Grinning into the camera, a young Mormon in a Prop. 8 commercial highlighted in 8: The Mormon Proposition gushes that her activism around getting the ballot measure passed (to restrict the definition of marriage in California to opposite-sex couples) "makes me feel American." Diving into the grim irony of one group of Americans' denying another group its rights under the guise of upholding American freedoms and ideals, director Reed Cowan illuminates how the Mormon church played California politics like a fiddle and how the church's homophobia has ruined the lives of its gay faithful. Cowan strikes a potent balance between heart and head, juxtaposing emotionally wrenching moments (a segment in which queer Mormons delineate past suicide attempts is especially painful) with self-damning portraits of Mormon politicians and church officials, and hard-nosed journalism from reporter Fred Karger, who exhaustively outlines the church's role in conceiving and bankrolling Prop. 8. The film, whose low budget is underscored in cheesy dramatic re-enactments, might have been strengthened had Cowan connected dots between the fact that at the same time California passed Prop. 8, Arizona and Florida also passed initiatives banning gay marriage. (He does show how the Mormons used Hawaii as a test run for what they'd achieve in California.) But the flaws pale against what's illustrated, which is not just how Prop. 8 passed but the sordid, cynical workings of our political machine.
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