Protests against Proposition 8 supporters
Protests against Proposition 8 supporters in California took place starting in November 2008. These included prominent protests against the Roman Catholic church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), which supported a stance in favor of California's Proposition 8. The proposition was a voter referendum that amended the state constitution to recognize marriage only as being between one man and one woman, thus banning same-sex marriage, which was legal in the state following a May 2008 California Supreme Court case.
The highly emotional, closely contested nature of the voter referendum created a political maelstrom that was unusual in intensity for its time. After closely passing, the backlash from those who opposed Proposition 8 was widely covered by news media and was considered highly controversial. Anti-Proposition 8 activists looked up supporters in state-government-required donation documentation, then posted their names and personal information, and organized protests at their places of work. Many religious buildings were vandalized and Proposition 8 supporters received death threats, were mailed envelopes of white powder resembling anthrax, or lost their jobs or businesses. This method of shaming and forcing out Proposition 8 supporters was called a "mob veto" in a full-page advertisement in the New York Times which was signed by law professors, diplomats, civil rights activists, and heads of religious organizations, and others cited concerns about bigotry against those with religious beliefs.
Proposition 8 added "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California" to the California Constitution. Proposition 8 was the most expensive proposition in United States history and sharply divided social conservatives and social liberals, as part of the ongoing American culture wars. The ballot initiative was approved by a majority (52%) of voters. Immediately same-sex marriages were halted and the legal status of the 18,000 same-sex couples was thrown into question. Supporters of the proposition included a coalition of religious and social conservatives that felt the court ruling had redefined marriage.
Those opposed to Proposition 8 argued that same-sex couples deserved the same public recognition and marriage rights that other couples are afforded, and that equality could not be achieved without state recognition in the form of marriage. On November 19, the California Supreme Court accepted three lawsuits challenging Proposition 8 but denied the requests to stay its enforcement.
Candlelight vigils and pickets
As a result of the proposition's passage, there were a number of organized as well as autonomous protests directed against supporters of the proposition including marches, actions, vigils, boycotts and vandalism. The actions brought awareness to marriage rights issues for LGBT people and the role of tax-exempt churches in this political campaign. There has also been renewed debate in LGBT communities whether boycotting companies or organizations is an appropriate and effective response toward the proposition's supporters.
Many anti-Proposition 8 protests, particularly those targeting the support of specific groups that supported Proposition 8, took the form of pickets or candlelight vigils. A candlelight vigil by about 600 mothers of LGBT children was held at the Salt Lake Temple of the LDS Church in Salt Lake City, Utah, shortly following the passage of Proposition 8.
Following the passage of the proposition, opponents obtained donation lists of those who had supported the ballot measure by contributing to the "Yes on 8" campaign, published the list, organized an activism group, and began calling for boycotts of the supporters' places of work. While many were impacted, the following cases were documented in the media.
- Scott Eckern, Artistic Director, California Musical Theatre. Resigned on November 15, 2008. In a statement, Eckern pledged to donate $1,000 to LGBT lobbying group Human Rights Campaign to match what he donated to Yes on 8.
- Richard Raddon, Director, Los Angeles Film Festival. Resigned on November 25, 2008, after the LA Film Festival publicly distanced itself from Raddon's actions. Raddon donated $1,500 to Yes on 8.
- Marjorie Christoffersen, Manager, El Coyote Restaurant, Los Angeles, a lifelong Mormon, the niece of El Coyote’s founder, and the daughter of its current owner. The restaurant was popular as a late-night hangout for gay people, but was picketed after it was learned that Christofferson had donated $100 to the Yes on 8 campaign. Christofferson said she felt pressured to resign but did not.
- The Sundance Film Festival, based in Park City, Utah has been the target of calls for boycotts. Utah ranked second only to California itself for total donations in support of Proposition 8, while it ranked sixth for opposing donations, behind California and such heavily populated states as New York, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan. Over the last two and a half weeks before the election, the Yes on 8 campaign received donations totaling $5 million coming from Utah residents.
- The Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego after owner Doug Manchester donated $125,000 in support of Proposition 8. The boycott was against the Manchester Hyatt hotel specifically, and not against the Hyatt Hotel chain as a whole.
- Terry Caster, San Diego businessman, who persuaded Manchester to donate the $125,000 and who himself gave almost $700,000 to support Proposition 8. Caster built and owns the A-1 Self Storage Company, which gay-rights groups have also boycotted.
- William Bolthouse, Jr, founder of Bolthouse Farms, was forced out of the company for donating to the Proposition 8 campaign.
Claims of religious bigotry
Some public figures, writers, media commentators, and individuals have expressed concern over the actions and the implications of targeting supporters of the proposition. Supporters of the measure, such as Kathryn Lopez, editor of the National Review Online, and Jonah Goldberg, a Los Angeles Times columnist, have referred to some of the backlash as religious bigotry, especially since many of those targeted are members of the LDS Church. Gregg Araki, an independent filmmaker who is gay, Jeff McDonald and John Marelius of the San Diego Union-Tribune, and others have articulated arguments depicting this characterization as misleading and provided possible justification of such actions.
Various individuals and groups have decried these actions by those opposed to Proposition 8:
- A full-page New York Times advertisement titled "No Mob Veto" read in part, "When thugs ... terrorize any place of worship, especially those of a religious minority, responsible voices need to speak clearly: Religious wars are wrong; they are also dangerous." The advertisement, paid for by Washington, D.C.-based The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, was signed by law professors, diplomats, civil rights activists, and heads of religious organizations. The Human Rights Campaign responded to these ads, opposing violence but claiming that the ads distort the truth when "they say we are in favor of mob intimidation and violence", suggesting that the ads paint the entire opposition to Proposition 8 with the actions of a few. A full-page New York Times ad released by Truth Wins Out in response to the ad goes further, accusing the original ad of "blatant falsehoods", as well as "spotlighting the religious bigotry of the ad's very own signers."
