Mormon Legislators Introduce Raft of Right-Wing Bills in Wyoming

Ever since the passage of Prop 8 in California during the November election, there has been an effort underway to figure out just how much money the Mormon Church dumped into the effort.  For weeks, the Church denied giving more than a few thousand dollars but last week, facing an investigation by California’s Fair Political Practices Commission, the church reported nearly $190,000 in contributions.

On a related note, just last week AU reported on the influence that the Mormon Church has over the Utah legislature and now it looks like it might be expanding its reach into neighboring Wyoming, as the Casper Star-Tribune reports:

Mormons comprise more than 10 percent of the membership of the Wyoming Legislature, yet Mormon lawmakers are not known for voting as a bloc or working together to promote legislation.

That may be changing.

Mormons are taking a higher profile this session in promoting bills linked to controversial social issues including assisted suicide, gay marriage and abortion.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are the primary sponsors of bills dealing with all three topics, and a cadre of about eight LDS lawmakers have teamed up as the original co-sponsors of six related bills.

The Mormon legislators insist that their support of this raft of bills is just a coincidence, but the Star-Tribune reports that it may also be the result of targeted lobbying efforts from the WyWatch Family Institute:

Some of the LDS lawmakers said they were approached about getting more involved in social-issue legislation at meetings WyWatch held in months leading up to the session.

WyWatch chairwoman Becky Vandeberghe said her group recruits lawmakers to sponsor and support legislation based on voting records and responses to campaign questionnaires, not on religious affiliation.

“We honestly don’t look at religion,” she said.

The evangelical group Focus on the Family Action is also trying to influence some of the bills.

LDS lawmakers say they agreed to sponsor the bills for a variety of reasons, including their religious beliefs.

Mormon lawmaker Rep. Allen Jaggi, R-Lyman, a co-sponsor of several social-issue bills, said he signed on to the measures because of his “Christian values” on issues including gay marriage and abortion, not because he collaborated with other LDS lawmakers.

The WyWatch Institute is the group that is currently pressing for passage of a marriage amendment in the state and is working closely with Focus on the Family and the Alliance Defense Fund to get it passed.