Mormon stars face backlash after gay marriage ban

Gladys Knight and Donny Osmond under fire after church lobbies for California's 'despicable' new law

When Brandon Flowers leads the Killers on stage at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco next month, he may not get the ecstatic reception to which six years of rock superstardom have made him accustomed.

It could be a similar story when Gladys Knight plays New Orleans in a fortnight, or Donny Osmond returns to the Flamingo in Las Vegas in January, or American Idol star David Archuleta does the rounds of Hollywood chat-shows to promote his debut album this week. Each singer is a committed member of the Mormons, or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Unfortunately, that's a spiritual calling that in the eyes of California's suddenly vociferous gay rights movement makes them public enemy number one.

"This Mormon church has just taken away one of our fundamental rights, and shown itself to be a nasty church with bigoted beliefs," said John London, a student from West Hollywood, at an equality protest last week. "So when Brandon Flowers, or David Archuleta or any of its other celebrity members show up in a gay neighbourhood, they should know how we feel."

At issue is the church's role in bankrolling Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage in California after it was backed by 52.5 per cent of the state's voters on Tuesday, leaving 18,000 recently married gay and lesbian couples in legal limbo. On the instructions of their church leaders, Mormons provided up to $40m (£25.6m) in support of the proposal, and travelled in their thousands from Utah, where the religion has its headquarters, to lobby on its behalf.

On Thursday, 2,500 gay rights protesters marched to LA's largest Mormon temple, in Westwood, where they decried what chants and placards billed as "Mormon hate" and "Mormon scum" and promising "no more Mr Nice Gay". Campaigners plan to picket temples across the US and have launched a letter-writing campaign against Thomas Monson, president of the Mormon Church. Much anger will also be directed at the "Mormon economy", which helped to finance the Proposition 8 campaign. That could have serious implications for acts such as Osmond, Knight and the Killers, who boast a strong gay following. Many have recently tried to play down their church's anti-gay stance.

Flowers has said his religion is "very important" in his life, but told a recent interviewer that he took a liberal position on gay rights. Osmond opposes gay marriage, but claims on his website that this doesn't make him homophobic. "I do support our church leaders who say that we can accept those with gay tendencies in our church, as long as they do not act upon their temptations."

Jim Key, a spokesman for the LA Gay and Lesbian Centre which organised last week's protest, said he hoped followers would distinguish between Mormon businesses that did not donate to Proposition 8 and those that did. "Our complaint is not against all Mormons," he said. "Many moderate members of the church did not support Proposition 8. Our issue is with the church's leadership, which ran a despicable campaign to deny us fundamental rights."

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