SAN FRANCISCO (BP)–Two months after issuing its landmark “gay marriage” decision, the California Supreme Court handed conservatives a victory July 16, allowing a proposed constitutional marriage amendment to stay on the November ballot.
Without comment the justices denied to hear a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and other liberal and homosexual activist groups that sought to prevent the initiative — which easily qualified for the ballot with 1.1 million submitted signatures — from going before voters.
Some of the legal arguments were viewed as long shots, but pro-family attorneys — having lost confidence in the justices after the May ruling — remained at least somewhat concerned about what the court might do. The liberal groups argued that the amendment would “revise” the constitution and take away constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights; such fundamental revisions cannot be placed on the ballot via voter initiative and must be approved by two-thirds of the legislature.
The amendment is known as Proposition 8 and, if passed, would reverse the 4-3 decision that made California only the second state to recognize “gay marriage.”
“Time and time again, the opponents have attempted to circumvent the democratic process, but the fact remains that the people of California have a right to vote on this issue,” Ron Prentice, chairman of the ProtectMarriage.com coalition, the group behind Proposition 8, said in a statement.
Churches in the state seem to be getting behind the amendment. In late June more than 1,600 pastors and church leaders gathered at roughly 100 sites for a conference call to pray for and plan strategy for the amendment’s success. Focus on the Family’s James Dobson and the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins took part, as did David Jeremiah, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., who is known nationwide for his television and radio ministry.
“The momentum for the amendment is nothing short of phenomenal,” Chris Clark, pastor of East Clairemont Southern Baptist Church in San Diego, told Baptist Press. “… It [the conference call] was a very moving experience.”
On July 30, amendment supporters will host a unique three-state conference call with conservatives in Arizona and Florida, two states that also will have marriage amendments on the ballot in November. The conference call will focus on strategies to mobilize churches. It also will seek “three-state solidarity” on the issue of “gay marriage,” an e-mail announcement says.
“We are trying to generate some unity and some momentum between California and Florida and Arizona,” Clark said. “We all have the same goal. We’re not coming in thinking that in California we have all the answers and we’ve got the formula, but we just want to encourage our fellow pastors and leaders in both states and just to say, ‘We’re all in this together.’ Their battle is our battle and we want to stand together with them.”
Conference call organizers are asking churches in Arizona and Florida to consider being a host site for the call, which begins at 1 p.m. Eastern. Churches in Arizona willing to host the conference call can e-mail Clark at [email protected], while churches in Florida willing to be a host site can e-mail him at [email protected]. Further information is available by calling 619-415-5453.
Churches should not view marriage amendments as political issues, Clark noted.
“It’s about truth. It’s about our culture. It’s about how we do church,” he said.
For general information about the California marriage amendment, visit www.ProtectMarriage.com. Information about the Florida amendment is available at www.Yes2Marriage.org, with information about the Arizona amendment at www.AzForMarriage.com. (Out-of-state donations at all three websites are legal.) Although “gay marriage” is not legal in either Arizona or Florida, the fear among Christian conservatives in both states is that a future state court could do what California’s Supreme Court did this year.
Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June passed a resolution urging Southern Baptists in California to work and vote for the amendment there and for all Southern Baptists and other Christians to pray for its passage. The resolution passed nearly unanimously.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor for Baptist Press.