LOS ANGELES — Mormons and gay activists clashed over same-sex marriage Nov. 6 at the Mormon temple in Los Angeles in a skirmish that attracted about 1,000 protesters angry at the passage of California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage.
Los Angeles police said two demonstrators were arrested during the tense protest in front of the Mormon temple on Santa Monica Boulevard, near the gay and lesbian enclave of West Hollywood. Police said they also took witness statements about possible hate crimes from gay and lesbian protesters claiming they were assaulted by counter-demonstrators near the temple.
TV news footage showed several young Pacific Islanders tearing down pro-same sex marriage signs placed on the temple ground’s fencing and also arguing with protesters. Mormon church spokesman Keith Atkinson said the Pacific Islanders’ behavior may have been “uncharacteristic of our people, but I know that emotions are running high.”
Police formed a skirmish line dividing both sides, with hundreds of protesters outnumbering the handful of Mormons. No vandalism was reported, though Atkinson said some graffiti was found on the edge of temple property.
Proposition 8 passed Nov. 4 with 52.5 percent of California voters approving a ban on same-sex marriage, effectively overturning the state Supreme Court’s landmark ruling last May that allowed gay and lesbian couples to marry. Attorneys representing gay rights groups have filed several lawsuits challenging the measure, but gay and lesbian leaders are particularly angry at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its strong support of the measure.
“The majority of the donations that came to the Yes on 8 campaign came from members of the Mormon church,” said Lori Jean, executive officer of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, at a press conference.
Atkinson said 40 percent of the funding in support of the measure came from Mormons but he added, “The church hasn’t given money to the campaign. These were individual members.”
Mormons were particularly offended by a No-on-8 TV commercial this week that depicted two Mormon missionaries invading a lesbian couple’s home and destroying their marriage certificate. California’s Catholic bishops also denounced the TV spot as a “blatant display of religious bigotry and intolerance.”