Sacramento - A constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in California was placed on the Nov. 4 ballot Monday, kick-starting an election struggle that will have repercussions across the nation.
Secretary of State Debra Bowen's certification of the initiative, which would amend the state Constitution to limit marriage to a union between a man and a woman, comes as no surprise to either side of the same-sex marriage issue.
When backers of the initiative, who needed 694,354 valid signatures to make the ballot, turned in more than 1.1 million signatures, the only question was when the certification would come.
"We're not surprised by this at all and have been getting ready to run a very aggressive campaign," said Steve Smith, a senior campaign consultant to the Equality for All effort, which will try to defeat the initiative. "This (initiative) asks California voters to take away a fundamental right from same-sex couples, and we don't believe they are willing to do that."
Signatures for the proposed amendment were filed with county clerks across the state in late April, weeks before the state Supreme Court overturned Proposition 22, a ballot measure that also banned same-sex marriage and passed with 61 percent of the vote in 2000. If the new amendment is passed, it will overturn the state court's ruling.
Opponents of same-sex marriage already are arguing that the court should not have overturned the vote of the people on same-sex marriage and have said they are confident that their fall campaign will draw support not only from voters in California but from citizens across the nation.
California officials plan to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples beginning June 17. Opponents of the court's 4-3 decision have called on the court to delay that action until after the November election, but no decision on that request has been made.
A Field Poll released last week showed that for the first time in 30 years of polling on the gay marriage question, a majority of Californians now supports same-sex marriage and a more voters are unwilling to overturn the state Supreme Court decision.
The same-sex marriage ban was one of four measures approved for the ballot Monday, along with two dealing with criminal justice matters and a third setting new rules for renewable energy. That brings the number of measures on the November ballot to eight, with three others awaiting certification.
E-mail John Wildermuth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2008 The San Francisco Chronicle