At Prop. 8 movie premiere, two dozen protest LDS stance

Published January 24, 2010 7:22 pm
Sundance » No counter-protesters showed up for the film that LDS Church spokesman calls 'obviously biased.'
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Protesters and movie lovers turned out Sunday for the world debut of a documentary film about the LDS Church's role in overturning gay marriage in California.

Hundreds of Sundance Film Festival-goers attending the premiere of "8: The Mormon Proposition," were greeted by two dozen demonstrators chanting, "Separate church and eight."

The activists were there to show their support for the film and to protest the efforts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to pass Proposition 8, the successful 2008 California ballot initiative that eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry in the state. Conservative Christian groups opposed to the film also had been expected to demonstrate, but none showed up.

"We are not here to be anti-LDS," rally organizer Eric Ethington said Sunday, outside the documentary's premiere at the Racquet Club venue in Park City. "We are here to share our own stories."

During the 2008 election season, the LDS Church was part of a coalition of religious groups that pushed the "Yes on 8" campaign. The church encouraged its members in California to donate time and money to the effort, sparking protests near LDS temples after the measure passed.

"We think it's a shame -- a very big shame," demonstrator Joe Baker-Gorringe said Sunday. "If [Mormons] would have channeled [their time and money] into something more constructive, they would have helped a lot of people."

Baker-Gorringe married his spouse, Russ Baker-Gorringe, in California while gay marriage was legal there for several months in 2008. The Salt Lake City couple are pleased their marriage license is still valid in California, but they would like to see others have the opportunity to wed.

Russ Baker-Gorringe, who spent most of his life as an active member of the LDS faith, said he has seen the church's teachings that homosexuality is wrong lead some gay and lesbian Mormons to commit suicide.

"The church has blood on its hands," said Baker-Gorringe, who, himself, considered suicide before he came out as gay.

Suicide also is discussed in "8: The Mormon Proposition," along with homeless youths, turned away from Mormon homes, after they tell their parents they are gay.

It was an emotional movie for some viewers.

"I felt like I was going to bawl the entire time," said Matthew Lyon, an Ogden resident and board member of the Utah Pride Center. "Mormons say that I can't be something I was born innately [as]."

Lyon, who is gay and grew up in the LDS Church, said he would like to see the film again with his mother.

"My mom is my biggest supporter," he said, "but she still is very active [in the church]."

Mike Eden, a Baptist from San Antonio, Texas, who opposes gay marriage, said he was disappointed by the film.

"I thought it was one-sided to promote their cause," he said. "It's not just the Mormon Church that believes that marriage is between a man and a woman."

The nation, he added, was founded on "Judeo-Christian belief."

LDS Church officials declined to be interviewed in the documentary.

"Although we have given many interviews on this topic, we had no desire to participate in something so obviously biased," LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said via e-mail Sunday. "Judging from the trailer and background material online, it appears that accuracy and truth are rare commodities in this film."

Jackie Taylor, in town from London to attend the film festival, said she thought the documentary was "fair."

"It was really good. It was really sad," she said. "That people would disown their children simply for loving someone of the same sex was upsetting. I couldn't understand that as a mother."

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