Gay marriage ban qualifies for Calif. ballot

June 2, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
California voters are getting another chance to decide if same-sex marriage should be allowed. Gay and lesbian couples are due to begin getting married in California later this month, on June 17th. However, on November 4th, a ballot measure will propose constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

About two weeks ago, proponents for same-sex marriage were celebrating on the steps of City Hall, but it only takes eight percent of registered voters to get a measure on the state ballot and on Monday it put a damper on the party.

Same-sex couples may have won a major battle on May 15th, but they haven't won the war. On Monday an initiative qualified for the November ballot. Sponsored by the California Family Council, it calls for a state constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

"It took 100 days. It's the fastest collection of signatures we have ever seen," said Everett Rice, from the California Family Council.

If approved, on November 4th, by majority of voters, 50 percent plus one, it would overturn the recent California Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. Still, a recent field poll found that 51 percent of registered voters approve of same-sex marriage, while 42 percent disapprove. Advocates for same sex marriage believe they have the momentum.

"We have strong support from Governor Schwarzenegger. We have a wonderful historic decision from a court with six out of seven justices appointed by Republican Governors," said Shannon Minter from the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Regardless, there's pressure from 10 states that are asking the court to delay the marriages. They argue that California's ruling could affect similar litigation in their courts. On Monday, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a letter opposing their request.

"I don't think that's going to happen, so I am anticipating the courts order will take place on June 16th and marriages will start happening on June 17th, and that's what I'm looking forward to," said Herrera.

U.C. Berkeley constitutional law professor, Jessie Choper, says if voters approve a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, the next battle will be over the legitimacy of those who got married before the November 4th election.

"I think under those circumstances, they'll stop issuing the licenses," said Choper.

It could set off a mad rush for the courthouse, come June 17th.

Supporters of same-sex marriage say they could file a pre-ballot challenge. That would require a lawsuit arguing a ban on same-sex marriage would be too broad of a change to the constitution, but that is just an option at this time.


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