In the wake of vandalisms of several Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ward houses and incidents involving unidentified white powder being sent to Mormon temples in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, local gay rights groups are calling for an end to violence and intimidation.
“Equality Utah understands the pain and frustration of many citizens in California, Utah and around the country regarding the passage of California Proposition 8,” said Equality Utah Executive Director Mike Thompson in a statement released Nov. 14. “We see much of this frustration being expressed toward the LDS church. We must engage in civil and peaceful expressions and conduct. There is no room for violence, vandalism or intimidation—Equality Utah objects to these acts.”
Thompson reiterated that Equality Utah had asked the LDS church, which contributed nearly $20 million dollars to a campaign to pass the controversial constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in California, to support proposed legislation granting hospital visitation, equal housing and employment, probate rights and civil unions to Utah’s gay and lesbian couples. The church has publicly stated that it does not oppose these rights.
“Equality Utah remains confident that the LDS church will be true to its past public statements that it is not anti-gay,” Thompson continued. “We believe the church will show its genuine compassion for the needs of Utah’s gay and transgender people and their families who rightly ask for basic legal protections.”
“During such an emotional time, where wounds run deep, we must remind ourselves of the greater good,” the statement concluded. “We must make efforts to forgive where forgiveness is needed and fix what needs to be fixed. We must find ways to work together – families in our community are depending on us. As the LDS church stated, we can build a better society. Equality Utah is committed to doing just that.”
In an official statement given the same day, the Utah Pride Centersaid it was “deeply trouble” by recent attacks on LDS churches and the Salt Lake City temple.
“These actions are deplorable and make our entire community fear for our safety,” the statement read. “The Utah Pride Center hopes that authorities are able to quickly find those responsible for this deplorable behavior.”
While anti-LGBT legislation has been disappointing and painful to citizens across this great nation, our hope is that everyone finds peaceful and productive ways to continue this dialogue.
During the weekend following Proposition 8’s passage, vandals targeted seven LDS ward houses in Layton, Sandy, Ogden and South Ogden, shooting out windows and glass doors with BB guns.
On Nov. 13, FBI agents and the Salt Lake City Fire Department’s Hazardous Material crew descended on the Salt Lake City LDS Temple after an employee in the recorder’s office opened an envelope containing an unidentified white powder. He and two other workers were briefly quarantined in the temple’s annex and released when officials determined that they were unharmed. Although FBI tests on the powder have ruled it out as ricin or smallpox, spokesman Juan Becerra told the Salt Lake Tribune on Nov. 14 that the department would perform more tests to make sure that the powder is not a previously unidentified toxin.
At press time investigators in the vandalism and white powder cases have not uncovered any evidence linking any of the crimes to Proposition 8 opponents.
The Utah Pride Center also urged the public not to rush to any conclusions about the identity of the person(s) involved in mailng the suspicious package to the Salt Lake City Mormon temple.
“[U]ntil proper authorities have determined the investigation, it is false to conclude that yesterday’s suspicious package came from gay protester(s). Overwhelmingly, gay and allied Utahns have expressed their pain, frustration and commitment to securing rights through peaceful demonstrations and marches.”