That documentary about the Mormon church's nefarious (and successful) plot to outlaw gay marriage in California, 8: The Mormon Proposition, had its LA premiere Tuesday night at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. The film, which juxtaposes the horror stories of gay Mormons with the revelation of the Church's own internal memos proving their involvement in massive fundraising efforts against legal same-sex marriage in both CA and Hawaii, preaches to the choir, but last night's choir was very enthusiastic--hissing at the bad guys, cheering the heroes, and even talking back to the screen.
After the lively screening came a passionate Q&A, featuring the film's narrator Dustin Lance Black (AKA, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Milk); political watchdog Fred Karger, who obtained the film's damning documents from a secret source ("In a gay civil rights campaign, I don't like to say 'Deep Throat,' but let's call him "Person X," he cracked); and Linda and Steve Stay, Mormons-turned-gay rights activists, whose son Tyler's marriage is featured prominently in the film. 8 director Reed Cowan--himself a former Mormon missionary--called in from the film's premiere in Seattle.
Black, who was raised Mormon, described Cowan's aggressive approach to include him in the project. "This stranger started emailed me Quicktimes of his rough cuts. I thought he was crazy," he said. "Eventually, I figured out what he was doing--he was using their own words to prove their responsibility. It wasn't us blaming them; it was really them admitting it."
A young audience member, fighting back tears, asked a question that must have been on a lot of minds: "Why didn't we know about this?!?" Outfest director Kristen Schaffer held her cell phone up to the microphone so the whole theater could hear Cowan's response: "I think we haven't been asking the right questions in this movement. We've seen the wrongs happening, but we haven't asked, 'Who are the perpetrators of the wrongs, and what can we do?' Now we're asking, we're demanding answers, and we're getting them." The crowd cheered.
Karger broke news at the event, announcing that the Mormon church will soon be held financially responsible for their failure to properly disclose who much they spent on the Prop 8 campaign. Sort of. For trying to hide the millions of dollars of church member donations laundered into marketing the proposition, the church will be fined "about $5500, which seems low to me," Karger said. "It should be socially unacceptable to give money to take away rights."
There's evidence that the tide of public opinion has turned since the 2008 vote. Black described a door-to-door survey conducted by Equality California on Harvey Milk Day, in which 38 percent of respondents said they had "changed their minds" since voting Yes on 8, which passed by four percent. Said Black, "We only need 5."
When asked by an audience member how the gay marriage fight could be impacted by the hoopla surrounding the latest hot-button civil rights issue, the new immigration policy in Arizona, Black cited a local ally. "A person who has spoken very elegantly about this is Mayor Villaraigosa, who says he'd love to see days of action" in which activists for both causes join forces. Black's recommendation? "Put on your big gay shirts and march with your Latino brothers and sisters in Arizona!"
8: The Mormon Proposition opens in 15 cities (including LA) on June 18, and premieres nationwide on cable VOD the same day.