We all remember Proposition 8 in 2008. The First Presidency of the Church ordered a letter be read to California wards to “do all you can” to ensure the proposition passed. Arguably, it would not have passed without Mormon involvement. Lots of members fell away from the Church during and immediately after that period.
In 2009, the Church supported the nondiscrimination ordinances in Salt Lake City. While some thought of this as a mere public relations move to assuage backlash against the Church after Prop 8, the Church wanted to make a point that it was “against discrimination.” More importantly, I would argue, the Church found the ordinances to be a middle ground in terms of granting “civil rights” while also respecting “religious liberty” — meaning, religious institutions such as the Church were exempt from the ordinances. I think this fact kind of deflates the Church’s support for the ordinances, except to the extent that the Church demonstrated itself to be a reasonable community player in a religiously plural atmosphere.
In 2009, 2010, 2011 and today, the Church has been watched closely in terms of its involvement in same-sex marriage developments domestically and abroad. What seems to be the case is that if and when Church HQ is involved, it acts more clandestine, or political efforts happen from the ground up.
Speaking of grassroots, what we’re seeing this election cycle are more Mormons for marriage equality being vocal and politically active. The feeling that being vocally pro-gay marriage will result in church discipline has dissipated (I’ve even read that the Church has specifically told bishops not to discipline on this topic). “Mormons for Marriage Equality” groups are popping up. For now, it’s mostly online activity, but I suspect throughout this summer, there will be contingents of Mormons marching in pride parades, publicly as Mormons for marriage equality. In autumn, Mormons for marriage equality will perhaps be canvassing for the Maine, Washington, Minnesota, Maryland (did I forget anywhere?) referendums.
While Mormons for marriage equality are probably still a small minority, it’s possible for conversation to snowball to a point where church leaders will have to address this emergent discourse.