When the Mormon Church called upon its members to "do all you can" to back California's proposed gay-marriage ban, it inspired Utah entrepreneur Bruce Bastian.
He donated $1 million — to the opposition.
In one fell swoop of his pen, the WordPerfect co-founder outspent all Utah donors — 37 of them — who have pitched in $120,550 to push Proposition 8, a ballot measure seeking to eliminate California's current recognition of same-sex couples marriages. The outcome could wind up framing the issue for other states.
Bastian, a former Mormon who is openly gay, made a smaller donation of $5,000 to the Human Rights Campaign's "No on Prop 8" committee earlier, in May, but he was "upset" when the LDS Church issued its statement in June urging members to back the proposed constitutional amendment. So he upped the ante with a seven-figure check.
The Mormon church "has no business (sticking) their big nose in something that's a legal matter, not a religious matter," Bastian said. "Constitutions are meant to protect minorities, not to take rights away from people."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on its Web site, directs members who want to support Prop 8 to visit ProtectMarriage.com, which operates from Sacramento. Mormonsfor8. com, a Web site tracking Mormon donors through Internet research and word of mouth, pegs overall Mormon support as much higher.
The group has identified about a third of donors backing Prop 8 as Mormon, with their contributions reaching close to $5 million.
"If we could identify every Mormon, I think that probably 85 to 90 percent of the donors (to ProtectMarriage.com) would be Mormon," said Cedar City, Utah resident Nadine Hansen, creator of Mormonsfor8.com.ProtectMarriage.com. spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns acknowledged that a large number of the group's 25,000 volunteers, who spend weekends canvassing neighborhoods and making phone calls, are Mormon.
"We have had a great amount of support from the LDS Church," she said, "just as we have from the Catholic Church, the evangelical Christian community and other faiths."
"Californians are sick and tired of the court system sticking it to the voters," she said, noting that voters passed a law banning gay marriage in 2000 that, earlier this year, was overturned by the California Supreme Court.
Marriage between a man and a woman, she added, "is the definition that is healthiest for our society and that is the definition that is healthiest for our children."
In its June 30 statement, the LDS Church said its position on the "moral issue" of marriage is "unequivocal."
"Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the formation of families is central to the creator's plan for his children."