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Calif. marriage amend. close to goal

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)–An effort in California to place a constitutional marriage amendment on the November ballot appears to be close to its goal, although officials say they need approximately 50,000 more signatures in the next two to three days to reach it.

ProtectMarriage.com representatives say they are just short of their goal of 1.1 million signatures, although they’re still counting. California residents who have signed petitions need to mail them -– overnight if possible -– to the address on the petition or to ProtectMarriage.com, P.O. Box 162657, Sacramento, CA 95816. The group needs to turn in the petitions by April 21.

“We’re very close,” Lynne Fishel, a spokesperson for ProtectMarriage.com, told Baptist Press. “If you still have signed petitions, mail them in. We’d rather have more signatures than we need than not enough.”

The proposed amendment could amount to the final opportunity conservatives have to prevent the state from legalizing “gay marriage.” The California Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling on the issue within the next two months, and speculation on liberal blogs is that the justices are leaning toward legalizing “gay marriage.” The lawsuit seeks to overturn Proposition 22, a state law banning “marriage” between homosexuals. Unlike that law, the ProtectMarriage.com amendment would be safe from challenges in state courts.

“Sources wishing to remain anonymous in the California Court System,” Ryan J. Davis wrote on The Huffington Post April 15, “indicate that the court, which has until June 2, 2008 to issue its marriage ruling, is considering issuing it on Friday, May 23, 2008, with the decision being written by Chief Justice Ronald George. The Court is readying itself for a backlash that may follow the rumored and bold decision. There is talk that the Court will not simply strike down Proposition 22, but will move the State of California toward full marriage, if not even granting full marriage rights for gays and lesbians outright.”

Of course, rumors always swirl around potential landmark rulings. But a pro-“gay marriage” decision in California would be the biggest victory yet for homosexual activists -– and also make debate over a potential marriage amendment on the November ballot even more significant.

ProtectMarriage.com actually needs only 690,000 valid signatures. But because a large percentage of signatures always are tossed out as invalid -– for instance, for having an illegitimate address or for having signed it twice –- the goal was set much higher. A sampling method will be used to determine how many of the 1.1 million are valid.

“We do our own processing and scrubbing [of the petitions],” Fishel said. “We try to get a real good number of how many are valid. Then we also have a consultant that does that. Then when we send them in to the county election officials. In order to get [690,000], our consultants — and history — tell us we need about 1.1 million.”

Southern Baptist churches in the state have played a key role in the signature drive. Chris Clark, pastor of East Clairemont Southern Baptist Church in San Diego, said pastors have a moral responsibility to stand up for the amendment.

“If I sit idly by while this goes on and I allow the laws to be changed and I don’t say a word, I’m shirking my responsibility as a proclaimer of God’s Word,” he previously told BP. “I can’t sit idly by and let that go.”

The proposed amendment reads: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For information about the initiative, visit ProtectMarriage.com.

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  • Michael Foust