As we rack up victory after victory on the marriage front, here’s a question to ponder: what ever happened to the Mormon Church? You know, those LDS people who sank more than $20 million into California’s Prop. 8 campaign and were its largest funder. In fact, as Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones points out, the Mormon Church has made a conscious decision not to engage in any of the current battles over marriage equality. And the church’s withdrawal from the war may be one of the biggest reasons for our success.
Why the about-face? Mencimer cites a number of reasons. For one thing, Mormon leaders were apparently caught off guard by the backlash to their involvement in Prop. 8, including from their own members. There’s also the notion that the church went for a lower profile in the 2012 election cycle so as not to scare off voters from Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon bishop (and lousy candidate needed no help in losing voters).
But the biggest reason may be that the Church is, dare we say it, evolving. Church officials have been conspicuously softening their attitudes (which doesn’t meant those attitudes are very soft), establishing outreach to gay Mormons and even approving of gay Boy Scouts (but not Scout leaders because, well, you know). LDS officials still condemn homosexuality for being an affront to the church’s view of chastity, but, as Mencimer puts it, “the church seems to have returned to focusing on homosexuality as a personal issue rather than a political one.”
That’s been a financial and logistical disaster for anti-marriage activists. In 2008, more than 800 Utah residents contributed $2.7 million to the Prop. 8 campaign. In 2012, 16 Utah diehards contribute all of $1,264 to the anti-marriage groups in the four states with ballot measures.Worse still, the volunteers who were foot soldiers in the campaigns are gone. Which makes the National Organization for Marriage look like the house of cards (mostly jokers) that it really is.
Of course, the Mormon Church could decide to get back in the fight again. But with each passing victory, the odds of ultimate success grow slimmer. After a long time leading the battle, it looks like the church has surveyed the field and recognized that the time has come to cut its losses. History may be on our side, but it could have been even longer in coming if the Mormon Church had wanted it that way.