Richley H. Crapo – LDS Doctrinal Rhetoric and the Politics of Same-Sex Marriage

LDS Doctrinal Rhetoric and the Politics of Same-Sex Marriage

Richley Crapo, Utah State University

c. 1999

Purpose of this Paper

A number of denominations regularly perform same-sex religious marriages. These include the U.S. Branch of Soka Gakkai International Buddhist Association, Reconstructionist Judaism, the Metropolitan Community Church, the Unitarian Universalists, and even two Restorationist denominations within the Mormon tradition.i The LDS Church headquartered in Salt Lake City is like the majority of denominations in not performing such marriages. However, it differs from most in that in addition to not performing religious same-sex marriages, it is also politically active in opposing secular recognition of same-sex marriages. I wish to address how this political activism intertwines with religious rhetoric concerning marriage, including both what is said and what goes without saying.


In 1990 a court case, Baehr vs Lewin, was filed in Hawaii by three couples in an attempt to get the state to recognize same-sex marriages. Initially, the Honolulu Circuit Court found against the same-sex couples, but in May of that year the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that under the state constitution, which forbids discrimination based on sex, a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional unless the state could demonstrate a “compelling state interest” in discriminating against same-sex couples. Having made this determination, the Hawaii Supreme Court remanded the case to the circuit court with the mandate to reverse its decision unless such a compelling state interest was found to exist. The legislative Commission on Sexual Orientation and the Law established to determine whether a compelling state interest existed in not recognizing same-sex marriages determined that no such interest existed. This finding made it inevitable that the Honolulu Circuit Court would change its original decision and find in favor of the couples involved in the case.

The hearing of the arguments concerning the issue of compelling state interest was finally scheduled to begin in the Honolulu Circuit Court on September 25, 1995. But seven months before that date, the LDS Church in Hawaii sued the circuit court (in February) to be admitted as “co-defendants” with the state. As explained in a press release dated February 23, 1995, by the Hawaii Public Affairs Council of the LDS Church, the Church’s position was based on the claim that it and its members would be adversely affected if its interests were not represented in the case. The Church argued that if same-sex marriages were granted legal recognition, then its ministers might be legally required to perform such marriages despite the fact that they are contrary to the Church’s religious values. It further explained that “Our motion for intervention is not to oppose civil rights for anyone, but to protect families and children, as well as society in general, by opposing a proposal to extend the legal privileges of marriage beyond the kind of relationship that justifies it”. In late March, a Circuit Court judge rejected the LDS request, noting that the argument of being forced to perform marriages that are religiously repugnant to the church is legal nonsense, since no minister is legally required to perform any marriage. Nevertheless, the LDS Church in Hawaii appealed this decision to the Hawaii Supreme Court, where the appeal was also not favorably heard. The final step in the court process is for the Hawaii Supreme Court to hear arguments and render a final decision, one that is likely to be consistent with its previously expressed views on the unconstitutionality of refusing to grant married status to same-sex couples.

LDS Rhetoric Concerning Legal Marriage

Although most denominations are not totally sanguine about same-sex relationships, the concept of same-sex marriages is particularly problematic for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, since the very core of its organizational and theological emphasis is the sanctity of the family created by heterosexual marriage. The sanctification of heterosexual marriage is more than a mere political slogan for the LDS religion, which celebrates as one of its most sacred rituals the ordinance of heterosexual temple marriages, long described as necessary for salvation in the highest degree of glory in the next life. LDS theology views such temple-blessed unions as “eternal marriages” which will endure beyond death. Among the small number of special ordinances practiced in LDS Temples is the “sealing” of children to their parents to ensure that the family organization is preserved throughout eternity. Worldwide, the LDS church reserves one evening a week in which no regular church meetings are scheduled so that each family may hold its own “Family Home Evening”. So central is the family in church thought that, even Apostles of the church have expressed the idealized view that the central function of the church itself is simply to serve as an aid to the family, the true organizational unit of the church. Thus, heterosexual marriage is not simply one of a number of sacraments within the LDS church, but is better seen as the culminating ordinance for the typical member. This makes the concept of same-sex marriage uniquely problematic in LDS discourse.

The LDS press release of February 23, 1995, is interesting both in the terms that are used to discuss the legal and religious issues concerning marriage and in the terms that are avoided in that discussion. In taking a position against state recognition of same-sex marriage, the press release contrasts what it calls “traditional marriage” with “homosexual and lesbian marriage”. The phrase “traditional marriage” or some synonym is used seven times in fewer than six hundred words of text. The phrase “homosexual marriage” or an equivalent is used another seven times. This contrast set is interesting because of the semantic shift which it involves. The document does not contrast “traditional” with “nontraditional” nor does it contrast “homosexual and lesbian” with “heterosexual” but rather shifts from one semantic set to the other. Notably, in contrast with the seven occurrences of “homosexual” and an equal number of occurrences of “lesbian”, the term “heterosexual” is never called upon to discuss marriages involving males and females. The sexuality of same-sex unions is thus highlighted, while the sexuality of so-called “traditional marriages” is avoided.

The use of an unbalanced contrast set in statements such as the 1995 press release certainly imparts a connotative spin to the argument, but I believe that more than mere polemics is involved. It is the absence of the term “heterosexual” that I wish to focus on. It is a term that goes without saying not just in public political statements, but in LDS rhetoric concerning marriage in general. Marriage is, in other words, assumed to be heterosexual. The possibility of same-sex marriages is an immediate challenge to this assumption. It’s existence as a public category would demand that the unspoken be addressed. I will argue that doing so is problematic for the LDS church in very practical ways.

The Ambiguity of Marriage

Marriage in western societies is an ambiguous concept. It may, for instance, be thought of in personal terms as a committed sexual relationship, in political terms as a legal institution, and in religious terms as a sacrament. That which is defined from any one of these perspectives is something quite different from the meaning embodied in each of the other perspectives. Yet this ambiguity is commonly ignored as if the word “marriage” meant the same thing whenever uttered. This blindness to ambiguity makes it possible to use religious rhetoric about sacramental marriage as if it were relevant to the political issues of the legal institution called by the same name.

Failure to distinguish between “marriage” as a religious institution and “marriage” a defined set of secular legal rights and responsibilities is incongruous on its face, since it legitimizes secular bureaucratic control over an institution thought to have been established by God with no inquiry concerning the interesting question of how human governments might have acquired such authority regarding a divine institution. Mormons of a century ago came down unambiguously in opposition to the authority of government to impose a secular definition of marriage or to limit their right to establish marriages according to their own religious conceptualization of the institution. For instance, Shoshone couples whose “marriages” had involved no religious or secular ceremony were freely admitted to membership in the church without any requirement of instituting a marriage by either a legal or religious ceremony. They were not defined as “living in sin” for the lack of either formal mechanism for defining themselves as married. Similarly, Mormon polygynous marriages did not involve a civil ceremony. Thus, a variety of ways existed for creating relationships that were considered valid bases for being said to be “married”. Their common denominator was probably nothing more than the expression of commitment to the relationship, because Mormons did distinguish in political speeches about polygamy between the legitimate sexuality of these relationships and the “fornication” or “adultery” in the uncommitted sexual liaisons of their adversaries.ii Today, the LDS church defines “chastity” in a way that incorporates the secular definition as limiting sex to a partner with whom one is “legally and lawfully” wedded. This shift in definitions deposed personal commitment as the defining essential of marriage, creating a major contrast between “married couples” and couples who, though committed, were merely “fornicators” and thereby raised the status of civil marriage to a position coequal with that of religious ceremony as the public determinants of marriage.

