Prop 8 backlash: Gay marriage backers to protest outside Salt Lake LDS Temple

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If Jacob Whipple gets what he's hoping for, at least 1,000 Utahns will turn out Friday night to protest the involvement of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in helping pass Proposition 8, a California ballot measure that effectively killed, at least for now, same-sex marriages in that state.

The call for people to gather at 6 p.m. at North Temple and State Street in Salt Lake City is to show solidarity with those protesting in California, Whipple explained. Among those hitting the streets were about 3,000 who gathered Thursday afternoon outside the LDS Temple in Westwood, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, bearing signs including one featuring a photo of a gay couple with the words,"Why is this joy and love so scary," The Los Angeles Times reported.

"We want to show we share their pain, and here, at the heart of the church, we want to stab it," said Whipple, of Salt Lake City.

The 29-year-old former LDS Church member, who served a mission in Argentina, was helping to get the word out late Thursday about the Utah protest. He said he and others were seeking support through e-mails, text messages, social networking Web pages and old-fashioned phone calls.

Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center, said her organization would "absolutely" be there to stand with others.

"Millions in California, including our friends and families, stood up and voted for equality while the LDS Church stood for discrimination," she said. "Friday's message will be one of hope for steady progress towards equality and fairness - a message everyone can believe in."

The LDS Church got into the thick of the California battle when officials issued statements encouraging members to actively support the ban. All told, Latter-day Saints are estimated to have given, by some counts, as much as $22 million to the effort.

But while many rallied for the cause, other church members have stepped up in protest. The hot issue has created rifts in ward houses and after the initiative passed, a church leader Wednesday called on members to treat one another with "civility, with respect and with love."

Whipple, who is engaged to Drew Cloud, 24, of Orange County, Calif., said the two men - who had planned to marry on April 11, 2009 - will go ahead with their ceremony and celebration, "whether it's recognized or not."

"Gays are people, too," he said. "We're your neighbors, your friends. . . We deserve every right everyone else has."

And it's for this reason that he will join the others in circling Temple Square, the international spiritual hub of the LDS Church, as well as the headquarters office building. It'll be part of the journey the returned missionary began when he left LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University after two years of study.

"I gave up on trying to pretend to be straight and started to live my life."