ST. GEORGE – Three weeks before Utah’s Republican primary election on June 26, including a GOP ballot yet offering a choice between Mitt Romney and four other nominee hopefuls, one such came to St. George today to begin a three-week pointed campaign in Utah.
Fred Karger distinguishes himself as the first openly gay candidate, from one of the two major parties, to seek the U.S. presidency.
He told St. George News that although he has obviously been eliminated from the presidential race with Romney having clinched the nomination in Texas 10 days ago, he has been asked by the Republican Party chairman to be on this ballot, he is on the ballot, and he wants to campaign for three weeks.
Message and objectives
“I have an important message I want to talk about,” Karger said.
His focal point is not the White House; it is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which he said is significantly influential and powerful.
“I am going to request a meeting with President Thomas S. Monson to search for common ground; and I’m going to make the centerpiece of my campaign here for the next three weeks, encouraging – in a nice positive way – everything I can for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to do two things.”
1. Karger wants the LDS church to back away from the 33 campaigns he says that it has really run in this country to take away marriage equality, gay marriage.
2. Karger hopes to persuade the church to treat all Latter-day Saints equally.
Regarding his first objective, Karger said that the church has been involved in every state.
“I have all these secret documents from the Mormon church that go all the way to North Carolina, … they were involved in a significant way in 33 different elections, now we have four more coming up this fall … I am saying,” Karger said, “(I want them to) completely disengage themselves.”
Regarding his second objective, “I want them to treat all LDS members equally and with respect, not to teach that if you’re gay or lesbian that you are worse than a rapist or a murderer or incest or any of the terrible things they say are better than being gay; and that needs to change.” Karger added, “in all religion, not just the Mormon religion, but in all religion.”
Appeal to youth
Before he gains Monson’s audience and before he appeals to people of the Salt Lake City area tomorrow, Karger will address students at Brigham Young University tonight. He said that they are younger people who are LDS and that they don’t go along with the belief system of their church. He said they believe that gay and lesbian Latter-day Saints should be able to remain, should not be pariahs and should be allowed to act out their sexuality.
History of engagement with the LDS church
Karger acknowledged that the LDS church has “loosened its stance,” and he said he takes some credit for that.
“I’ve been very aggressive against them,” he said.
And he has. Karger said he persuaded the state of California to prosecute the Mormon church on violations related to its involvement in the 2008 Proposition 8 anti-marriage equality initiative.
“They were prosecuted, investigated for 18 months, pled guilty to 13 counts … it was big news – no church had ever been investigated for election fraud, and they were found guilty on 13 counts,” Karger said. The offense, as he explained it, pertained to the church providing some 75 employees to work on the campaign, giving staff time, paying salaries, all of which is required to be declared as a non-monetary contribution.
According to the California Fair Political Practices Commission’s enforcement decision of June 10, 2010, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints failed to timely report making late non-monetary contributions totaling $36, 928, in connection with the November 4, 2008, General Election. $5,539 fine.”
Motivation from the LDS church’s support for anti-discrimination
Despite his self-characterized aggression against the Mormon church, Karger is enthusiastically motivated by success he had in recent years in helping to persuade the church to support the passage of the Salt Lake City anti-discrimination ordinance, affording protections in housing and employment. Multiple similar ordinances followed Salt Lake’s lead, as the Equality Utah got its footing.
Karger referred to the church’s October 2010 statement issued through its spokesman, Michael Otterson. In that statement, the LDS church maintained its love-based doctrinal position opposing same-sex marriage, distinguished between feelings and behavior, admonished kindness and love towards others and, instrumental to the passage of anti-discrimination laws, affirmed its support for “other rights for gays and lesbians such as protections in housing or employment.”
Karger said that the support for the anti-discrimination ordinance went from 30 percent, before Otterson delivered the statement, to 70 percent one week later, so strong was the church’s influence.
Distinction between same-sex marriage and plural marriage
In what may be seen by some as a disconnect, Karger opposes legalization of plural marriage. He does not think that legalizing same-sex marriage should lead to legalization of polygamy.
He does think it is government’s place to deny the right of polygamy:
“I’m a big libertarian and tell people that government should not interfere with their lives,” Karger said, “(but) I think that there are certain things that government should do – I just – there is a part of me that wants to say if someone wants five wives,” pausing, “but I just don’t think that that is workable and it is not how our society is set up.”
Curious that Karger used, on the one hand, societal history as a basis for his opposition to polygamy, while on the other hand advocating activism to change the way this society has traditionally defined marriage, we asked him to explain what he meant by polygamy not being workable.
“I think it’s been illegal for … over 120 years, and I think the law is appropriate and there is no place in this country,” he said, while continuing to dismiss the argument that opening the door to same-sex marriage will open the door to legal polygamy.
“We’ve said that about the Civil Rights Act, we’ve said that about interracial marriage, things do change – prohibition didn’t work, we took it off – I think you’re seeing as a country that we do change.”
“That’s why I am here,” Karger said. “I just couldn’t pass this up, … if this had been New Mexico or something as the last primary I maybe wouldn’t be here, but this is Utah and I put this timeline together that I’ll release tomorrow of all my activism in doing what I’m doing, trying to persuade the Mormon church.”
Although his first step was today in St. George, Karger will kick off his Utah Primary campaign tomorrow at the Salt Lake Marriott Downtown at City Creek, in the Alta Room – 2nd floor, 75 South West Temple, Salt Lake City .
Copyright 2012 St. George News.