Gay marriage amendment on California November ballot

SAN FRANCISCO Tue Jun 3, 2008 4:08pm EDT

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California voters will decide in November whether to amend the state constitution to limit marriage to unions between men and women and thereby reverse the state's recent Supreme Court decision.

The California Secretary of State said on Monday that the proposal would appear on the November 4 ballot. A simple majority is sufficient to amend the state constitution.

The announcement did not surprise activists on either side of the issue, who have long anticipated a showdown.

"We've known for several years that a constitutional amendment was the only way to solidify the definition of marriage in state law," said Ron Prentice, chairman of the Protect Marriage Coalition, which is sponsoring the measure.

Without a constitutional amendment, lawmakers would continue to attempt to legalize same-sex marriage, and the state would face constant court battles, Prentice said.

His group expected the issue to appear on the November ballot even before last month, when the state Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional and discriminatory to prevent same-sex couples from marrying.

The group said it expects to spend at least $10 million on the campaign. Gay marriage proponents have said they will match them dollar-for-dollar.

Polls have given conflicting results on how the referendum might go. A Field poll published last week showed 51 percent in favor of gay marriage with 42 percent opposed.

But a Los Angeles Times poll the previous week found 54 percent backed the amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman with 35 percent opposed.

"We are in the midst of full mobilization," said Kate Kendall, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "This amendment will be hard-fought."

(Reporting by Amanda Beck, editing by Alan Elsner)

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