Proposition 8 Documentary Sells Out at Sundance: Mormon Anti-Gay Marriage Influence

8: The Mormon Proposition by Reed Cowan

Jan. 25, '10, update: Reed Cowan's 8: The Mormon Proposition received two “sustained standing ovations” at its Sundance Film Festival screening on Sunday, reports Sean P. Means in The Salt Lake Tribune. A rumored protest against the film failed to materialize.

Narrated by Milk's Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black – who happens to be gay and to have been raised Mormon – 8: The Mormon Proposition accuses the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of offering insidious support to California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in the state.

According to Means' article, “some in the audience cried when hearing stories of gay men and lesbians recounting discrimination they have suffered. Others hissed when Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka appeared on-screen, or when State Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, appeared to declare homosexuality 'the greatest threat to America going down.'"

Means adds that in his documentary, Cowan presents “evidence of the LDS Church's work to persuade its members to donate money to the campaign for California's anti-gay Proposition 8 – and to hide the church's involvement, knowledge of which would have dissuaded voters, through front organizations.”

Calling the film “obviously biased,” Mormon officials have refused to comment on it.

Curiously, the Mormon Church has recently declared its support for the end of discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing and at the workplace in Utah. That stance has been accused by some as a public relations stunt following the passage of Proposition 8; others have said that gays should accept what they can get for the time being while continuing to demand full equal rights.

Jan. 15

8: The Mormon Propositiion by Reed Cowan

Reed Cowan8: The Mormon Proposition, Reed Cowan's (photo) controversial documentary on the connection between the Latter-day Saints Church and the passage of the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 in California in fall 2008, has sold out five screenings at the Sundance Film Festival, according to a report in Cache Valley's Herald Journal. (That's in northern Utah.)

The report adds that tickets for 8: The Mormon Proposition “were snapped up before any other Sundance documentary and all but a handful of feature films.”

The Proposition 8 campaign – both for and against marriage equality – cost approximately $80 million. According to estimates reported in the Sacramento Bee, anti-gay marriage Mormon money accounted for about one-quarter of that amount.

Cowan, a 1997 Utah State University graduate in broadcast journalism, has called for supporters to ask Sundance festival organizers to add more screenings. “We plan on opening up a dialogue during the festival and hope that dialogue will continue on a national level for years to come,” Cowan told The Herald Journal via e-mail (he now lives in Florida). “The film is important and premiering in Utah makes it even more important. … Bringing an examination of the wrongdoing to the scene of the crimes, so to speak, is historic.”

8: The Mormon Propositiion by Reed Cowan

Certainly, not everyone agrees with him.

“I understand that you dont have all of the information,” a Mormon man wrote the filmmaker. “Somehow, previous to prop 8, you feel you have been wronged or unfarily targeted by the LDS church. I am a member of the LDS church and it is my life and you dont realize the damage you have done to our freedom of religion by twisting facts and taking statements out of context you are smearing my name and my belief system. We dont hate the gay community and that has never been said by any member of the church's first presidency. … i love my church and yes we believe that homosexuality is wrong but it really isnt a question of policy it is a question of morality. That I believe is why the LDS faith got involved in the first place. We as a religion fight a battle against immoral actions not people. We are doing the same thing that every church does on the planet. Please stop targeting us. It is becoming dangerous for us to exist and to live in a free society.”

(I refrained from adding [sic] comments to the text above.)

Last year, following passage of Prop. 8, there were widespread calls for boycotting Utah. Many demanded that Sundance move their headquarters to another state. That didn't happen, of course, and ironically two of the most-talked about films at Sundance 2009 featured gay characters: art-house hit and potential Oscar contender Precious and I Love You Phillip Morris, starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor.

8: The Mormon Propositiion by Reed Cowan

Here's the 8: The Mormon Proposition synopsis from the Sundance festival's website:

“Mormons in California and Utah, following their prophet's call to action, wage spiritual warfare, fueled with money and religious fervor, against LGBT citizens and their fight for equality. This exploration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' involvement in the passage of California's Proposition 8 reveals a secretive, decades-long campaign against lesbians' and gays' right to marriage.

“Directors Reed Cowan, a former Mormon missionary, and Steven Greenstreet deftly investigate this ongoing battle through three telling perspectives: personal, political, and ideological. They are careful not to succumb to emotional rant but choose instead well-researched data and a range of interviews with politicians, historians, and those most affected by the outcome. One such couple is composed of Spencer Jones and Tyler Barrick, who is the direct descendant of Mormon polygamist Frederick G. Williams. Cowan and Greenstreet's film tellingly reminds us that, if any common ground can ever be found, it must be based on truth and transparency.”

8: The Mormon Propositiion by Reed Cowan

In a q&a posted on the film's website, Cowan is asked by an unnamed reporter, “You were taught not to question your prophet.  Are you afraid of going to Hell?"