The contemporary ambiguous nature of the concept of marriage leaves us blind to this unasked and unanswered theological question. In LDS circles it literally “goes without saying” that secular governments have somehow been authorized by God to determine when sex is or is not sin, a sentiment that would not have been shared by LDS polygynists of the last century.

This issue can be brought into focus in several ways. From a religious perspective an LDS person might note that fornication and adultery are sins because God forbade them and that marriage, which legitimizes sex in His eyes, was instituted by God. Furthermore, marriage is a sacrament, or, in LDS terminology, a Priesthood ordinance, since the effectiveness of a sealing for eternity is contingent upon its being performed by an authorized Priesthood bearer. The question that generally remains unput in LDS circles is “Under what circumstances may sex occur outside a temple marriage and not constitute fornication or adultery?” The “LDS common sense” response to this uncommon question is, of course, when the couple is legally married in the eyes of the government of their society. But this reply seems sufficient only because it relies on an implicit LDS assumption that God recognizes the validity of secular marriage, an assumption that is both naive concerning the cultural diversity of marriage norms throughout the world and culture-bound as well. The latter is well illustrated by a case in point, the Protestant applicant for baptism into the LDS community, who at his baptismal interview inquired whether he was “living in sin”, since he and his wife of twenty-years had been married only in a non-LDS ceremony.iii To one not immersed in the “common sense” of the LDS subculture, the question was a natural one. The LDS interviewer’s response, however, was surprise at the question itself and a friendly reassurance that such was not the case.

But what is the underpinning of this LDS “common sense” view that secular marriage is efficacious in determining whether sex is sinful or acceptable to God? The case of same-sex marriage forces a confrontation with this question in a stronger way than does any other form of marriage. If a state such as Hawaii actually comes to recognize same-sex unions as legal marriages, then the usual reliance on unquestioned “common sense” fails in a religion such as Mormonism that rejects same-sex unions as inherently unchaste. It becomes logically mandatory to make a theological distinction between secular marriages performed by government that shift a cohabiting couple’s sexual behavior from the category of “fornication” to that of “chaste sex” and governmental marriages that have no such efficacy. At the very least, theological discourse must change, even if the question is not addressed head on. For instance, in a society in which same-sex and other-sex marriage are legally indistinguishable, the ambiguity of the phrase “eternal marriage” in a missionary dialogue would miscommunicate in a way which would no longer be practical. To communicate LDS theology appropriately it would be necessary to make explicit that which can remain implicit in a heterosexist culture; to communicate what is really meant, the missionary dialogue would have to speak explicitly of “eternal heterosexual marriage”. This explicitness is, of course, quite out of step with our still rather Victorian LDS sensibilities within which sex is to be euphemized if spoken of at all.


iThe Restoration Church of Jesus Christ and The Restoration Fellowship of Jesus Christ.

iiCowley, Matthias F. 1909. Wilford Woodruff. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft (1964 edition). Pp. 403-404.

iiiPersonal recollection of the event.

Crapo-R1999-LDS Doctrinal Rhetoric and the Politics of Same-Sex Marriage

Richley H. Crapo – Ministering Angels and Eunuchs for Christ: Being Mormon in the Sexual Margins

Ministering Angels and Eunuchs for Christ: Being Mormon in the Sexual Margins

Richley H. Crapo, Utah State University

c. 1998

Introduction: Personal and Social Identities

Human identity has both personal and social components. Personally, our sense of self is influenced by our subjective experience of physiological and psychological facts such as our moods, our sexual drive, and the kinds of sexual attractions that we feel. We may simply respond to these inner processes or only experience them intuitively as we act on them, or we may identify them consciously in statements such as “I am attracted to women”, “I am spiritual”, or “I am energetic and enjoy physical activity”. Such private, subjective experiences as these may influence our behavior and they may also influence our sense of self when they become objects of self-conscious reflection that can be put into words such as these.

Although the process of consciously identifying aspects of our inner selves may be, in part, based on introspection, it is typically influenced very heavily by the dialogs about identity that we hear around us in society. Thus, despite the fact that subjectively experienced facts may contribute to our personal identities, our identities are also greatly shaped by our dialogs with others and by the cultural categories and ideas about the kinds of personal “selves” that we learn by participating in those dialogs.

Each society has a variety of preexisting labels and ideas about a variety of personal identities that we may adopt when we communicate about ourselves to others. Identifying ourselves as “gay”, “straight”, “moody”, “exuberant”, or “depressed” are just five out of many such socially shared labels that may become part of our personal sense of who we are.

Other parts of our personal identities are based on the kinds of social relationships we regularly participate in. By participating in the various social roles that society makes available to us, we learn to identify ourselves in terms of these social identities when we call ourselves by the words that identify these social identities: “father”, “wife”, “Mormon”, “businessman”, “golfer”, or “lesbian” to name just six. In adopting such labels we contrast ourselves with others, demarcating the boundaries between them and ourselves: I can be a “heterosexual” as opposed to a “homosexual”, a “Mormon” instead of a “Gentile”, or a “woman” rather than a “man”. Each of our many social identities marks off part of the territory that we occupy in society at large. By becoming aware of such contrasts we gain a more conscious conceptualization of exactly who we are and where we fit in the broader landscape of society at large.

These many identities, both personal and social, are organized into a hierarchy. Some are more important, more central to our sense of self and our outlook than are others. I may view myself first and foremost as a Mormon and secondarily as one who makes his living as an academic, or I might perceive myself as primarily a social scientist who also happens to be a Mormon. One way or another, some of our identities influence our outlook on life, our understanding of things, and our values more than do others.

Society also has widely shared social values about how we should rank our different identities. Unfortunately, these socially shared values may differ from the actual, subjective rankings that inform our personal sense of who we are. When this is so, we may experience both stigma from others and subjective distress about our failure to meet the expectations of others. For instance, I may perceive myself most intensely in terms of how I make my living and be so involved in its roles that, perhaps without even consciously choosing it, my other roles–as husband or father–may come in a distant second. But if I say that being an anthropologist is more important to me than being a father, I can surely expect to hear disapproval from my wife, my children, and probably even from many fellow anthropologists as well, because this ranking is out of step with widely held social values about the importance of the family and how its roles should be prioritized over our economic identities. Stigmatizing terms such as “workaholic” testify to such social conventions, while “dedicated parent” is always a compliment.

