By Brock Vergakis
Saturday, November 8, 2008
SALT LAKE CITY, Nov. 7 -- Utah's growing tourism industry and the star-studded Sundance Film Festival are being targeted for a boycott by bloggers, gay rights activists and others seeking to punish the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its aggressive promotion of California's ban on gay marriage.
It could be a heavy price to pay. Tourism brings in $6 billion a year to Utah, with world-class skiing, spectacular red-rock country and the film festival founded by Robert Redford among popular tourist draws.
Gay rights activist John Aravosis, whose well-trafficked AmericaBlog.com is urging the boycott, is unapologetic about targeting Utah rather than California, where voters defined marriage in the state Constitution as a heterosexual act.
Utah, Aravosis said, "is a hate state," and on this issue, "at a fundamental level, the Utah Mormons crossed the line. . . . They just took marriage away from 20,000 couples and made their children bastards. You don't do that and get away with it."
The Mormon Church, based in Salt Lake City, encouraged members to work for passage of the ballot measure. Thousands of Mormons worked as grass-roots volunteers and gave tens of millions of dollars to the campaign.
Proposition 8, the measure passed Tuesday, overrode a state Supreme Court ruling that briefly gave same-sex couples the right to wed.
The backlash against the church was immediate. Protests erupted outside Mormon temples, online groups formed telling people to boycott Utah -- where more than 60 percent of residents are Mormons, the church says -- and Web sites began popping up, calling for an end to the church's tax-exempt status.
Church spokeswoman Kim Farah said in a statement Friday that it is "disturbing" that the church is being singled out for exercising its right to speak out in a free election.
"While those who disagree with our position on Proposition 8 have the right to make their feelings known, it is wrong to target the Church and its sacred places of worship for being part of the democratic process," the statement said.
The church had said in a separate statement after Tuesday's vote that "no one on any side of the question should be vilified, intimidated, harassed or subject to erroneous information."