Cowan's response: “I think the vast majority of people in our film will tell you they've already lived the hell of being ostracized by their church.  I believe the truth sets you free.  And this film presents the truth of how people felt, how they feel and how their feelings were walked all over by a group of people who claim to carry the mantle of healing.  There's no fear in telling those truths.  There's hope.”

The 2010 Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 21 to 31.

Photos: Sundance Film Festival

Proposition 8 Documentary Sells Out at Sundance: Mormon Anti-Gay Marriage Influence © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
Text NOT to be reproduced without prior written consent.

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5 Comments to Proposition 8 Documentary Sells Out at Sundance: Mormon Anti-Gay Marriage Influence

  1. Tracy Hall Jr

    Correction: Paramount Theater in Oakland — not Ogden.

  2. Tracy Hall Jr

    The sign being held by one of the anti-Mormon protestors betrays the confusion of those who espouse the homosexual agenda: “EVERY 10TH SAINT IS A QUEER!!!!!”

    On the one hand, they claim that 10% of the population are homosexual, and they seek “protected” status of this “persecuted” minority on the basis that “sexual preference” is as immutable as race. But it is not. Sexual behavior is a choice! If we are to follow this reasoning, adulterers and fornicators should also be given “protected” status. After all, they can't help their actions, either, can they?

    On the other hand, they then turn around and persecute members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who comprise less than 2% of the population.

    But consider the following inconvenient facts:

    Fact: The pro-gay marriage (no on 8) group raised $44,103,525, with $13,254,350 coming from out of state.
    Fact: The pro-traditional marriage (yes on 8) group raised $37,766,260, with $11,224,394 coming from out of state.,0,2198220.htmlstory

    The facts are indisputable: the pro-gay marriage group raised 17% more than their opponents and raised 18% more out of state than their opponents.

    Whence, then, the persecution complex? Whence then all the talk about nefarious “outside” money used to pass Proposition 8? Is it really just confusion, or is it something more sinister?

    Fact: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contributed $189,903.58. to the “yes on 8” campaign – less than one-half of one percent of the total raised.

    Any other so-called “Mormon money” came from individual citizens who happened to be Latter-day Saints, who donated directly to the campaign. Most of them are residents of California. They were exercising their Constitutional right of political free speech. Did the Church encourage their individual donations? Of course! Is such advocacy by a church for a cause that it clearly sees as a moral issue illegal? Heaven forbid!

    Because of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the law does not (yet!) require that individuals who donate to political causes disclose their religion. If indeed a sizable fraction of the money raised by “yes on 8” came from individual Mormons, it became known only because the homosexual lobby violated the privacy rights of thousands of individual donors to find out their religious affiliation and to “out” them as “Mormons.” This activity resulted in numerous acts of discrimination, boycotts, and even loss of employment by Latter-day Saints because they had dared to exercise their right of political free speech. Just this week a long-time member of the board of the Paramount Theater in Ogden was disqualified for re-appointment because he dared to donate to the “wrong” side of Proposition 8.

    You won't find these facts in the film, because the film makers belong to yet another immutable persecuted minority, which must also be given protected status – the tiny minority known as ex-Mormons!

    Tracy Hall Jr
    Provo Canyon, Utah

  3. admin

    We have it in bold that “Rude/crass/bigoted comments and/or remarks, and name-calling of any sort will be immediately deleted.”

    After some consideration, we've opted to let the above comment pass despite the absurd claim that sexual orientation — or “sexual preference” as the commenter above puts it — is a “choice.”

    We figured it'd put the commenter's other remarks in context.

    Please note that no other such comments will be approved.

  4. Richard

    “ill give any man, old or young, black or white or any race in need of help, assistance a sincere caring supportive shoulder, to support, etc. but thats where it ends, the pants stay on brother. cause thats where the issue is.”


    “all weaknesses can be overcome”

    I hope that includes the incapacity to question religious tenets and the need that everybody else should conform to one's religious views.

  5. Leonard

    i am a 40+ old Male LDS member with my veiws/beleifs on issue which are in my experience, trial and error has been my lifes path to correct the so called, ideals, we as a ever so evolving human race, society, etc. slowly but surely find justification to coming out of the closet with what ever issues we have, weather fetish preferences etc. however when it comes to sex and this is what we a talking about, not procreation, sex!! penis on penis, vagina on vagina, well everone knows no baby coming out there. apart from male female intercourse, every other form of sexual partnership is alternative. ill give any man, old or young, black or white or any race in need of help, assistance a sincere caring supportive shoulder, to support, etc. but thats where it ends, the pants stay on brother. cause thats where the issue is.

    all weaknesses can be overcome
    end quote

    sincerley thinking of you.