We establish our social identities by becoming members of various social groups and participating in their dialogs about the social identities that bind their members together. In so doing, we learn to label ourselves in terms of these social identities: “I am a gay activist”, “I am a Republican”, “I’m a farmer”, or “I am an agnostic”.

Our full selves consist of many identities, including some that are personal and subjective and others that we share with others by participating in the groups that foster those social identities. When one of our many social identities is generally held by society at large to be incompatible with other social identities or with personal identities that we privately perceive ourselves to have, and especially when those incompatibilities involve identities that are central to our sense of who we really are, then the distress of cognitive dissonance is inevitable. In this paper, I will explore some of the ways that individuals attempt to cope with the dissonance that arises from being both “LDS” and “gay”.

The Identity Politics of Being Both Mormon and Same-Sex Attracted

As Geertz (1973, P. 5) so aptly noted, we symbolling animals are “suspended in webs of significance”. We fix our location within the human landscape by defining our identities with boundaries that contrast them with the alternative identities of others. Each of us is a combination of such identity markers: “I am a Mormon”, “I am an anthropologist”, “I am White”, and “I am a lesbian” are but four of the many component parts of personal identity. Sometimes these identities may form a comfortable, coherent whole. At other times, they may be in conflict. Such internal dissonance may work itself out in various ways, but the process is particularly problematic when one’s allegiance to an external institution such as a religious denomination makes the institution’s definitions of appropriate identities a source of personal intrapsychic dissonance.

In October of 1995, Elder Dallin Oaks fired a salvo in the war of words about sexual orientation. Hailed by liberal Mormons as a blow against intolerance and homophobia because it acknowledged the possible role of biology in sexual orientation and decried discrimination against “those with homosexual problems”, Elder Oaks’ article nevertheless reinforced the LDS church’s discrimination between members whose sexual drives may be channeled into heterosexually married relationships and those whose spontaneous desires may never be acted on as a source of fulfillment and love.

As do all definitions, Elder Oaks’ specifying of homosexuality as a form of orientation and behavior rather than a characteristic of persons excludes as well as it includes. In Oaks’ terminology, a homosexual orientation may not legitimately define one’s identity within the Mormon context. One may be “a Mormon with a homosexual orientation” but not “a homosexual Mormon”. Though it is true that heterosexual identity is similarly expected to be subordinated to religious values within Mormonism, heterosexuality need not be totally suppressed to maintain an acceptable religious identity. Mormonism is institutionally compatible with heterosexual dating, and the conflicts that the dating couple may experience between sexual desire and religious restraints on sexual behavior is mitigated by the possibility of heterosexual marriage within which sexual desire may eventually find fulfillment. For the homosexually-oriented member, the prospect of nonfulfillment of sexual desire must be life-long.

But sexuality plays a powerful role in the human self-concept and for Mormons whose orientation is to their own sex, placing religious identity in a more central position within self-concept is not easily done. Both religion and sexuality can be central to one’s self-concept. And when the two are at odds, the conflict allows no easy resolution. Other than complete rejection of those religious values, the conflict remains unresolved no matter how one prioritizes religion versus sexual orientation. As one gay Mormon informant explained, “The church teaches us that we are eternal beings, and I believe that. Eternal means having no beginning . . . and having no end. If we are eternal than it seems to me that our personalities and identities are eternal as well. Being gay is as much a part of my personality and who I am as any other dimension. Not only do I think I was gay in the spirit world before I came to this one, but I also believe I will be gay in the spirit world after I leave this one.” Such a view is unsurprising. After all, for most post-adolescents, sexuality and its role in relationships with others are central elements of self-image. As Calderone (1972:9) noted nearly thirty years ago, “Sexuality is the end result of sexualization which establishes the whole human being as male or female, including all . . . sex-related thoughts, fantasies, information, self-images, feelings, behavior, and experiences.” The place of sexuality in self-concept must be understood not as a self-contained intrapsychic fact, but as an element of human relationships. As Atwood and Williams (1983:56) put it: “We define ourselves in part not in reference to stereotyped roles, but in the positive or negative feelings about our biological sexuality and the expression of it to others. . . From birth this sexuality becomes an integral part of one’s capacity for tenderness, warmth, love, and intimate relationships.”

It is not surprising then that, whatever their stance on the Oaks’ statement about homosexuality and Mormonism–whether favorable or critical–sexuality is necessarily problematic for lesbian- or gay-oriented persons for whom the LDS subculture is also an important part of personal or social identity. Nowhere is the relationship between personal identity and social definitions more clearly exemplified than it is in the ways in which sexual orientation is addressed in the various discourses concerning homosexuality among persons of LDS background who are affectionally oriented towards others of their own sex.

Sexual Identity, Religious Identity and Cognitive Dissonance

The potential for dissonance between the demands of a religion and one’s personal identity is not unique to the role of sexuality in personal identity. David Knowlton’s (1992) essay on the oxymoronic dilemma of the “Mormon anthropologist” prophetically illustrated how certain professional identities may be incompatible with one’s religious tradition. But while most people are not social scientists, most do experience themselves as sexual beings and sexuality is both a powerful and important influence on self-concept and self-worth.

Religion is not an important element of personal or social identity for many people. To those for whom religion is an important part of personal or social identity, the dissonance that can exist between religious and sexual identities is a particularly strong example of the difficulties inherent in conflict between religious values and other elements of personal and social identities. As one excommunicated gay Mormon claimed, “Neither [members nor nonmembers understand] that being a Mormon is just as much a part of who I am as is being gay. It is not just the Gospel. It isn’t just the Mormon doctrine and principles. It’s part of the fabric which is made up of my memories–both happy and not so happy. It influences how I look upon others, how I perceive the world around me. It is one hell of a big chunk of my young life. How could I just throw it all away? I can’t! And I do not want to either.” Or as another put the same idea, “This is probably one of the most commonly asked questions I get, mostly from the LDS: ‘How can you be Mormon, if you’re gay?’ For some reason church members just do not ‘get’ that being Mormon goes beyond which church roster one’s name appears on.” Or, as another put it, “Being a Mormon is no more voluntary than being a man, or being gay.”

Coping Options

Kristin Severson (1998) expressed the conflict between these two competing identities for lesbian Mormons in this way:

“Identifying as both lesbian and Mormon can create a moral conflict which brings into question one’s whole conception of moral authority. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . . . works from a ‘rational’ moral authority with a ‘spiritual’ source. The leaders of the LDS Church themselves are esteemed as the moral authorities within Mormonism, chosen by God to lead.

These leaders consistently claim that homosexuality is ‘immoral,’ that is detracting from the spiritual progress of humanity. The Mormon community, as a body, rejects its members who choose to pursue sexual relations with members of their own sex. In order to process this moral conflict, lesbian Mormons may choose to continue their belief in a moral authority which rejects them, and may accept their lesbian desires as ‘sinful.’ They may alter their belief in this moral authority slightly, claiming Church authority is wrong regarding only the particular issue of homosexuality. Or lesbian Mormons might experience this moral conflict as a gateway through which they begin to address their entire spiritual belief system and their concept of moral authority” (p. 10).

