- The Washington Times - Friday, April 25, 2008

Traditional marriage supporters in California said yesterday that they were turning in enough signatures to put a marriage amendment before voters in November.

ProtectMarriage.com Coalition has gathered more than 1.1 million signatures, said Andrew Pugno, campaign director and attorney for ProtectMarriage.com.

About 700,000 signatures are needed, so that’s a “comfortable margin,” he said.

Once the state certifies the signatures, he said, a campaign to promote the amendment will begin.

The ballot measure would add to the constitution 14 words: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

Proponents think the move will end efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.

Gay activists have been fighting the petition drive with a “Decline to Sign” campaign.

“While we don’t know the actual number of signatures they will turn in, we do know that California voters believe people should not be treated unfairly under the laws of our state,” Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, said this week.

“We won’t know for several weeks if the proponents have actually submitted the signatures they claim or if they have turned in enough to qualify their proposal for the November ballot,” he added.

Gay activists are confident that they can defeat the amendment because they think public opinion on marriage has shifted.

In 2005 and 2007, for instance, California lawmakers passed bills to legalize same-sex marriage. Although California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both bills, the legislation marked a watershed moment for gay rights and “shows how deep the support is,” said leaders of Equality for All, a coalition that opposes the marriage amendment.

A turning point for the California ballot measure will be when the California Supreme Court issues its ruling in a landmark gay marriage case sometime before June 2.

A finding that gay marriage is constitutional would “propel the amendment forward,” said Joe Infranco, a lawyer with Alliance Defense Fund, which supports the marriage amendment.

If the court finds no constitutional right to gay marriage, the amendment would prevent courts or lawmakers from redefining marriage “10 or 15 years from now,” Mr. Pugno said.

Across the nation, 27 states have amended their constitutions to forbid gay marriage.

Florida voters are likely to have a marriage measure on November ballots, and a third marriage amendment may materialize in Arizona if lawmakers pass such a measure.

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