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Gay rights rally: ‘Separate church and 8’

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Approximately 30 demonstrators displeased with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rallied outside the Racquet Club on Sunday afternoon as a highly anticipated documentary about the role played by the Mormon Church in California’s ballot measure against gay marriage premiered.

The film, called "8: The Mormon Proposition," had been expected to be among the most controversial to screen during the Sundance Film Festival this year, and a demonstration had seemed likely for some time. It was unclear until Sunday, though, whether another group in support of the California ballot measure would also make an appearance outside the Racquet Club during the premier.

The demonstrators on Sunday chanted the slogan "Separate church and 8," a play on the phrase "separation of church and state." They held signs with the same slogan. The demonstrators were in earshot of the people heading to the film. There did not appear to be anybody from Park City or surrounding Summit County standing with the demonstrators, who seemed to be primarily from the Salt Lake Valley or elsewhere in Utah.

Rick Bickmore, who is gay and from Salt Lake City, said he would like to be married someday and he was disappointed when the ballot measure passed in 2008, even as he said his sister, a Californian, voted for the proposition.

"Our idea here is to be here with dignity," Bickmore said.

He said he has lived in Utah more than 20 years and the state has a strong gay community. Bickmore said he expects federal courts will eventually overturn the passage of the measure. A federal trial in California is underway.

Another person from Salt Lake City who joined the demonstration, Kandy Richards, said two people featured in the film are relatives of hers. She said five of her cousins and an uncle are gay. Richards said The Mormon Church overstepped the traditional role of religion in political life during the Proposition 8 campaign.

"I just feel like, by coming out so strongly on one particular issue, they blurred some of the lines," Richards said about the church.

She predicted courts will overturn the passage as well. Richards said she did not closely follow the news in California as the election neared. After the voting, Richards said, she became interested in the ballot measure’s ramifications.

"It’s about equality and human rights, and I think they will overturn 8," she said.

The Park City Police Department said there were no complaints about the Racquet Club event.

The demonstration is believed to be the largest in support of gay rights in Park City since the weeks after Proposition 8 was passed. At that time, there was a candlelight vigil that drew 20 or so people to Main Street in support of equality for gay people. During that period, people from Park City also participated in rallies against Proposition 8 in Salt Lake City.

Park City has long been seen as being perhaps the place in Utah that is friendliest to gays, a result of the city in the last 30 years drawing many of its residents from outside Utah, particularly from California and New York. A gay ski week was recently held in Park City, prompting some on Main Street to welcome the skiers with rainbow flags and signs.

Missy Marlowe, who lives in Salt Lake City and is a friend of the documentary’s filmmaker, said it would be "painful to me" if she was told she could not marry the person of her choice.

"Two people getting married — two men, two women — they have no effect on my life," she said, adding, "They’re adults. They’re people. They’re good people."

There are three remaining screenings of "8: The Mormon Proposition" scheduled during Sundance. They are at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at the Tower Theatre in Salt Lake City, noon Friday at the Temple Theatre and 9 p.m. Saturday at Sundance Resort.


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