In his study of LDS gays, Phillips (1993) noted that his sample included both persons who “choose to live celibate lives, attempt to change their sexual orientation, or marry heterosexually in order to maintain favor with the Mormon church” (p. vi) and those who “strive to reform the Mormon church and seek to have gay relationships sanctioned within Mormonism” (p. vi). What these attempts at reconciling sexual identity with religious preference have in common is that none is able to overcome the marginalizing effects of dissonance between a sexual identity and a religious system that marginalizes it.

Isolation and Loneliness

Phillips noted that members of his sample who abstained from sex in order to remain active in the church were generally admonished “to divulge their orientation to other church members on a ‘need to know’ basis. Depending on the bishop, this may even include members of the immediate family” (p. 94). They were also strongly advised to drop further contact with other gay people. The effect, according to Phillips, “. . . for most celibate gay Mormons is that they live solitary, lonely lives with few social outings” (p. 94) either within their religious community or outside it.

Though the LDS church does not formally encourage any member to relate to others socially in a way that explicitly highlights their sexual identity, the central role of the (heterosexually-based) family and of eternal (heterosexual) marriage covenants does enable heterosexually-attracted members to informally experience their sexual-attraction as very compatible with their social role and with their dialog with other members. This contrasts in an important way with the experience of homosexually-oriented members. The LDS church has no formal or informal means of providing fellowship to same-sex-oriented members in a way that permits them to integrate their experience of same-sex attraction with their social identities as members of a network of LDS friends at the ward level. The heterosexual presumption of LDS discourse leaves such members inevitably feeling isolated within the Church, unable either to fully identify with it’s heterosexually-oriented message or to readily communicate that sense of isolation and lack of meaningful fellowship to other members, since Mormons generally do not speak of sexual issues very directly within a Church context.

Phillips illustrates the role of loneliness by citing cases such as the informant who did volunteer work at a homeless shelter not because he cared about the work, but, as he put it, “because it gives me someone to talk to. They’re about the only ones who don’t judge me”. He also cites the gay member who drove around the streets at night looking for hitchhikers, just to have someone to talk to; and another who described the local talk radio station as his “best friend.”

Personal Adaptation of Religious Views

Being isolated within the church means that being a so-called “active member” does not necessarily imply commitment to the institution despite belief in the doctrines. One gay member pointed out, “I believe that everybody has a different understanding of Mormonism. I do have a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, but I also cannot deny the fact that I am gay. In my reconciliation, I have learned to make a separation between the Church and the gospel. I still sustain the brethren of the Church as apostles, prophets, seers and revelators. But I don’t believe that every whim that comes out of their mouths should be exercised into every individual’s personal life. . . My personal experiences have revealed to me that the Brethren are misguided on the issue of homosexuality. And perhaps other things too. The Lord has personally affirmed to me that these teachings are not right for ME. In a most convincing way, He has told me to be true to myself. In that regards, I search for a companion to share the joys of life with.” Interestingly, this adaptation subverts the anti-homosexuality values of the institution by affirming one of its own doctrines, the right of individuals to personal revelation in matters that concern their personal lives, thereby legitimating the individuals right to carve out a personal niche within an institution that does not make room for his marginal sexual identity. Yet, this resolution of gay identity with Mormon religious identity is not entirely unproblematic. The individual’s religious adaptation is only secure so long as his sexual desire remains unfulfilled. This results in a tendency to become inactive when he is involved in a loving same-sex relationship. “The reality,” he says, “is that there is really NO place for ME in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am searching for what I believe can be my ‘eternal companion.’ To be completely accepted in the Church, I must end that search. I won’t do that….”


The lack of a meaningful support network in which identity issues can be dealt with takes its toll and inevitably leads to strong feelings and innovative personal ways of reconciling orientation, spirituality, and church. As one informant told me, “I am . . . angry at and deeply disturbed by the Church for the untold suffering and destruction it has precipitated in the lives of so many of my gay brothers and sisters. I don’t apologize for those feelings. I believe in my heart that the Church is deeply mistaken concerning its attitude and policies toward homosexuality. I still have a testimony of the gospel and resent having to attempt to find another outlet for my spiritual feelings.” Even the least volatile of reconciliations of a gay identity with church membership entails at least a conscious dissonance with respect to the church, a dissonance that plays itself out either in self-deprecation or cynicism towards church leaders: The first is illustrated by the words of one member who reported, “I served for several years in high level church and stake callings,” said one gay member. “I was twice considered the man most likely to be called as the next bishop. I was never called, and I was convinced it was because the Lord knew that I was gay, even though no one else in the world did.” Or, the fault may be displaced onto the church, as when another member more wryly observed, “I was working [as an employee] in the First Presidency’s Office, Section Leader of Mormon Youth Chorus, writing RS lessons for the General Church Writing Committee, high council member, temple sealer at 35 and even Nursery Leader . . . all the while being complimented for my spirituality, devotion, etc. and knowing full well in my heart my true sexual identity. While I do not doubt the ‘goodness’ or ‘righteous intentions’ of any of us, nor any other qualifications which make us capable of serving, I find it somewhat amusing that all these calls were made after fasting, prayer and deliberation to find the most ideal candidate! I even have more personal examples of direct dealings with the brethren who were ‘impressed’ with my ‘deep spirituality’–I often wondered how impressed they would have been if they knew a ‘deeply spiritual’ man could also be ‘deeply’ gay!”

The particular difficulty of conforming to the church’s behavioral demands despite same-sex desire is poignantly expressed by one gay ex-Mormon: “I used to [actively participate in the church] for 22 years and decided that ‘no one can serve two masters…’ The energy to maintain this stance was too much for me to handle. I had been celibate for a period of six years and had been through all kinds of reparative therapy and psychotherapy plus I am a psychotherapist myself. I found that I would move into fear at the thought of being found out and I would often go through guilt trips and depression because of my so-called unrighteous thoughts and desires to love and be loved by another man. . . I made the conscious choice to leave this time last year because the Spirit told me it is time to go.”


The “at-odds-ness” between the gay identity and feeling full fellowship is clearly demonstrated by those who are assertive about their right to a sexually fulfilling life yet still maintain their activity within the church. Answering the question of how he manages both, one gay member explained, “The way I do it is to be firmly convinced the Church is wrong on this point, and I know that from personal revelation. Having served in bishoprics, mission, etc., I know that the church is run by well-meaning and sincere amateurs who do their best but are human. That also helps. I attend church regularly in my small inner-city branch . . . . The branch president ‘knows’ [that I am sexually active] but I have stood firm that I will participate as much as I am allowed without answering questions about my personal sex life. I know I can’t get into the temple without answering such questions, so I don’t ask for a recommend. The result, sadly, is that I’m there every week with about 40 other people and I have yet been asked to say a prayer, speak, teach, or pass the sacrament. Still, I have the gospel, the scriptures, and my prayers. Some day it may change. Maybe not. I am content either way in God’s love and the warmth of his arms around me.”


