Alex Brandon, Associated Press
Harry Reid

Gay-rights activists say that in a private meeting with them, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., criticized the LDS Church for working to ban gay marriage in California.

"The senator mentioned that he felt the church should use its resources on other good works instead of getting involved in such a divisive campaign," Derek Washington, who helped organize last weekend's National Equality March, told the Deseret News.

"It really was said pretty much in passing. I was surprised at the press it got," Washington said after stories about the statement appeared in press nationally after initially appearing in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Reid currently is the highest-ranking member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the federal government as the Senate majority leader.

Reid spokesman Jon Summers told the Deseret News, "We don't discuss Sen. Reid's private meetings."

However, Summers added, "While Sen. Reid agrees with his church that marriage is between a man and a woman, he also believes that the resources that went into the Proposition 8 effort could have been put to better use."

Washington said LDS efforts to pass California's Proposition 8 last year to ban same-sex marriage "wasn't a huge part of our conversation" with Reid.

Washington said he personally was more interested in talking about repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy with gays.

But Washington said he also feels such things as pushing Proposition 8 "does seem, in my opinion, a waste of donated money to go after gay people, just like 'don't ask don't tell' is a waste of taxpayer money."

Of note, official statements by the LDS Church posted on its Web site say it makes no attempt to dictate views to LDS politicians.

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"Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated church position," its Web site says.

It adds, "While the church may communicate its views to them, as it may to any other elected official, it recognizes that these officials still must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent."

The church supported Proposition 8 and efforts to ban same-sex marriage, and its members were among the largest donors to groups that worked to pass the measure.