Gay community protests near temple display - East Valley Tribune: News

Gay community protests near temple display

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Posted: Friday, November 28, 2008 10:30 pm | Updated: 10:42 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

This year's display of dazzling Christmas lights on the Mesa Arizona Mormon Temple grounds was challenged by the flickering candles of gay rights activists lining the street in a vigil protesting the church's support of Proposition 102.

SLIDESHOW: Christmas display lighting and protest

Mormon support of gay marriage ban ignites vigil

"They're shining their light, we're shining ours," said Bobby Parker, an organizer and gay Mesa Mormon. Many members of the gay, lesbian and transgender community view Mormon votes and dollars as the deciding factor behind the passage of Proposition 102.

The proposition amends the Arizona Constitution to define marriage as being between one man and one woman and maintains the current statutory laws that ban gay marriage in Arizona.

Mormons contributed about $3 million of the $8 million raised in the "Yes on 102" campaign to amend the Arizona Constitution.

Community members and organizers spread word of Friday night's peaceful vigil through Facebook, MySpace, phone calls, text messages and word of mouth.

Protesters holding candles, rainbow flags, peace signs and banners with the words love, acceptance and harmony gathered at Pioneer Park on Main Street and Hobson in support of gay marriage rights.

Others raised concerns that political and religious suppression of gay rights contributed to the suicide of religious gay teens, and many were upset about church involvement in political affairs.

"It's time to get the church out of politics and out of our bedrooms," said Tom Kach. "Their God doesn't rule my world; my God loves and accepts everyone for who they are."

Kach's sentiments echoed the thoughts of many protesters who believed the Mormon Church did not have the right to involve itself in politics.

However, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the decision to finance "Yes on 102" was strictly a personal one for many members.

"We as a church believe that everyone should vote their conscience," said Elder Lee Burke, director of the Mesa temple visitors center.

Burke said members of the Mormon faith were encouraged to vote and participate in the electoral process, but the church did not direct members to lend financial support to "Yes on 102."

Counterprotesters joined the demonstration bearing signs supporting Proposition 102.

Supporters said they were tired of seeing the media refer to Proposition 102 negatively.

"Why isn't it referred to as an affirmation of heterosexual marriage? We are opposed to gay marriage and we are in favor of straight marriage, I want to acknowledge both sides of the issue," said Stephen Smith, an active church member.

Many counterprotesters believed the core definition of a family was at risk from gay marriage, while others said their rights as a voter would be violated if the recent Nov. 4 decision were to beoverturned.

Despite opposing views and an emotionally charged issue, Friday night's demonstration was a peaceful gathering on both sides.

Protesters, LDS members and Proposition 102 supporters alike said they respected the opposing side's stance and lifestyle but for now must agree to strongly disagree.

Mesa police reported no incidents, and the protest ended about 8 p.m.

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