More often, an assertive validation of one’s sexual identity is found to be more compatible with the marginal role of a “disengaged” Mormon. In this route, fellowship is found in alternative social settings, sometimes by simply “coming out” and going it alone, but other times by shifting to a “gay-friendly” denomination (such as the Metropolitan Community Church or the Restoration Church of Jesus Christ) or by finding a support network among other sexually active gays who still also identify with their Mormon religious or cultural heritage. The first route, “coming out” on one’s own appears to be most associated with embittered feelings towards one’s Mormon past. A second-hand account of one such case is illustrative: “I’ve known one gay man who was a bishop, married, successful, very handsome. He has expressed to me his regret for excommunicating a gay man from his ward when he was trying to be straight. Since coming out he has become so totally intolerant of anyone who is Mormon, and anyone who says that not all Mormons are that way.”

Organizations such as Affirmation and internet lists such as Q-Saints provide a setting in which persons of Mormon background can find their sexuality validated. These groups draw heavily on mainstream American gay-supportive discourse as a basis for discussing their sexuality and the conflicts it has presented for them within the church. Wasatch Affirmation exemplifies this approach. Its mission statement says it “. . . aims to provide a safe, inclusive space for gay men and lesbians from Mormon backgrounds who live along the Wasatch front. We affirm that a gay/lesbian lifestyle can be a positive one and that homosexuality is not incompatible with spirituality. At the same time, we are a diverse group who embrace a variety of lifestyles and hold a variety of attitudes towards spirituality, religion, morality and politics. We are united chiefly by our desire to interact with others who share our dual background–Mormon and gay/lesbian–and therefore share the unique struggles and blessings which that duality engenders.”

Religious Identity Center Stage: Heterosexual Temple Marriage

Other gay members seek to fully implement the heterosexist ideals of the church into their own lives, through sexual abstinence, service within the church, and heterosexual temple marriage. Yet, even this route of full conformity to the outward trappings of Mormonism is recognized as one that involves compromising one’s psychological identity: “The woman that I will marry will not fulfill my sexual desires entirely, but will feed me what I need from her. Together we will strive to be a ‘whole’. And it will be enough to help me endure to the end.” That such ideals face conflicts with practical reality is stated more directly by another: “I am 25, LDS with a rock solid testimony and planning on a life of celibacy to honor my Temple covenants. But to be realistic being alone is very hard if not impossible, but it is worth a try, and it is what I feel Heavenly Father wants me to do.”

Clearly, this alternative is not an easy one for persons whose spontaneous desire is toward their own sex. Nor is it always successful. As one man stated, “I thought when I was younger that I was bisexual, that I could CHOOSE the only option the church gave me of heterosexual monogamy. Maybe I just wanted to believe it. I certainly believed that when I went to the temple before my mission, and I believed it when I married. But in the intimacy of a shared life, I couldn’t sustain it. I’m still married, I’m still at home and am trying to do so until June when our younger daughter graduates. This last year brought me disfellowshipment, passage through depression, thoughts of suicide, therapy, and a new sense of self and peace on the inside. I’m going to be alright. And both God and the Spirit never left me. I am looking for a new spiritual home.”


Despite its heterosexist theology and despite its self-portrayal as a highly unified religious subculture, Mormonism is not one thing for all members, and the gay, lesbian, and bisexual margins which it, in fact, includes are themselves quite diverse. The diverse adaptations that arise from the conflicts between official Mormon theology and same-sex desire is particularly dramatic and serves well as a type-case for the general issue of of dissonance between personal and social identities.


Atwood, Mary Ellen, and Jean Williams. (1983). “Human Sexuality: An Important Aspect of Self-Image”. In Young Children. Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Calderone, Mary. (1972). “It’s Society That Is Changing Sexuality.” The Center Magazine Vol. V., No. 4, pp. 58-68.

Geertz, Clifford. (1973). “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight”, Daedalus, Vol 101, Pp. 1-37.

Knowlton, David. (1992). “No One Can Serve Two Masters: Or Native Anthropologist as Oxymoron”, International Journal of Moral and Social Studies, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Spring), Pp. 72-88.

Oaks, Dallin. (1995). “Same-Gender Attraction,” The Ensign (October), Pp. 7-14.

Phillips, Richard D. (1993). Prophets and Preference: Constructing and Maintaining a Homosexual Identity in the Mormon Church. Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Sociology, Utah State University.

Severson, Kristen. (1998). “Lesbian Mormons and the Morality of Conflicting Identities,” Off Our Backs, (January), pp. 10-12.

Crapo-R1998-Ministering Angels and Eunuchs for Christ-Being Mormon in the Sexual Margins

Richley Crapo: Chronology Of Mormon / LDS Involvement In Same-Sex Marriage Politics

