Activists hand-deliver letters to LDS Church

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 23 2008 12:23 a.m. MST

Gay-rights activist Luana Chilelli, left, shakes hands with LDS Church representative Mark Burton in Salt Lake City on Monday.

Courtney Sargent, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

Gay-rights activists hand-delivered more than 27,000 letters to the LDS Church's downtown Salt Lake headquarters Monday in the latest effort to earn the church's support in the fight for equal rights.

Members of the Human Rights Campaign abandoned technology for old-fashioned paper and ink after discovering that an e-mail filter was preventing thousands of messages from reaching The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"We wanted to make sure they got there," said Jerry Rapier of the Human Rights Campaign.

The move was the latest attempt by activists to get church leaders to publicly support the Common Ground Initiative, a set of five bills aimed at securing civil protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Those measures will come before the Legislature next year.

A church employee accepted the boxes of letters outside the downtown office.

Church spokesman Scott Trotter declined to comment on the HRC's request Monday, but said the e-mails had not been intentionally blocked.

"We didn't take any measures to block their e-mails," he said, chalking the delivery issues up to the church's spam filter.

After coming out in support of California's ban on same-sex marriage, LDS officials said in a Nov. 5 statement on its Web site: "the church does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches."

The letters delivered Monday asked LDS leaders to "give credibility and force" to those words.

"In their pews, there are people that are supportive of this and they need to know it's OK," said Luana Chilelli, with the Human Rights Campaign.

Last month, LDS Church spokeswoman Kim Farah said the church would not comment on civil unions "for the time being."

E-mail: afalk@desnews.com

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