Payback for Proposition 8

Blacks, Mormons, and the Archdiocese of San Francisco suffer backlash from gay-rights activists.

“It was like being at a Klan rally except the Klansmen were wearing Abercrombie polos and Birkenstocks. YOU N****R, one man shouted (…) Someone else said same thing to me on the next block near the [Mormon] temple… me and my friend were walking, he is also gay but Korean, and a young WeHo clone said after last night the n*****s better not come to West Hollywood if they knew what was BEST for them.”

Along with hundreds of other homosexuals, “Geoffrey” rallied outside the LDS Temple in Westwood, California last November to protest the Mormons’ support of the state’s “anti-gay marriage” initiative known as Proposition 8.

He didn’t expect to hear racist insults and threats of violence hurled at him by fellow gays. Yet as his story wound its way around Internet blogs and chatrooms, other non-white homosexuals shared similar chilling tales. The narrow passage of Proposition 8 did more than make “gay marriage” illegal in California. It also revealed a rift in the “rainbow coalition,” with homosexuals taking out their anger on African- Americans, who voted against “gay marriage” at a rate of 70 percent.

For decades, African-Americans have been mostly protected from public criticism in liberal circles, making it all the more shocking to hear comedienne Roseanne Barr, a highly visible Proposition 8 opponent, declare on her website that African-Americans had “showed (sic) themselves every inch as bigoted and ignorant as their white Christian right-wing counterparts.”

Gay-rights activists also took out their anger on more predictable targets. California Mormons bore the brunt of the backlash: the LDS owner of a historically gay-friendly Los Angeles restaurant was targeted nightly by belligerent protesters after they learned about her $100 donation to the pro Proposition 8 cause. The artistic director of the California Musical Theatre, also a Mormon, was forced to resign over his donation to the same campaign. Their names and addresses, along with thousands of others, had been published in an “Anti- Gay Blacklist” on the Internet. Movie star Tom Hanks denounced Mormon voters as “un-American,” but later apologized.

Catholics came in for their share of abuse as well. Among other instances, Jose Nunez was assaulted outside St. Stanislaus Parish in Modesto, California after volunteering to distribute pro- Proposition 8 signs. His assailant saw the signs, punched Nunez, then stole them from him.

“I may be bloody and bruised,” said Nunez in a statement, “but I’m not giving up. I don’t want my kids taught in public school that same sex-marriage is the same as traditional marriage.”

Blatant anti-Catholic bigotry by homosexuals is nothing new, of course. Gay artists delight in mocking Catholicism’s distinctive symbols and rituals: the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (male actors in “nun” drag) have been the most recognizable Gay Pride parade participants since 1979; that same year, openly gay playwright Christopher Durang debuted Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, an absurdist burlesque of Catholic dogma.

“I thought we’d gotten over the adolescent tantrum phase of gay activism,” lesbian culture critic Camille Paglia wrote for last December in response to anti-Catholic and anti-Mormon assaults and intimidation. “Want to cause a nice long backlash to gay rights? That’s the way to do it.”

“I may be an atheist,” Paglia continued, “but I respect religion and certainly find it far more philosophically expansive and culturally sustaining than the me me-me sense of foot-stamping entitlement projected by too many gay activists in the unlamented past.”


That spirit of the past has reemerged. This time around, activists are hoping to make the Church pay—literally. Case in point: In mid-January, San Francisco Assessor Phil Ting announced plans to collect up to $15 million from the Archdiocese of San Francisco. It would be the second largest tax bill in the city’s history. Not surprisingly, both sides disagree as to whether or not the bill should really be so high, or even be paid at all.

The complex bureaucratic controversy stems from the transfer of some archdiocesan properties from one Catholic non-profit to another. San Francisco typically collects a real estate tax when properties change hands, but the archdiocese argues that, since their transaction wasn’t a “sale” of property, the tax isn’t applicable.

