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Copies of a speech on the U.S. Constitution given by LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks are being distributed throughout the country to college professors, journalists and other "opinion leaders."
The LDS Church's public affairs office has asked members of the church who volunteer as regional public affairs coordinators to send the text to as many people as possible.
In Oaks' address, delivered Friday at the Salt Lake City Tabernacle as part of a secular celebration of the Constitution's 223rd birthday, he emphasized that defining marriage is a power reserved to states. Last month, a federal district court overturned Proposition 8, California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, ruling that it violated the constitutional rights of gay men and lesbians. The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court is evaluating an appeal.
"If the decisions of federal courts can override the actions of state lawmakers on this subject [marriage]," Oaks said, "we have suffered a significant constitutional reallocation of lawmaking power from the lawmaking branch to the judicial branch and from the states to the federal government."
His comments have been challenged by supporters of gay marriage who point out that the federal courts have an obligation to overturn any state law that violates people's constitutional rights. For instance, in 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Virginia law that banned interracial marriage.
When asked about the distribution of Oaks' address, LDS spokesman Scott Trotter said sharing speeches by LDS general authorities has been "common practice" for years.
"It is simply a part of relationship-building and public dialogue. Our local volunteers around the country make their own decisions as to whom such things are sent within their areas," Trotter said in a written statement. "And, no, we have not sent the speech to 9th Circuit judges."