Chronology Of Mormon / LDS Involvement In Same-Sex Marriage Politics

Richley H. Crapo, Utah State University

  • 1988 – The Church contracts the Hawaii marketing agency, Hill and Knowlton, to monitor and promote the Church’s stance on gay issues in state legislatures and the U.S. Congress. One function of working through a nonmainland marketing agency was that the name of the Church was separated from the legislative efforts that the firm undertook.
  • Dec 1990 – Three same-sex couples apply for marriage licenses at the Hawaii State Department of Health and are refused. They file suit in a case now known as Baehr v. Miike (originally Baehr v. Lewin).. The Hawaii marriage law does not specify anything about the sex of the parties, because the Hawaii constitution forbids any laws that discriminate by sex. They argue that since the refusal to issue a license was because they are not couples of two sexes, this refusal is sex discrimination under the law. Nota bene: their suit does NOT raise any issue concerning discrimination based on their sexual orientation. Indeed, their sexual orientation is NOT indicated in their suit. So sexual orientation is not technically an issue in the case.
  • Sep 1991 – Circuit court Judge Kevin Klein dismisses the case, and the couples appeal to the Hawaii Supreme Court.
  • Oct 1992 – The Baehr case is heard before the Hawaii Supreme Court.
  • 5 May 1993 – The Hawaii Supreme Court rules that the state’s refusal to issue marriage licenses constitutes sex discrimination under Hawaii law. As such, the discrimination may only be practiced if the state can demonstrate a “compelling public interest” in denying marriage to same-sex couples. The Supreme Court returns the case to the circuit court to issue a new decision based on whether such a compelling interest exists.
  • 5 May 1993 – Apostle Boyd K. Packer gives an address at a meeting of the All-Church Coordinating Council and refers to homosexuality as one of the three major social problems that represent a danger to members.
  • 1993 – present – Following this court decision, the Hawaii legislature becomes embroiled in competing measures, including a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex unions. Generally, none of the proposed actions is successful because the Senate and House are unable to agree on whose version should be accepted. Typically, the House versions are the more conservative.
  • 14 Feb 1994 – The First Presidency issues a statement that reads, in part, “We encourage members to appeal to legislators, judges, and other government officials to preserve the purposes and sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, and to reject all efforts to give legal authorization or other official approval or support to marriages between persons of the same gender.”
  • ca Feb 1995 – Brigham Young University President and later Regional Representative Rex E. Lee allowed by LDS headquarters to serve as a legal counsel to aid the state of Colorado in it’s defense of its recently passed constitutional amendment forbidding laws which grant civil rights protections based on sexual orientation.
  • 23 Feb 1995 – The Hawaii Public Affairs Council issues a news release under LDS Church letterhead. In it church spokesperson Ms. Napua Baker announced that the Church had decided to petition the court to be admitted as “codefendants” with the state in the Baehr v. Lewin case in order to “protect freedom of religion to solemnize marriages between a man and a woman under Hawaiian law.” LDS Regional Representative Donald Hallstrom reinforced the importance of this move by the church, saying “There are times when certain moral issues become so compelling that the churches have a duty to make their feelings known.”
  • Feb/Mar 1995 – In the petition which was filed soon after the announcement by the Hawaii Public Affairs Council, the church argued that if same-sex marriage were legalized, (1) it feared that the state would revoke its ministers’ licenses to perform marriages, (2) the church would become subject to lawsuits charging discrimination when its ministers refused to perform same-sex marriages, and (3) because the church could help the Attorney General’s office to present a more complete case than would otherwise be done, given the limited time and resources available to the AG.
  • Mar 1995 – The Circuit Court of Hawaii rejects the church’s petition to become a party to the Baehr case. The judge ruled that the request was without merit, since nothing in the licensing law REQUIRES a minister to perform ANY marriage in behalf of the state, rather it merely PERMITS them to do so when it is in harmony with their religious practice and belief. Any requirement of the kind feared by the LDS church would be a violation of freedom of religion. The judge further pointed out that although the LDS church, like any individual or organization, might be the subject of a frivolous law suit, the grounds stated in the church’s petition would be without legal merit and thus, this fear, did not constitute grounds for being considered a party to the case. The church had, in other words, failed to demonstrate that it had any “property” in the issues under consideration. Finally, the church, according to the judge, failed in its petition to demonstrate that its arguments against same-sex merit were ones that had not already been raised by the state. The Church appealed this decision to the Hawaii Supreme Court.
  • Mar 1995 – Apostle Dallin Oaks begins work on an article on same-sex attraction (personal communication) that will be published in October.
  • 17 Mar 1995 – Utah’s LDS governor, Michael Leavitt, signs the country’s first DOMA legislation which indicated that the state of Utah recognizes only marriages between persons of different sex, including those that might be performed in other states.
  • early in 1995 – Hawaii Governor John Waihe`e organizes an eleven-member Governor’s Commission on Sexual Orientation and the Law and specifically includes two LDS and two Roman Catholic members to represent their religions’ views.
  • Apr 1995 – Hawaii legislature rewords Revised Statue 572-1 to define marriage in terms of one man and one woman.
  • Sep 1995 – Original Governor’s Commission disbanded after the appointment of Mormon and Catholic members was successfully challenged as a violation of the separation of church and state, and a new seven-member commission is set up, using a different procedure.
  • 23 Sep 1995 – The First Presidency and the Quorum of Twelve Apostles issue a joint “Proclamation on the Family” in which they “solemnly proclaim that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children” and further declare “that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.”
  • Oct 1995 – “Same-Gender Attraction” by Apostle Dallin Oaks published in the Ensign. The article makes the point that the concept of “homosexual” or “lesbian” as a kind of person is incompatible with LDS theology. Rather the terms should be reserved for use as adjectives that refer to kinds of behavior.
  • Nov 1995 – General Authority Loren C. Dunn, member of the First Quorum of Seventy and president of the North America West Area, formally appoints a Salt Lake City advertising executive and his wife to do several months of volunteer work for Hawaii’s Future Today. This is part of a process in which other families with expertise of use to political action campaigns are being “called” on short-term missions to support the work of Hawaii’s Future Today. The date for the first of these “calls” is not clear.
  • 8 Dec 1995 – Report of the Governor’s Commission on Sexual Orientation and the Law is issued. The 400+ page report concludes that the state of Hawaii has no compelling interest in refusing to recognize same-sex marriages.
  • late Dec 1995 – An announcement is made that Jack Hoag (the Church’s lawyer in Hawaii, CEO of First Hawaiian Bank, the President and Chairman of Hawaii Reserves, Inc., and member of the Board of Regents of the University of Hawaii, Manoa) is working on something important, possibly the creation of Hawaii’s Future Today (personal communication from Bill Woods, organizer of GLEA (Gay and Lesbian Education and Advocacy) FOUNDATION and the HAWAII MARRIAGE PROJECT that brought together the three couples that initiated the court case in behalf of same-sex marriage.)
  • January 1996 – First press release from Jack Hoag and Debbie Hartmann (chair of Hawaii’s Future Today and a staff member of BYU-Hawaii campus and prior member of the Board of Education, currently finishing her PhD in psychology with a focus on gay parenting)concerning legislative issues (personal communication from Bill Woods)
  • 23 Jan 1996 – The Hawaii Supreme Court rejects the church’s appeal of the circuit court’s denial of the church’s petition to become a party to the Baehr case, and the court reiterates the reasons given by the circuit court as valid.
