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LDS official lauds work for California’s Prop. 8

Elder Clayton says leaders ‘grateful for the sacrifice’

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Gay marriage is once again banned in California after the nation's most hotly contested citizen referendum ended in victory for Proposition 8 supporters, backed by major fundraising and grass-roots organizing by members of the LDS Church.

Elder L. Whitney Clayton, a member of the church's Presidency of the Seventy who helped lead the church's support for Proposition 8, told reporters during a press conference Wednesday that he doesn't have a total for how much money was donated by Latter-day Saints. He did say it was "considerable and generous" and that church leaders are "grateful for the sacrifice" made by members who participated in the campaign.

He said the church, as an institution, did not contribute directly but did pay for hotel and travel expenses for him and other leaders who participated in the effort.

The California vote was considered too close to call late Tuesday, with word coming Wednesday morning that the referendum to amend the California Constitution — defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman — had won.

The victory for supporters leaves questions for thousands of gay couples who married in the past few months after the California Supreme Court struck down a previous voter referendum on the issue and legalized gay marriage there earlier this year.

Prop. 8 supporters maintained that the court's 5-4 ruling did not reflect the will of California voters and would put their children at risk for indoctrination by putting gay marriage on par with traditional marriage.,

In recent weeks, several news organizations have said The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was pivotal in the political fight, bringing in millions in financial backing for Prop. 8 and organizing its members as part of a grass-roots campaign by conservatives throughout the state.

Elder Clayton said the church didn't consider the vote a political issue but a moral issue, and that whether the church will become involved to the same extent on future moral questions "depends on the issue and the time."

Opponents had ramped up attacks on the LDS Church in the days leading up to the campaign, airing a controversial ad that showed two LDS missionaries entering the home of a lesbian couple, confiscating their wedding rings and tearing up their marriage certificate.

The ad was roundly criticized by several religious organizations.

Elder Clayton said he doesn't know why the opposition targeted the church, "and I don't think it's wise for me to speculate why people have done what they've done in opposition. We tried to maintain our participation with the coalition on a very positive note.

"We're not anti-gay but pro-marriage, and there were some things that were not entirely in keeping with a high tone to the discourse."

When asked about Latter-day Saints who opposed the initiative and now will struggle with the result, he said members should understand the church's campaign was based on maintaining marriage between a man and a woman as the foundation for society and on LDS doctrine.

He said he isn't aware of any instances of Latter-day Saints acting aggressively toward fellow members who opposed Prop. 8 but said the church has always asked its members to treat others with "civility, respect and love," despite their differing views.

Elder Clayton said he does expect there will be "challenges of one kind or another to the decision" in California, but can't anticipate what they will be or how the church would respond.

He said in general, the church "does not oppose civil unions or domestic partnerships," that involve benefits like health insurance and property rights. That stand was outlined in a statement the church posted on its Web site earlier in the campaign.

In addition to doctrinal concerns, Elder Clayton said the church's support for Prop. 8 did involve concerns over "the potential loss of religious liberty. How and where that would play out I can't say, but we feel religious liberty is safer when marriage is legally defined as between a man and a woman."

When asked about whether Latter-day Saints who publicly opposed Prop. 8 would be subject to some kind of church discipline, Elder Clayton said those judgments are left up to local bishops and stake presidents and the particular circumstances involved.

"All we can say is that the LDS Church gives way to the spiritual discernment of local leaders in the handling of any matter that might involve the kind of question you have raised."

A vocal minority of Latter-day Saints opposed the measure, organizing Web sites and protests that involved church members in California and beyond.

E-mail: carrie@desnews.com