27,000 letters urge LDS leader to back rights of gay Utahns

Special delivery » The printed e-mails ask Monson to back the Common Ground Initiative.
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President Thomas S. Monson: You have mail - boxes of it.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) delivered 27,000 letters to LDS Church headquarters Monday - all of them asking the Mormon leader to support legal protections for gay and transgender Utahns.

The national gay-rights group has endorsed Equality Utah's Common Ground Initiative, a collection of bills that would, among other things, provide rights to fair housing and employment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Utahns and domestic-partner benefits for same-sex couples.

The movement was born in response to statements the LDS Church made in the wake of California's Proposition 8 - which eliminated gay marriage in the Golden State - that the church "does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights or probate rights."

Monson and other LDS leaders helped to get the gay-marriage ban enacted, urging members to donate their time and money to the campaign and, later, igniting opponents' protests at LDS temples and calls for boycotts of Utah.

"The reason there's such an uproar is every LGBT person in the United States was affected by it," since Proposition 8 stripped away rights that had been granted to gay couples, said Jerry Rapier, a Salt Lake City resident and member of the HRC's board of governors.

Rapier and Luana Chilelli, also on the board, delivered seven boxes of printed e-mails, written by people from throughout the United States, to the LDS Church Office Building after the messages were caught in the church's spam filter.

"We didn't take any measures to block e-mail" from the HRC, LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said Monday.

The church has not responded to requests to endorse the Common Ground Initiative since the legislative effort was launched Nov. 10. On Monday, Trotter declined to comment on the letters and said the church continues to "defer" comment on the gay-rights bills.

If that silence continues, Rapier said, "there are a lot of very angry people that would be disappointed -- both within and outside of the LDS Church."

WordPerfect co-founder and Orem resident Bruce Bastian, who is gay and sits on the HRC's board, launched the letter-writing campaign last week by sending an action alert to HRC members.

Bastian, a former Mormon, donated $1 million to fight Proposition 8 after the LDS Church joined the "yes" campaign.

"Our movement has a long history of respectfully engaging with those who would deny our basic humanity and civil rights," Bastian wrote in his e-mail. "Let's hope the church's claims are more than just a political posture."