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2008 People
of the Year: Bruce Bastian

2008 People
of the Year: Bruce Bastian

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The WordPerfect cofounder and former Latter-day Saints church member donated $1 million to the No on 8 campaign amid the Mormon Church's swath of destruction.

This summer, when Californians were still agog at their newfound right to marry, few knew the role Mormons would play in the gathering storm of opposition. Bruce Bastian was one of them: On July 28, the WordPerfect cofounder and former Latter-day Saints church member donated $1 million to the No on 8 campaign precisely because he knew what was coming. One month earlier, as California's first same-sex marriages were taking place, Mormons around the country were being instructed during Sunday services to contribute their time and money to ensure Proposition 8 passed. "People take that as a commandment from God," the philanthropist says by phone from his home in Washington, D.C. Like many people in the movement, he was in a wistful mood about the ballot measure's passage. "I wish I had gotten more involved and not just given the million dollars; I wish I had also said, 'Be careful, this is what the church is going to do.' Because I knew what they would do."

Bastian's primary residence is in Orem, Utah, where his eponymous foundation is also based, but he had flown to D.C. to discuss future strategy with the Human Rights Campaign, where he serves on the board of directors. It was at the group's San Francisco gala in July that he had announced his donation, and though it made news at the time, Bastian has second thoughts about its impact. "I think it was kind of lost," he says. Though it was the largest outlay made at that point -- among private individual donors only fellow philanthropists David Bohnett and Jon Stryker would go on to contribute more -- it took until the fall for more same-sex marriage supporters to follow suit. "It just didn't seem to sink in until they saw so much money on the Yes side being raised, and then more people stepped up to the plate, which I'm happy about," Bastian says. "But if we had had more sooner, I think we could've done it."

Though victory was not to be, Bastian is pleased by the fervor in the community since Election Day: the protests, the lawsuits, the talk of getting an initiative on the 2010 ballot to undo Prop. 8. It may sound hackneyed, but progress requires everyone's involvement. "People underestimate what they can do as individuals," he says. "I think they sit back and say, 'I wish I had a million dollars to give,' but really, if they have the guts to talk to their coworkers or their friends -- or just to be who they are and in their own little way spread the truth of what gay is -- it makes a huge amount of difference."

Furthermore, Bastian warns, the fight for equal rights cannot be waged simply by the white middle class. "This is across all boundaries," he says. "We have to get every gay person of every ethnic origin, every religious belief, to stand together. And when they do, then their friends and families will start to stand together with us -- and then we've got it."

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