Group's report details aftermath of Prop. 8

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 3 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

Protestors take part in the "No on Prop 8" march and rally in front of the LDS Church temple in Los Angeles last year.

Damian Dovarganes, Associated Press

A year after the passage of California's Proposition 8, the ensuing violence, vandalism and protests have died down — although they have been revisited and chronicled in a new report.

But as similar marriage-related voting takes place today in other states, a high-tech tactic is taking center stage.

On Nov. 4 last year, 52 percent of California voters approved Prop. 8, the state's constitutional amendment that limited marriage to between a man and a woman. It overturned a May 2008 California Supreme Court ruling that had legalized gay marriage.

The Heritage Foundation — a Washington, D.C.-based conservative think tank — recently published "The Price of Prop. 8," a study of the retaliation against Prop. 8 supporters, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and individual LDS Church members. Thomas M. Messner, a visiting fellow in religious and civil society issues, authored the publication.

An overriding theme is individuals and institutions who publicly defend traditional marriage risk intimidation, harassment and reprisal — at least some of it targeted and coordinated.

"They really risk pain and grief for that and are paying a heavy price," Messner said in a recent phone interview.

In 16 pages peppered with detailed incidents and 112 footnotes of supporting documentation, Messner wrote Prop. 8 supporters "have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, vandalism, racial scapegoating, blacklisting, loss of employment, economic hardships, angry protests, violence, at least one death threat and gross expressions of anti-religious bigotry."

Also mentioning a handful of acts committed against Prop. 8 opponents, the paper acknowledges many gay-marriage activists have condemned certain types of hostilities.

But, Messner added, there has been "absolutely zero contrition" for the ideologies underlying the outrage and acts.

In response to the report, Fred Karger, executive director of Californians Against Hate, an independent organization tracking donor information on Prop. 8 supporters, said, "Any acts of retribution — toward either side — are deplorable and should not be tolerated."

California's marriage debate is ongoing. Gay-rights activists want to pursue an attempt to repeal Prop. 8, but they haven't reached a consensus whether to try it on the 2010 or 2012 ballot.

This year, attention on the marriage issue runs coast to coast.

In Maine, voters today will weigh in on Question 1. If approved, it would repeal the same-sex marriage statute passed earlier this year by that state's Legislature.

In Washington, voters face a state referendum expanding domestic-partnership rights for gay and senior couples.

And in both states, gay-marriage activists are calling for donor lists of those supporting traditional marriage to be made public. In California, a donation of $100 or more earns public disclosure.

Donor names and their contact information end up on Web sites such as Washington's whosigned.org and the multi-state knowthyneighbor.org.

Such Web sites call for economic repercussions and boycotts against individuals and institutions who supported traditional-marriage efforts, said Messner, adding "and whether it's stated or not, general harassment or intimidation."

Individuals then become targets, he said, not because they placed a yard sign or bumper sticker or attended a public rally, but because they made a contribution in support of traditional-marriage referendums or propositions.

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