  • 28 Jan 1996 – North America West Area Presidency (Loren C. Dunn, President) sends a letter to be read in all California wards, urging members to express their support for legislation against recognition of same-sex marriages being considered in the state.
  • Feb 1996 – President Hinckley travels to Hawaii and confers with Catholic bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo on plans for a common campaign against same-sex marriage. The meeting takes place on LDS property in Laie on the north shore of Oahu.
  • ca. Feb 1996 – The LDS church instructs its contracted marketing agency in Hawaii, Hill and Knowlton, to develop a plan for setting up a group, now known as Hawaii’s Future Today, to serve as the formal lobbying group which will approach the legislature, the courts, and the public on issues regarding same-sex marriage. Hill and Knowlton had been contracted several years earlier by the Church to monitor and promote its efforts in state legislatures and the U.S. Congress. It’s top heads are now offered “unlimited funds” to develop and conduct the marriage campaign in Hawaii. The marketing agency completes the initial planning and then bows out of further work, fearing potential repercussions from its other clients, who include gay-rights interests. Linda Rosehill, a professional lobbyist and employee of another marketing agency was contracted to carry out the implementation of the original plan. Later, the agency itself disavowed any company connection, although the staff member had worked on the project using company office facilities. The staff person was also the National Committeewoman of the Hawaii Democratic Party. When her role in creating the Church lobbying organization came to light there was a move to find a replacement for her Democratic position. She lost the next election in about a 70-30 split of votes by the convention body. The sole issue in the race was her covert work in creating the lobbying organization, Hawaii’s Future Today, an activity which was held to be unethical by her opponents.
  • The costs for setting up Hawaii’s Future Today and facilities for its use were provided by the church and by Hawaii Reserves, a property management company that is solely church-owned, and which took over the properties previously managed by Zion’s Securities. Hawaii Reserves paid the initial bills from the first marketing agency and the consultant’s fees from the Democratic party’s National Committeewoman. One of the largest contributors to Hawaii’s Future Today is the political action committee Hana Pono (named for the LDS hymn “Do What is Right!”) which had been organized by the LDS church on 21 August 1977 to spearhead its anti-ERA political efforts in Hawaii. Hana Pono contributes $1,869.95 during first year’s efforts.
  • Once organized, Hawaii’s Future Today, under the direction of Jack Hoag and Debbie Hartman, began its public advocacy of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and of a constitutional convention to write this same ban into the Hawaii state constitution. (Currently the Hawaii constitution bans ANY law that uses sex as a distinction. This is why the marriage law does not specify anything about the sex of applicants for marriage licenses.) It also files amicus curiae briefs along side the LDS church in the court cases that follow, a bit odd, since both groups make the same points in their briefs.
  • After Jack Hoag’s LDS connection is highlighted in the media, he is replaced as President of Church-owned Hawaii Reserves. The new President is Dan Ditto, the Church’s lawyer who supervised the marketing agency’s work in planning the establishment of Hawaii’s Future Today. Reports about the activities of Hawaii’s Future Today in LDS affiliated newspapers, such as Garden Island, avoid mentioning the organization’s LDS origins and affiliation, so this change was perhaps to help perpetuate the image of Hawaii’s Future Today as a grass-roots movement.
  • HFT reports receiving $31,000 in donations prior to 11 May 1996. Of this, one donation is in the amount of $29,000. There is a $1,000 donation cap on moneys received by political-action groups in Hawaii, so this donation would be problematic if HFT is defined as a political-action organization.
  • 16 Feb 1996 – Rex E. Lee, issues a position paper arguing for the limitation of marriage to opposite-sex partners.
  • 9 May 1996 – Hawaii’s Future Today places political ads in Hawaii’s two daily newspapers at a cost of over $1,000. Representative Terrance Thom, supported in these ads, wins his reelection by 54 votes. The Senate Judiciary Chair who opposed this group’s political position and was opposed by the ad lost his re-election bid.
  • 21 May 1996 – Hawaii’s Campaign Spending Commission mails a complaint to Hawaii’s Future Today that indicates that the ads are in violations of Hawaii’s regulations governing spending in political campaigns, indicates the fines for such a violation and explains that Hawaii’s Future Today must file the required papers to register as a political-action committee. Follow-up letters dated 20 Jun repeats the information about the complaint. Hawaii’s Future Today does not respond by registering as a political-action organization, but asserts that it does not plan to involve itself in lobbying or campaigning for candidates.
  • Jun 1966 – LDS headquarters acknowledges that it has been “calling” married couples with political action and advertising expertise on short-term missions to aid the work of Hawaii’s Future Today.
  • 9 May thru 11 Jul period – Jack Hoag, co-Chair of HFT, made several public statements stating that HFT would be endorsing and backing political candidates.
  • 11 Jul 1996 – The Campaign Spending Commission sends another follow-up letter to Hawaii’s Future Today about the complaint concerning its 9 May ads. It indicates that because it understands that it believed that Hawaii’s Future Today “did not intend, nor plan to engage in any activity as” such a political organization it would not require their registration as a political organization.
  • Aug/Sep 1996 – The church and Hawaii’s Future Today submit amicus curiae briefs to Judge Chang of the Circuit Court of Hawaii in the Baehr case making the same appeals against same-sex marriage. Both argue that “traditional marriage” is in itself a compelling state interest that justifies sex discrimination in marriage, an argument that had been explicitly rejected by the Hawaii Supreme Court earlier.
  • About this time, Jack Hoag and Mike Gabbard, LDS chair of Alliance for Traditional Marriage, cooperate to form a PAC called Save Traditional Marriage-’98 to lobby against same-sex marriage. Hawaii’s Future Today donates $1,000 to Save Traditional Marriage-’98. Several principals of HFT also make personal donations. STM-’98 also receives a $200 donation from the Australian Consulate, a violation of Hawaii law that forbids accepting contributions from foreign countries. Linda Rosehill, the lawyer who set up HFT, becomes the coordinator of contribution efforts for STM-’98.
  • Sep 1996 – Baehr trial begins in Circuit Court of Hawaii, Judge Kevin Chang presiding. The trial lasts two weeks.
  • Dr. Richard Williams, a Professor of Psychology from Brigham Young University testifies as an expert witness for the state. Having examined 20-30 research studies of children reared by gay and lesbian parents, he critiques nine of them for having methodological flaws. He also testifies that he is generally skeptical of the social and behavioral sciences as valid sources of information about human families, that social science (including psychology) is so flawed that no fix, reconciliation or overhaul can correct it, that he doubts the ultimate value of psychology and other social sciences, and that he believes that there is no scientific proof that evolution occurred. He also admits that his own critique of studies regarding gay and lesbian parenting is a minority position.
  • 24 Oct 1996 – Hawaii’s Future Today sends out a letter soliciting its members to participate in Save Traditional Marriage-’98’s Steve Covey seminar dinners.
  • 5 Nov 1996 – Hawaiians vote on a measure to call a constitutional convention for the state. The vote is 163,869 in favor of the convention, and 160,153 opposed, with 45,295 ballots being blank and 90 marked both as in favor and as opposed. On advise of the Attorney General, election controller Duayne Yoshina declares the convention mandated, but the count is challenged by the AFL-CIO in a lawsuit filed on 25 November.
  • 03 Dec 1996 – Judge Chang of the Circuit Court of Hawaii finds in favor of the same-sex plaintiffs. Judge Chang explicitly rejects the “expert” testimony of Dr. Williams, saying that his testimony “is not persuasive or believable because of his expressed bias against the social sciences” and that his own testimony therefore impeached his credibility as an expert witness concerning social science. Judge Chang concludes that since the state has failed to demonstrate a compelling interest in denying marriage to same-sex couples, the plaintiffs prevail. The case is immediately appealed to the Hawaii Supreme Court.
