Religious voters disagree on same-sex marriage ban

More than 14,000 people have signed a petition scheduled for delivery today to the Mormon temple in West Los Angeles. The letter asks the president-prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to stop the church's fundraising and organizing efforts in support of Proposition 8. The proposed statewide ban on same-sex marriage has engaged religious believers on both sides of the debate. KPCC's Brian Watt talked with active members of two faiths, who hold different opinions on the rights of same-sex couples to marry.

Brian Watt: At a recent public hearing in downtown Los Angeles, many of the speakers for and against Proposition 8 mentioned their faith traditions. Marvin Perkins drove from Valencia to explain that Proposition 8 is about a child's need to have a mother and a father. He reared one son as a single dad, and two more kids entered his life in his current marriage.

Marvin Perkins: I can see now all of the things that my son did not receive because he did not have a mother in the home.

Watt: Perkins is an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His church's leaders have taken a strong stance in favor of Prop 8, and members like Perkins have responded. Mormons have registered voters, knocked on doors, and staffed phone banks.

Their money represents at least 40 percent of the Yes on 8 campaign's financial support. Perkins says he and hundreds of thousands more people will contribute their spiritual will through a symbolic fast.

Perkins: The method of fasting that we do as Latter-day Saints will simply be to skip two meals. We won't have food or drink for 24 hours. And during that time, it will be filled with prayer. And with petitioning the Lord for his favor in this.

Watt: Proposition 8 would amend the state's constitution to recognize only marriages between men and women. It would overturn this year's California Supreme Court ruling that granted same-sex couples the right to marry.

Like many supporters of Prop 8, Marvin Perkins lists what he believes will go wrong if it doesn't pass: a first grade class trip to San Francisco City Hall to witness a same-sex wedding, and lawsuits against clergy and denominations that refuse to preside over similar ceremonies.

Perkins: So parents' rights are not protected. And kids rights won't be protected, and then you have the freedom of religion.

Watt: Other Mormons are asserting their freedom to disagree. A coalition of Latter-day Saints who support same-sex marriage rights has already delivered to their Salt Lake City headquarters one petition protesting the Church's grassroots and financial support for Prop 8.

A Mormon law professor at Brigham Young University wrote a memo that debunked claims that California would mandate teaching gay marriage to public school kids and suing churches that won't sanction gay weddings. There's also tension within other denominations over Prop 8.

Dr. Julius Nam: I will never say it's against the spirit of Christ to vote yes – or no. I think Christians just genuinely disagree on many of our controversial issues in society.

Watt: Julius Nam teaches religion at Loma Linda University. He's also a Seventh-day Adventist minister who's pastored churches in Los Angeles, Michigan, and Korea. The Adventist Church is supporting Proposition 8. But at the same hearing Marvin Perkins attended, Julius Nam spoke against the ballot measure.

Nam: Treating others – even if they are different from you – in a fair way is really a fundamental Christian principle. On the question of marriage – same-sex marriages, different-sex marriages – regardless of how one believes religiously, in a pluralistic society there ought to be same benefits, same rights, same dignity, and same respect accorded to these different types of marriages.

Watt: Nam and five other Adventist pastors, teachers, and students have also created an online petition that protests their denomination's decision to support Prop 8. So far, more than 600 people have signed it. Ninety percent of them are Adventists.