“Phil Ting has taken a step that is unprecedented in the history of the state of California,” archdiocesan spokesman Maurice Healy told the San Francisco Chronicle. “He has determined that an internal reorganization of church property, within the family of corporations of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, constitutes a ‘sale’ and is subject to a property transfer tax. The law is overwhelmingly in favor of the archdiocese in holding that church property transfers of this nature are exempt from transfer taxes.”

Former Bay Area resident Jack Smith, now editor of The Catholic Key in Kansas City, interprets the city’s proposed tax grab as simply Ting’s attempt to pander to increasingly vocal anti-Catholic sentiment in San Francisco. It is “payback for the Church’s support of Proposition 8,” he wrote on the newspaper’s blog.

(This is also a case of history repeating itself. In 1999, then-San Francisco Supervisor Mark Leno fought unsuccessfully to revoke the Mormon Church’s tax-exempt status after it publicly supported Proposition 22, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.)

“The city government has a history of anti-Catholicism which has only become more strident, and politically advantageous, since the passage of Proposition 8,” wrote Smith. “Mayor Gavin Newsom excoriated the Catholic Church and the archdiocese during a tirade at what was supposed to be a Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast with religious leaders, including Archbishop Niederauer. The mayor, according to reports [from the Bay Area Reporter, an outlet serving the gay community], got a standing ovation.”

“This is fishy at the least and evil at the most,” Randy Thomasson of California’s Campaign for Children and Families told “Phil Ting is doing to the Catholic Church what has not been done in other venues, taking away the Church’s tax-exempt status in regards to property.”

“Angry calls for the removal of church tax exempt status are deafeningly widespread in the city,” wrote Smith. “The transfer tax has nothing to do with tax exempt status, but it certainly is sticking it to the Church.”


The Catholic and Mormon churches “almost certainly have not violated their tax exemption,” says one surprising source: militant atheist Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. “The tax code gives wide latitude for churches to engage in discussions of policy matters and moral questions, including when posed as initiatives.”

Inez Mabie, distinguished professor of law at Santa Clara University, criticized an ad running last fall during the Proposition 8 campaign, which featured one of her fellow law professors warning that churches opposed to performing “gay marriages” risked losing their exemptions. Mabie called the ad “pure nonsense and any lawyer who makes such a claim should apologize for misleading the many religious leaders and congregations in this state.”

In their determination to sabotage the tax-exempt status of religious institutions they dislike, many homosexual activists seem not to have considered a consequence of their campaign should it prove successful: that nontraditional churches (such as the Metropolitan Community Church) which do perform same-sex “marriages” would necessarily be caught up in the same dragnet and suffer the same financial penalty.

Other homosexual activists, perhaps aware of this, are taking a different approach, petitioning the Supreme Court to overturn Proposition 8 on a technicality.

“All friends of democracy should be troubled” by such initiatives, according to Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of the Acton Institute. She points out that the “Yes on 8” campaign was “a genuine grass roots effort, with an estimated 100,000 volunteers” supported “largely by small contributions,” while the “No” side was funded by “millionaires and movie stars,” not to mention $1 million donated by the California Teachers Association from “their members’ dues money.”

By comparison, she says, the Mormon Church “contributed a grand total of an in-kind donation of $2,078.97 to”

The fight over Proposition 8 pitted ordinary Christians, Catholics, and members of the Catholic hierarchy against Hollywood, the media, higher education and the state’s political establishment. In the end, the “yes” side won—52 percent to 48 percent. Ironically, Barack Obama was elected president by the same margin, a victory hailed by his supporters as a “landslide.”

But the victory comes at the cost of a backlash that may reverberate for years to come.

San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer attempted to reach out to his opponents in a conciliatory statement after the vote.

“What is the way forward for all of us together?” he asked. “Even though we supporters of Proposition 8 did not intend to hurt or offend our opponents, still many of them, especially in the gay community, feel hurt and offended. What is to be done?”

“Tolerance, respect, and trust are always two-way streets, and tolerance, respect, and trust often do not include agreement, or even approval. We need to be able to disagree without being disagreeable. We need to stop talking as if we are experts on the real motives of people with whom we have never even spoken. We need to stop hurling names like ‘bigot’ and ‘pervert’ at each other. And we need to stop it now.”


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