Thomas Monson, the virulently homophobic president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, has died. The Mormon leader was 90. Within the church, he was praised for growing church membership and increasing the number of women missionaries. Outside, his legacy was more complicated, being one of the driving forces behind California’s Proposition 8, the 2008 state constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage.
Prop 8 was heavily funded and organized by the Mormon Church. They raised $30 million to ensure the ballot measure passed. The Church also used its resources to use members as canvassers in support of the measure. In addition, Monson also wrote a letter to be read at the congregation in California, telling members to “do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time.”
Though Prop 8 passed, it was eventually struck down as being unconstitutional, and that wasn’t the end of Monson’s anti-gay work. Under him, the Mormon Church continued fighting and funding marriage equality efforts in the U.S. until the 2015 Supreme Court decision. They continued to fight same-sex marriage worldwide — focusing on Mexico after the Supreme Court decision.
Under Monson, the Mormon Church declared same-sex couples “apostates,” meaning they were subject to excommunication. Children of same-sex couples cannot be baptized until they turn 18 — and then, only if they denounce their parents’ marriage. Thanks to Monson’s efforts, there were a spike of LGBTQ Mormon suicides. Monson’s policies caused the suicides of 32 young Mormons from the ages of 14-20; though as The New Civil Rights Movement points out, LGBTQ Mormon suicides are underreported because families “want to avoid the associated shame from fellow church members.”
The Mormon Church has also been linked to the Boy Scouts of America’s former homophobic policies. Even this year, the church pulled 185,000 of its members out of the Boy Scouts over the Scouts’ decision to accept gay members.
A successor to Thomas Monson’s position has not yet been named. It’s expected the decision will be made by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles after Monson’s funeral.
Featured image courtesy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints