Queer Town: Prop. 8 Hearing Forces Religious Heavyweights into the Limelight

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Tue, Mar 3, 2009 at 8:00 AM

Last fall, when gay marriage opponents from the Mormon and Catholic churches were funding an extraordinarily expensive campaign to sell Proposition 8 to California voters, the "Yes on 8" campaign, headed by political strategist Frank Schubert, adopted a distinctly secular tone.

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Every now and then there was a mention about churches possibly losing their tax-exempt status, but the real focus was on kids in public schools, who, according to Schubert's TV ads, would be forced to learn about same-sex marriage. The "No on 8" side never really recovered from that accusation, and Schubert, whose niece is gay, and Proposition 8 went on to win 52 percent of the vote on November 4. An existing legal right for gays and lesbians to marry in California was suddenly snatched way, and the public debate that made it happen rarely quoted verses from the bible.
Above: Frank Schubert
Brian Baer/bbaer@sacbee.com

Now, things are very, very different.

On Thursday morning, in San Francisco, the California State Supreme Court will hear oral arguments to either uphold or strike down Proposition 8. But well before the court will listen to lawyers argue their cases, over 60 friend of the court briefs were filed in support or in opposition of the anti-gay marriage ballot measure. If you take a look at the list of who filed, and read a few things they have to say, it's obvious that various churches and synagogues aren't too concerned about kids in schools. Marriage, in their opinion, is a sacred institution created by God that should only take place between one man and one woman, and it needs to be protected at any cost. 

T.M. Reverend Messiah, a minister from Marina del Rey, includes endless references to the Bible in his brief, citing homosexuality as, yes, an "abomination."  The California Catholic Conference, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church State Council, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Federation of America, and numerous fundamentalist Christian groups like the Washington D.C.-based Family Research Council have also filed briefs in favor of keeping Proposition 8 on the books.  And Pepperdine Law School Dean Kenneth Starr, who's best known for his legal crusade against Bill Clinton and who now draws a paycheck from the culturally conservative private university in Malibu affiliated with the Churches of Christ, is the lead attorney for the "Yes on 8" side.

Added up, the lawsuits to overturn Proposition 8 have forced the true powers behind the Proposition 8 battle to step into the uncomfortable limelight, which is something Steve Smith, the "No on 8" campaign's hired hand, never effectively made happen. This time bishops, ministers, and their lawyers can't hide behind a slick political campaign and quietly slip fat checks to hired pros to do the dirty work. They'll be front and center in the chambers of the highest court of California, with millions of people watching via a live TV feed.  It's the kind of appearance that obviously made Frank Schubert nervous during October and November -- and probably with good reason.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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