ involvement in Prop 8 became known. What was the long-term effect of Prop 8?
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Greg Prince: The lasting effect was primarily external—it branded the church in the eyes of the public as the homophobic church. Prop 8 became known as “the Mormon proposition.”
But let’s look at the background. Before that, even though the church had been politically active starting in Hawaii in 1993, it was under the radar, and it happened at a time when society as a whole was still homophobic. What Hawaii did, and what Proposition 22 did [in 2000], was to preserve the status quo. So even though the Church had a substantial role, it was not the decisive role because the majority of people were already agreeing. There was almost no backlash for either effort.
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When Proposition 22 was overturned [in May 2008], things had shifted in two ways. First, for a window of time, same-sex marriage became the new status quo in California. The second was that public sentiment was gradually shifting toward marriage equality. It had not achieved a majority yet, but it was moving in that direction.
So when Proposition 8 passed [in November 2008], it was a different world. More people supported marriage equality, and there were tens of thousands of people who had legally married. Marriage equality had become the new status quo. To take away something that had...
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