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Gay activists protest Mormon church

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"I think it's really important ... not to let this become a claim that Mormons are the reason for everything that went wrong, on the one hand, or one that falls into a knee-jerk 'This is just anti-Mormonism' reaction. Because each of those are toxic," says Sarah Gordon, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on the Mormon church.

Mormons make up about 2 percent of California's population, and not all voted for the ban. Other larger demographic groups – including Catholics and African-Americans – made up more of the 'Yes' vote. But many in the gay community find the direction from church leaders, and the amount of money raised, galling.

While outsiders impute many motives to the LDS church, the obvious, important one remains religious belief. "The faith itself is based on concepts of salvation within the family and a very committed pro-natalism," says Ms. Gordon. Arguably, marriage marks the most important faith moment for a Mormon.

Given that marriage is so sacred to people like the Mormons, and that government benefits are so tied to marriage, policymakers may be able to satisfy both sides only when they disentangle the two, she says.

One suggestion for how to do that comes from Doug Kmiec, a same-sex marriage opponent who doesn't feel the issue is best handled by litigation. "Sometimes it just leaves us with broken people on both sides, which I think is where we are heading now," says Mr. Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University. Instead, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger could institute a compromise, he says, with a sweep of his pen.

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