  • Jan 1997 – North America Northwest Area Presidency (Glenn L. Pace, William Kerr, and C. Scott Grow) send a letter to be read in all Washington state wards, urging members to express their support to government leaders for legislation against the recognition of same-sex marriages being considered in the state. The letter uses the same boilerplate as the 28 Jan 1996 letter mailed in California, indicating coordination of the action from a higher level than the Area Presidencies.
  • 21 Jan 1997 – Debbie Hartmann, chair of Hawaii’s Future Today testifies before the House committee in support of a constitutional amendment permitting the legislature to limit marriage to “one man and one woman”. Her testimony includes the following remarks concerning HB 118 (which would establish domestic partnerships for non-heterosexually married partners): “With respect to HB118, which would provide certain benefits to unmarried couples, as also noted in our testimony, while we do not support any type of legislation that would undermine the special relationship of marriage between one man and one woman, certain elements of the bill are acceptable. We support the type of humanitarian benefits the bill addresses and the fact that it applies to all people.”
  • 3 Feb 1997 – Debbie Hartmann testifies before the Senate committee in support of the constitutional amendment and repeats HFT’s qualified support for the Reciprocal Beneficiaries bill (HB 118). The Reciprocal Beneficiaries bill and the constitutional amendment are both passed by the legislature on the same day. It’s final wording is, “The legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples”. This amendment must be ratified by a majority vote of the citizens in the next general election in November of 1997.
  • 7 Mar 1997 – President Gordon B. Hinckley formally discloses in a newspaper interview published in the LA Times that the church had made a commitment at the top levels to play an active role in the same-sex marriage issue: “`We’re engaged right now in the same-sex marriage problem in legislation in Hawaii,’ Hinckley said. `We just made a decision today concerning the filing of a brief in that case. That’s spreading around the country now pretty largely and we’ve become rather actively involved in that kind of thing,’ he said” (LA Times, 7 March 1997, Page B-1).
  • 24 Mar 1997 – In a decision written by Judge C.J. Moon, the Hawaii Supreme Court decides that a vote held during the preceding general election on whether to hold a constitutional convention failed to secure enough yes votes, since the Hawaii constitution requires the majority on any constitutional question to be the majority of all ballots cast, not just of all marked ballots. This decision is challenged by convention supporters in the federal courts.
  • 3 Apr 1997 – It is reported by the media that Jack Hoag and Debbie Hartmann have been telling legislators that they will implicitly accept domestic partnership legislation in order to prevent same-sex marriage from becoming legal.
  • 16 Apr 1997 – Debbie Hartmann states HFT’s support for Gay family health insurance to legislators and reporters.
  • 16 Apr 1997 – Hawaii legislature passes an amendment to the Hawaii constitution that reads “The legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples”. This amendment requires ratification by a vote of the people. The vote is scheduled for the following general election, in November of 1998.
  • 28 Apr 1997 – Reciprocal Beneficiaries bill passed and will take effect 1 July 1997. The revised version of the bill which was passed has been expanded to include all domestic partners who may not legally marry (eg., a widowed woman and her co-resident son, a brother and sister, or two persons of the same sex).
  • Jun 1997 – Consistent with their prior qualified acceptance of HB 118, Hawaii’s Future Today does NOT lobby for a veto of the Reciprocal Beneficiaries Bill.
  • ca 1 Jun 1997 – Duane D. Feekin, President and CEO of Bank of Hawaii, writes to Governor Cayetano requesting a veto of HB 118 because of its “flawed language that will create much confusion and mistrust within our communities”, its early effective date (1 July 1997) “which does not allow for adequate research to fully understand the impact on the many sectors which make up the Hawaii community”, and “the full [economic] impact of this Bill has yet to be determined.” The financial impact concern is due to the fact that the bill has been expanded to cover more than the small number of same-sex couples that the bill was originally aimed at. Feekin’s letter is written in his role as chair of the Hawaii Business Health Council and the letterhead lists thirty prominent businesses (mostly tourist-related) as members. The council is not listed in the telephone directory or registered with the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii or Small Business Hawaii, raising the suspicion that the council was formed to create the appearance of business opposition to the Reciprocal Beneficiaries legislation by an organization other than First Hawaiian Bank, the actual initiator of the letter (a charge made by an unidentified bank officer to Bill Woods.). Jack Hoag, cochair of HFT, is a member of the Board of the First Hawaiian Bank and its previous CEO.
  • 10 Jun 1997 – ITT Sheraton’s Hawaii Region announces that it is terminating its membership in the Hawaii Business Health Council because it (1) was unaware of the letter to the Governor of Hawaii or the organization’s position regarding reciprocal benefits and the same-sex marriage legislation, (2) was not advised or consulted on the matter addressed in the letter, and (3) had not seen the letter.
  • 23 June 1997 – Deadline for veto of Reciprocal Beneficiaries. Governor Cayetano allows the bill to become law without his signature in protest over its expansion to include couples other than committed gays and lesbians.
  • 1 July 1997 – Reciprocal Beneficiaries law goes into effect. Application forms are distributed by Governor’s office.
  • 10 Jul 1997 – U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra orders Hawaii to hold a new vote on holding a constitutional convention. He finds that the U.S. constitutional guarantee that citizens have the right to know the effect of their vote has been violated because election judges had informed voters that unmarked ballots would not be counted in determining whether the majority of votes favored a convention. Judge Ezra orders the new vote to be held by 6 December 1997, which would result in a convention being held in June of 1998 if the measure passes.
  • 20 Jul 1997 – Hawaii’s Future Today’s chair, Debbie Hartmann, asserts that “The organization has always supported rights for homosexuals in areas traditionally covered by civil rights–equal access to employment, housing, and public services such as transportation. The issue of marriage, however, is something completely different.” (Letters to the Editor, Honolulu Advertiser, Honolulu, Hawaii).
  • Unknown at this time Hawaii Supreme Court is expected to take up the state’s appeal of the Circuit Court decision in the Baehr case. If this occurs and the Court upholds Judge Chang’s decision, same-sex marriages will become legal in Hawaii.
  • by 6 Dec 1997 – Date set by Judge Ezra for vote on the holding of a constitutional convention. If passed, this convention would be held in June of 1998 and would likely alter the state constitution to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples.
  • 14 May 1998 – W.E. Woods reports that Save Traditional Marriage-’98’s report to the Hawaii Ethics Commission indicated donations from the following LDS sources: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ($4,225), POLYNESIAN CULTURAL CENTER ($1,025), BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY – HAWAII ($1,200); HAWAII’S RESERVE, INC. [the LDS Church-owned land management corporation] ($1,000); and LAIE COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION [an appointed unit of HAWAII RESERVES, INC] ($1,000)). This does not include officers of said organizations which are also to be calculated in aggregate amounts – JACK HOAG, Chair of HAWAII RESERVES, INC. contributor of $400 and DEBI HARTMANN, BYU-HAWAII $400; GEORGE SHEA $200 (all known to be directly linked to these organizations). Total of $5,225 does not include others who may also be connected such as family members, staff and other personnel of Mormon owned or controlled entities.
  • abt Jun 1998 – Debi Hartman, co-chair of HFT becomes a candidate for the Hawaii Senate. Her campaign manager is Linda Rosehill.
  • 5 Nov 1998 – Voters will cast ballots on the constitutional amendment to authorize the legislature to limit marriage to “opposite-sex marriage”. If ratified, same-sex marriages may still be performed until the legislature imposes such a limitation, a limitation that the Senate is not likely to support.

Crapo-R1997-Chronology of LDS Involvement In Same-Sex Marriage Politics