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CURRENT ISSUE:  June 9, 2008
VOL. 46, NO. 11   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
 
New cathedral includes mausoleum
 
Immigration issue is lower election priority
Measure to ban same-sex marriage
will be going before California voters
 

An initiative to ban gay marriage in California has qualified for the Nov. 4 ballot, just two weeks before county clerks are to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples to comply with a new state Supreme Court ruling.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen qualified the measure after a county-by-county check of voter signatures gathered by the sponsors verified more than the 694,354 names required to make the ballot.

See Bishop Allen Vigneron’s statement on the court's decision.
The initiative, proposed by a coalition of 150 organizations called ProtectMarriage.com, seeks to overturn the state high court’s 4-to-3 ruling May 15 that same-sex couples have the right to have the state designate their civil unions as marriage.

The sponsors maintain that the issue should be decided politically, not judicially, and that polls show that a majority of Californians favors restricting the institution of marriage to opposite-gender couples.
The measure would amend the state Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. If enacted, the amendment could be canceled only by another initiative and not by court or legislative action, according to the coalition.

“Passing this amendment is the only way for the people to override the four Supreme Court judges who want to redefine marriage for our entire society,” Ron Prentice, CEO of the California Family Council and chairman of ProtectMarriage.com, said in a statement posted on the council’s website.

Another coalition member said the campaign has national implications and predicted that it will rival the presidential race in attention and controversy.

“This truly is the defining moment on whether there’s going to be same-sex marriage in the country or not, particularly because there’s no residency requirement in California,” the member said. “Same-sex couples from all over the country can come to California to get marriage licenses and return to their home states.

California Catholic Conference director decries ruling

Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, said the court overturned the will of the people when it ruled May 15 against the state’s ban on same sex marriage.

“Proposition 22, which states, ‘Only marriage between one man and one woman is valid and recognized in California,’ passed eight years ago by a vote of 61.2 (percent) to 38.8 percent,” Dolejsi said in a statement.

“That statute reflected the wisdom of the voters of California in retaining the traditional definition of marriage as a biological reality and a societal good,” he said. “Unfortunately, today, the court saw fit to disregard the will of the majority of people of California.”

Dolejsi said Proposition 22 reflects Catholic teaching, while the May 15 ruling flies in the face of it.

“This is the last chance voters are going to have. It truly is the all-or-nothing, make-or-break battle.”

Said Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage-California, an organization that supports the initiative: “This is a profound transformation in American law and it’s going to affect states across the country.”

Proponents are confident their initiative will win and feel that the majority that voted against same-sex marriage with the passage of Proposition 22 eight years ago is still intact, despite some new polling results to the contrary. But they note that the question could be close and that their initiative faces well-financed opposition.

The campaign to override the court will require $10 million to $15 million in funds, Brown said. The coalition member confirmed the higher number.

“We’re doing a major grassroots push,” Brown said. “We’ll have millions of e-mails going out this week asking people to get their friends and family to sign on. We’re focusing on getting thousands of smaller contributions immediately in order to start a media campaign.”

Brown said his organization plans to rally the Catholic laity.

“This is not about the private activity of two people; this is about fundamentally redefining a core social institution,” Brown said. “This is what we want to make clear to people. It will affect you when your son is taught in kindergarten that it’s the same for a boy to marry a boy as marry a girl.

“Catholics and other people of faith have to understand this is a direct attack on our religious liberties,” he said.

Bill May, chairman of Catholics for the Common Good, a lay organization based in San Francisco, said the success of the initiative is “absolutely essential.”

“First of all it’s important to recognize that the advocates of redefining marriage have unlimited financial resources and the side of protecting marriage will be outspent,” he said. “In order to protect marriage it is going to take all of the financial and volunteer resources of Catholics and other people who support the common interest of children and having married mothers and fathers.

“The encouragement and support of bishops is very important, but it is the responsibility of the laity to make sure our laws conform to the common good,” he said.

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Dignity USA, maintained that civil recognition of same-sex marriage is a matter of individual rights and does not affect the Church.

“Voters who are going to the polls need to be not confused about that, and we call on Church officials to be clear about that in their campaigning,” she said. “It’s also important to note Catholics are increasingly supportive of lesbian and gay couples.”

With county clerks preparing to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on June 17, the attorneys general of 10 states had urged the California Supreme Court to delay putting the ruling in force until after the November elections.

However, on June 4, the California Sup-reme Court denied requests to delay its decision from taking effect. In a 4-to-3 vote, the court ordered the ruling to become final on June 16 at 5 p.m. The decision means that county clerks can begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples the next day.

The requests for delay were made by the attorneys general of Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah.

The state attorneys predicted that a torrent of litigation would result if the ruling were to take effect before the election. For example, the status of any marriage licenses issued between June 17 and Election Day could be contested if the initiative were to pass.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed an opposition to the move to delay, saying it would be “unprecedented and inhumane” to further delay constitutional rights to gay and lesbian partners based on political conjecture.

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