2008 Prop 8 Protesters Confront Seattle Mormons
posted by November 9 at 12:55 PMon
The streets in the University District were mostly empty when the first cars began rolling up for a morning service at the Seattle North Stake Center, a chapel of the Mormon Church on 8th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 57th Street. But the sidewalk was lined with about 40 protesters.
Young gay men in designer jeans and preppy college women—a strikingly different crowd from the rag-tag regulars at most Seattle protests—were chanting and waving signs at the luxury sedans pulling into the driveway. They decried the Mormon Church for supporting California’s Proposition 8, which stripped about 20,000 same-sex couples of their marriage recognition. The Church of Latter-Day Saints had strongly supported the measure. And church members, including several from the Seattle area, contributed an estimated $22 million dollars to the campaign. Protesters chanted, “Tax the church,” a call for the IRS to repeal the church’s tax-exempt status.
Corianton Hale under the spire of the North Seattle Stake Center.
Realistically, though, ambiguous IRS rules make repealing the Mormon Church’s tax exemption a long shot (.pdf), and activities in Seattle may not have a big impact on California. But the early-morning enthusiasm could indicate a renewed push, and foreshadow more confrontation, for the gay-rights movement in Washington.
Valerie Tariko held a sign that read, “Shame on You,” which faced the driveway. A woman in a peach-colored suit drove past, slowing down to take both hands from the wheel and give Tariko the shame fingers.
“I can’t sit by when my rights are being taken away,” says Matthew Wilson, 26, who announced the protest yesterday and immediately received support, including from several people who had never attended a protest before.
George Durham, a member of the church, came out to address the crowd.
“Being quiet is not an option anymore,” says Phyllis Penland, who attended with her 46-year-old gay son, Todd. “What we’ve been doing so far hasn’t had much of an impact,” she says, wearing an Obama button, two rainbow pins and a string of pride beads. “They have overstepped their bounds this time and hopefully this will be the beginning of stopping them.” Penland then began by stopping a member of the congregation, explaining that gays Americans deserve equal rights.
That churchgoer, 31-year-old Heather Carman, who looked more like she was headed to Phish concert than a service in her flowing brown dress, says, “Hate,” a common term on the signs, “is the wrong word. There is no malice.” She encouraged people to review the CLDS’s written statements as evidence.
But can a protest impact any meaningful change in Washington’s legislature?
“You can look at protests as a thermometer of interest in a cause,” says Josh Friedes, a spokesman for Equal Rights Washington, a statewide advocacy and lobbying organization for marriage equality that has expanded rapidly in the last few years.
No dirty hippies at this protest.
“This protest puts electeds on notice that [defending a ban on gay marriage] is untenable,” Friedes says. Anti-gay incumbents came close to losing seats in Tuesday’s election, and the advent of a growing gay-rights movement warns them to support marriage equality or risk being voted out of office, he says.
Friedes plans to contact the leaders and participants of today’s protest to collaborate with them.
“Washington must recognize that it is truly one of the leaders of the marriage quality movement,” says Friedes. Washington’s constitution cannot be modified by initiative—it requires a two-thirds majority in the state House and Senate. “This is one of the most likely states to approve and hold marriage equality.”