- Several opinion pieces condemn the tactics including "Editorial: Protest and civility in a democracy" from the Dallas Morning News, "So Much for Tolerance" from Chuck Colson of the Christian Post, and "California and Thank-A-Mormon Day" from John Reynolds of Biola University.
Death threats and vandalism
Before the vote, Alan Autry (the mayor of Fresno) received an email containing death threats against both himself and Cornerstone Church Pastor Jim Franklin. This caused police to assign the pastor officers for his protection and motivated the mayor to obtain a bodyguard. According to Fresno's Police Chief Jerry Dyer, the email "did state as to why that threat was made and it was stemming from prop 8." Both Autry and Franklin were prominent Proposition 8 supporters. As of August 12, 2009, no arrests have been made.
In the ten days following the November 4 election, seven houses of worship in Utah and ten buildings of the LDS Church in the Sacramento area were targets of vandalism, such as graffiti and meeting house glass doors shattered. According to the LDS Church spokesperson for the Sacramento area, the vandalism that they experienced in the ten days after the election was more than they usually get in an entire year. A copy of the Book of Mormon, an LDS religious text, was found burning at the front of one of the church's meetinghouses. The FBI investigated these events to determine whether a violation of civil rights had occurred.
The windows on the Sundstrom family vehicle parked at their home in San Jose were painted "Bigots Live Here," "Stop Bigots" and "God Hates Haters." They had a sign on their property that read "Protect Marriage Yes on 8 banner." Several people had homes damaged- bricks thrown through house windows, graffiti, and cars damaged.
An affiliate group of the radical trans/queer organization Bash Back! claims credit for pouring glue into the locks of an LDS meetinghouse and spray painting its walls. A Web posting signed by Bash Back!’s Olympia chapter said, "The Mormon church (just like most churches) is a cesspool of filth. It is a breeding ground for oppression of all sorts and needs to be confronted, attacked, subverted and destroyed." According to the Chicago Tribune, the acts of vandalism against the LDS meetinghouse appeared to be in retaliation for support of Proposition 8.
In November 2008, the United States Postal Service delivered envelopes containing white powder to two LDS temples (one in Los Angeles and one in Salt Lake City) and to the Knights of Columbus's national headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut, prompting a hazardous materials response and a federal domestic terrorism investigation. The envelope to the Knights of Columbus had a postmark from California. Both organizations were heavy backers of Proposition 8. The FBI has determined the substances were not biological agents, and FBI spokesman Special Agent Juan Becerra stated, "We've got to follow the evidence, and at this point we have not received anything that would lead us to believe the opponents of Prop. 8 are behind any kind of terroristic activity. It would be irresponsible to say that at this point." (Anthrax toxin was used in the 2001 anthrax attacks against lawmakers and media members, killing five people. Since then, the FBI has investigated more than 1,000 anthrax hoaxes modeled on the mailings, which usually turn out to be harmless.)
The LDS Church and many newspapers blamed opponents of the marriage ban for sending the hoax mailings, while a group that also supported the measure condemned "acts of domestic terrorism against our supporters." LGBT rights groups, such as Equality Utah and Equality California, have spoken out against the use of violence in protests, and note that the source of the "white powder" mailings has not been determined.
- Catholics, Mormons allied to pass Prop. 8
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- Ostrom, Mary Anne (2008-11-13). "Protests, boycotts erupt in the wake of Prop. 8's passage". The Mercury News.
- Abramowitz, Rachel (2008-11-23). "Liberal Hollywood ponders next step in fight for same-sex marriage". Los Angeles Times.
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- "Scott Eckern Releases Statement and Announces Resignation as Artistic Director for California Musical Theatre". CMT Press Release. 2008-11-12. Retrieved 2008-11-26.
- Abramowitz, Rachel (2008-11-25). "L.A. Film Festival director Richard Raddon resigns". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-05-22.
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- Reynolds, John Mark. "California and Thank-A-Mormon Day". Biola University.
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- "Same-sex marriage debate growing ugly in San Jose and beyond". Mercury News. October 21, 2008.
- "The Price of Proposition 8". The Heritage Foundation. October 22, 2009.
- "Radical Gay Activist Group Plans More Disruptions". Chicago Tribune. November 20, 2008. Archived from the original on November 16, 2009.
- "ADL Condemns Criminal Activity Targeting Religious Institutions That Supported Proposition 8". Anti-Defamation League. 2008-11-10.
- Winslow, Ben (2008-12-10). "FBI to run more tests on mystery substance mailed to LDS Church". Deseret News.
- Winslow, Ben (2009-11-17). "FBI sending suspicious powder to headquarters". Deseret News.
- "Suspicious White Powder sent to Catholic Organization". ABC channel 4 (KTVX).
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- "White powder sent to Mormon temples in Utah, LA". USA Today. 2008-11-13. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
- "Mormon church blames powder hoax on gays: Leaders say opponents of marriage ban are behind the mailings". Associated Press. 15 November 2008. Retrieved 2016-10-12.
- Anthrax hoaxes pile up, as does their cost By Bob Drogin, Los Angeles Times, March 8, 2009.
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- Media related to Protests against Proposition 8 supporters at Wikimedia Commons