Salt Lake City - Campaign finance records show the Utah-based Mormon church has made its first financial contribution in support of a Nov. 4 ballot proposition that would ban same-sex marriage in California.
The in-kind donation of $2,078.97 from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was made on Oct. 25 to ProtectMarriage.com, a coalition of faith organizations and conservative groups supporting Proposition 8.
The measure would overturn the California Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage.
Jeff Flint, a co-manager of the ProtectMarriage campaign, says the Mormon church made the in-kind donation to cover the travel expenses of several Utah-based church leaders who went to California for a meeting last week.
Flint wouldn't say which church leaders were at the meeting.
Church spokeswoman Kim Farah confirmed the expenditure Tuesday.
Since June church leaders have asked members to give their time and money to pass Proposition 8. Church members have been enthusiastic participants in the campaign, working as grassroots volunteers conducting voter opinion surveys, voter registrations, making phone calls and other activities.
Mormons have also been vigorous donors to the ProtectMarriage campaign. Watchdog groups tracking campaign donations estimate Mormons may be responsible for nearly two-thirds of the more than $28.4 million raised.
Although the church is politically neutral and does not endorse candidates or political parties, it does get involved in moral issues. Mormons believe traditional marriage is an institution ordained of God. The church has actively fought marriage equality legislation nationwide since the 1990s.
Meanwhile Tuesday, an activist group unsuccessfully tried to deliver a petition to church President Thomas S. Monson at a temple in Westwood, Calif.
Courage Campaign founder Rick Jacobs said he and others were turned away by church personnel on the temple campus and referred to a ProtectMarriage coalition spokeswoman. The woman offered to accept the petition with its thousands of signatures, but refused to say she would deliver it to someone from the church, Jacobs said.
"We wanted to give it to the church. It wasn't addressed to the coalition," Jacobs said.
The petition, which began circulating on the Internet last week, asks Monson to halt his faith's involvement in Proposition 8. Jacobs said more than 17,000 have signed the petition.
Jacobs left the temple without handing over the petition. "We're going to work on trying to have it delivered in Salt Lake City," he said.
Keith Atkinson, a church spokesman who was at the Los Angeles Temple on Tuesday, said the coalition decided to receive the petition because the document references activities managed by the ProtectMarriage campaign.
"Their issues really seemed to center on the coalition's handling of the campaign," Atkinson said.
But Jacobs said the sheer volume of dollars streaming to the ProtectMarriage campaign from identified Mormons puts the church squarely in the middle of this political debate.
"Here you've got one group of people acting on the instruction of their religious leader," Jacobs said. "If the Mormon church hadn't wound up what they've wound up, you'd have a $12 or $15 million campaign."