HIGHLAND, Calif. (BP)–Pro-family and religious groups across California are claiming victory after voters overwhelmingly approved a measure to legally define marriage as only “between a man and a woman.”
Proposition 22, “The Limit on Marriage” initiative, was approved by 60 percent of California’s voters.
Originally, Prop. 22’s organizers had called it the “Defense of Marriage” initiative, but California’s attorney general changed the name, citing its exclusion of same-sex marriages.
Larry Dotson, president of California Southern Baptist Convention, said he was “not at all surprised but very pleased” with Prop. 22’s passage.
“I felt the churches were very supportive of this proposition up and down the state, not only in our denomination but in many churches,” said Dotson, pastor of Panama Baptist Church, Bakersfield.
“Obviously the people of California wanted to take a stand. You don’t get that kind of strong statement just from churches alone,” Dotson continued. “This was not a religious issue, it was a moral issue. And if 60 percent of California votes for something then obviously several million [voters] that aren’t Christians joined us.”
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the vote was “extremely encouraging for those who are committed to the traditional family as we have understood it in the United States and as we have received it from Holy Scripture.”
“California is a trendsetter and a bellwether state. If California is willing to affirm this traditional belief in such a landslide fashion, we can clearly surmise that the population of our nation as a whole is opposed likewise to same-sex marriage,” Land said.
Undoubtedly a determining factor in the size of the victory, he added, was the ability of the religious community in California to turn out at the polls.
Wiley Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Buena Park, called the vote, “pleasantly surprising.”
“I think the whole concept that California is so liberal has been exaggerated by the media,” Drake said. “And I think that the vote on Proposition 22 is proof of that.”
Rob Zinn, pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church, Highland, Calif., said he was also pleased with the election results.
Zinn, as part of his commitment to protect the traditional family, during the past six months hosted seven regional awareness-building meetings attended by 185 pastors and developed a “Reclaiming California” conference attended by more than 1,000 people.
Immanuel spent about $60,000 to make people aware of the importance of the marriage issue and voting in the election, Zinn said. Church members gave $14,000 in one week to pay for advertising in the local daily newspaper and on three radio stations: one Christian; the others, country and rock.
Two volunteers served as Immanuel’s Pastor’s Information Resource Council, with their responsibility of keeping close tabs on political issues.
Voter registration cards were available at the church, and rides to the polls were available on election day.
“In the last election, only 15 percent of the Christians voted,” Zinn said. “I’m really praying this issue finally woke the church up.”
Of California’s 58 counties, in all but five the majority of voters opted for one man/one woman marriage. The five counties in which at least 51 percent of the voters opted for same sex marriage all were in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.
“My goal is to preserve the sanctity of marriage in California,” said Zinn, who has been married for 27 years. “I think marriage is worth fighting for.”
His involvement with the marriage issue dates back to last spring, when a pastor in nearby Redlands, Calif., posted “God didn’t create marriage for Adam and Steve but for Adam and Eve” on a church sign to promote a conference on healthy marriages.
The resulting furor garnered media attention and homosexual activist involvement. A city council subcommittee recommended what in Zinn’s opinion was special protection for homosexuals.
“We’ve got to go help him,” Zinn said to his congregation about the Redlands pastor. More than 250 showed up at a city council meeting to evidence community support for traditional marriage. City leaders responded by not approving the special protection.
“I’m not against gay people,” Zinn said. “Matter of fact, I tell them, ‘The evangelical church is the best friend you’ve got, because we care enough to confront. 1 Corinthians 6 says you can change. My friend, you can change.'”
America’s pastors have been duped that they cannot talk about and should not be involved in political issues, Zinn said the day before the election to about 350 participants at the Northwest Baptist Convention’s annual evangelism conference at Northside Baptist Church, Vancouver, Wash.
Zinn had accepted the keynote speaker responsibility before he’d gotten involved in the marriage issue, he explained. It meant he had to vote absentee. It also meant he was able to spread his message to a wider audience.
“This country was founded by Christians,” Zinn said. “Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 27 had seminary degrees. They expected the clergy to be involved in the political life of the nation.”
What’s next for Zinn?
“We’re going to gear up for the battle in November,” he said of the general election, which will include a presidential vote. “I was praying for a 70 percent vote to send a message to the legislators. That didn’t happen. That’s OK. We’ll work harder and we’ll pray harder that God will protect the family He created.”
Land said the decision should be an encouragement to those who are adamantly opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage in other parts of the country. If the issue of same-sex marriage can be so decisively defeated in California, it can be defeated anywhere, he said.
The issue gives every indication of being a major issue in the fall presidential campaign, he added.
Dwayne Hastings & Mark Wyatt contributed to this article.