Dissident Mormons petition LDS Church opposing anti-gay marriage stance

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A group of dissident Mormons on Friday presented to LDS Church officials about 300 letters and a petition opposing the church's efforts on behalf of a California amendment to thwart gay marriage.

About 50 people carried 15 stacks of personal letters wrapped in pink ribbons to the north entrance of the LDS Church headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City while singing the Mormon hymn "As I Have Loved You, Love One Another." Organizers asked that each stack be given to a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' three-man First Presidency and 12 apostles.

The protesters also deposited several manila envelopes containing signatures on the petition. It asks the LDS Church to stop "political organizing efforts and financial support of attempts to use the government to restrict the secular and religious rights of gay and lesbian individuals and publicly retract their request that members of the LDS Church support such measures." The group also delivered bunches of carnations representing people they say have lost their lives in the gay marriage debate. They were referring to suicides by gay Mormons.

"We urge LDS leaders to read these letters and listen to their words," said Andrew D. Callahan, an LDS high priest in Nebraska, who organized an Internet petition drive for Mormons who oppose the amendment known as Proposition 8.

For many people, Callahan said, LDS support the measure, which would amend the California Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman, "is a crisis of conscience. They have loved ones who are gay and feel their civil rights are being taken away from them."

Kim Farah of the LDS Public Affairs Office received the bundles, entered the headquarters lobby and said, "The church has always recognized that some members would feel differently about this issue. It affects people deeply."

But Farah defended the LDS Church's right to oppose same-sex marriage.

"It is our obligation to speak out on moral issues," she said, then thanked the hundreds of thousands of California Mormons who have unified in support of Proposition 8.

Former Mormons Linda Stay and Steve Stay drove up from St. George for the event to show their support for their returned missionary son, Tyler Barrick, who married Spencer Jones in California four months ago.

"We wanted to share our opinion," Linda Stay said, holding up posters of her son's wedding photos, "so we can feel good about ourselves."

By a show of hands, only one member of the group said he was an active Mormon.

"I have family and friends who are active Mormons and wanted to come," said Peter Danzig, who resigned his LDS membership over this issue last year. "But they said they were afraid."


California's Proposition 8

* Californians on Nov. 4 will vote for or against Proposition 8, which if passed, would amend the state's constitution to define legal marriage as between a man and a woman.

* The LDS Church, in a statement this summer, urged members to support the ballot measure; the church since has encouraged active campaigning by members in California and Californians living in Utah and other states.