Calif. 'gay marriage' case set for March 4

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)--In an announcement that could impact both the national election and a drive for a proposed constitutional marriage amendment, the California Supreme Court says it will hear a much-anticipated case concerning "gay marriage" legalization March 4.

The court previously had announced it would hear the case, although it had not set a date for oral arguments. A decision from the court is due within 90 days of the hearing. The court made the announcement Feb. 6.

Much like 2004, when approximately a dozen states voted on constitutional marriage amendments in reaction to Massachusetts legalizing "gay marriage," the issue could factor into the 2008 general election this fall. Florida will have a marriage amendment on the November ballot, thanks to a successful petition drive there, and conservatives in California also are trying to place an amendment on the ballot. Additionally, the issue could attract further attention when the Connecticut Supreme Court issues its "gay marriage" decision, due any day.

But a "gay marriage" victory in California, the nation's most populous state, would be the biggest win yet for homosexual activists.

The California marriage amendment group, known as ProtectMarriage.com, must collect 1 million signatures by April 1. Chris Clark, pastor of East Clairemont Southern Baptist Church in San Diego, told Baptist Press that half of the signatures will be collected by paid petitioners and the other half by volunteers, such as church members. The fact that the court has set a date for oral arguments -- and the fact it is less than one month away -- could help conservative supporters make their case for an amendment.

Clark and two other pastors from San Diego spoke to pastors and laypeople in Chino and Orange County Feb. 6 and were scheduled to speak to pastors at two more locations in Los Angeles the next day. Although a total of approximately 100 pastors showed up for the first two meetings, Clark said the participation thus far has not been what he had hoped.

"There's not enough that really see the urgency to this," Clark said. "I fear with a lot of pastors it's [viewed as] just one more thing to do, and they think they don't have [time for] one more thing to do. But the problem is that if they don't see the problem, it's going to come to them and it's going to come to them in a very dramatic way [with gay marriage legalization]. We need Southern Baptist pastors to see the urgency."

The lawsuit seeking "gay marriage legalization" is being brought in part by the American Civil Liberties Union, the homosexual group Lambda Legal, the city of San Francisco and 20 other cities and counties. The group won in the lower court but lost at the mid-level court, then appealed to the high court. The suit, filed in 2004, seeks to overturn Proposition 22, a law banning "gay marriage" passed by 61 percent of voters in 2000. The proposed amendment essentially would place language similar to Proposition 22 in the California Constitution. It would be safe from challenges in state court.

Petitions can be requested at ProtectMarriage.com (by clicking on "request petitions) or by going to one of dozens of petition distribution centers across the state (a list of them is available on the website). The centers serve as both pick-up and drop-off points for petitions. Because California law is stricter than some other states, petitions are not available for downloading online and should not be copied, Clark said.

The proposed amendment reads: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."


Michael Foust is assistant editor of Baptist Press

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