The Aisle Steat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape
Send this page to Twitter!  

THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


8: The Mormon Proposition

Like many people, I was gobsmacked to hear the news that California's Proposition 8 - the one amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages - had passed. California is a notoriously liberal state, and it seemed like an idea whose time had come. Not in the Bible Belt perhaps, but certainly in the bastian of anything-goes. It was a no-brainer. Then the unexpected happened, and Prop 8 passed. The nightly news was filled with footage of people wrapped in each other's arms, crying, asking how this could have happened. According to the new documentary 8: The Mormon Proposition, the Mormon Church happened. Directed by Reed Cowan and narrated by Oscar-winning Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, the film builds a case that the Morman religion has been waging a secret war against gay rights for years, with the battle over same-sex marriages as their greatest victory thus far.

Much of 8 rests on the work of a former Republican political consultant turned gay rights activist named Fred Karger. Through his organization, Californians Against Hate, he came into possession of a detailed strategy guide the Mormon Church had put together to outline their plan for getting Prop 8 passed. It involved putting up millions of dollars to create what would appear to the public to be a grassroots campaign against the gay marriage initiative. Working in collusion with the Catholic Church and a "coalition" that was really a front, the Mormon Church paid for misleading advertisements, some of which went so far as to claim that personal religious freedoms would be taken away should Prop 8 be voted down. The claims were spurious at best; at worst, the church-funded lobbying was - as one interview subject points out - a violation of the separation of church and state.

8: The Mormon Proposition disassembles the plan in a straightforward manner that makes a lot of political maneuvering easy to understand. It's hard not to be shocked by how vehemently the Morman Church went about getting Prop 8 passed. There is a section of the movie that explains what Mormons believe and why they so strongly have anti-gay feelings. (And like it or not, they have every right to believe what they choose to believe.) In short, it involves an afterlife where one lives in a private palace with many wives. Homosexuality doesn't fit into that belief, and so it is considered to be against God's will. Another belief is that the elders of the church are spoken to directly by God himself, so when, during the time of that ballot, they asked Mormons around the country to contribute money to the campaign, it was seen as an order that could not be refused.

This leads to the final - and most powerful - section of 8, in which we meet and hear about some young Mormons who also happen to be gay. Trapped in a religion that is essentially quite hostile to them, many gay Mormons turn to suicide, in the belief that they are not worthy of their faith, their families, or their God. Is it completely fair to blame a religious organization for the suicides of some of its members? Not entirely - personal accountability must always be taken into account. Regardless, it's hard not to be affected by the feelings of institutional rejection we hear expressed.

Of course, the Mormon Church denied all interview requests, so no one from that organization appears on camera to respond to any of the allegations. This being the case, I kind of wish the film had put a Michael Moore-type provocateur on camera to try to corner some of the organization's leaders. As it stands, this is a very solid and provocative documentary, but it might have been a great one had it tried to hold the Mormon Church accountable for its practices.

8: The Mormon Proposition is in select theaters now, and it will be released on DVD July 13. Perhaps the thing the film does best is to put a human face on the issue, to show us individuals (and couples) who were directly affected by the passing of Prop 8. It points out what gay marriage critics forget: this issue is about people, not homosexuality. Gay people, like all of us, have feelings, fall in love, and want to commit their lives to those who mean the most to them. In a world that often seems to be full of hate, is it so wrong to grant people the right to express love?

( out of four)

8: The Mormon Proposition is unrated but contains some adult language. The running time is 1 hour and 20 minutes.