California gay marriage groups launch ballot fight

Fri Sep 25, 2009 3:39am EDT
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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Gay rights activists hoping to win back the right to marry in California submitted a ballot proposal on Thursday for the November 2010 election -- a date deep-pocketed advocates have said is too soon.

Californians in November voted to ban same-sex marriage after courts made it legal in the spring. Advocates ever since have been debating when to challenge the ban, known as Prop 8, in the state, which is closely divided on the issue despite a social liberal reputation.

The Los Angeles group Love Honor Cherish filed a proposed state constitutional amendment that repeals the gay marriage ban and says churches would not be forced to perform any marriage.

"Marriage is between only two persons and shall not be restricted on the basis of race, color, creed, ancestry, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion," the proposed amendment says in part.

A new fight to win back the right is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars to mount, and smaller groups are leading the way for the 2010 challenge, hoping grass-roots success will convince and shame wary donors that it is not too soon to return to the polls.

Love Honor Cherish estimates it needs a million signatures of support by April to qualify as a ballot proposal. The state attorney general must approve the language before petitions are circulated,

Social conservatives with strong grass-roots organizers of their own say they are confident of winning again.

Californians' 2008 vote to ban same-sex marriage, months after the state's top court legalized it, bolstered the power of social conservatives and sparked nationwide protests among gays and their allies. It was followed by legalization of gay marriage in a handful of mostly Northeastern states and a court challenge aimed at the U.S. Supreme Court. (Reporting by Peter Henderson; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

<p>Gay couple Ethan Collings (L), 32, and his spouse Stephen Abate, 36, hug as they celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary in West Hollywood, California, June 16, 2009. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson</p>