| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Gays and lesbians marrying in California are ditching traditional wedding gifts and asking friends to contribute money to fight a ballot measure that would make their unions illegal.
A month after California began legally marrying same-sex partners, thousands of dollars that might have been spent on toasters or dinnerware for newlyweds have been donated to the campaign against the November referendum that seeks to define marriage in the state as only between a man and a woman.
"Most of the couples marrying have been together a very long time. They have already moved in together and some of them have kids together," said John Duran, president of Equality California.
"So the usual notion of a huge reception or acquiring your first microwave is not really happening. A lot of these couples are directing their family and friends to the wedding registry on our site to help us keep these marriages in place."
California's Supreme Court struck down a ban on same-sex marriage in May, making the state the second after Massachusetts to allow gay weddings. Opponents hope to override the court's ruling by winning the November ballot.
Duran said the Equality California wedding registry Web site ( www.eqca.org ) had raised tens of thousands of dollars in the last three weeks to fight the marriage-definition measure.
Dozens of hotels, photographers and caterers serving the gay community have pledged to donate 10 percent to 50 percent of their proceeds to the campaign when their wedding services are used.
'DEAR FRIENDS ...'
Actor George Takei, best known for playing Mr. Sulu on the TV series "Star Trek," and his partner, Brad Altman, are among the couples promoting the idea.
"Brad and I have been together for 21 years so we have our toasters and mixers. What are we going to do with more things?" said Takei, 71, who plans to marry Altman in September in Los Angeles.
Takei, the national Coming Out spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, has suggested friends donate to that site's wedding registry ( here ) in lieu of gifts.
Dee and Marianne, registered on the Equality for All site ( here ), hope to raise $1,500.
"Dear Friends, in case you were puzzling what would be a nice wedding gift for us, might we suggest ... to click 'Donate' below to make a contribution ... to defend the fundamental freedom to marry in California," they wrote on the site ahead of their July 19 wedding.
Although most same-sex weddings so far have been low-key, comedian Ellen DeGeneres has said she is planning a "dream wedding" to her partner, Australian actress Portia de Rossi, and will broadcast some of it on her TV chat show.
Duran said he believed the marriage of DeGeneres, one of the most prominent lesbians in popular U.S. culture, would boost the same-sex marriage cause with voters.
"A lot of the undecided voters in California are middle-aged women of both political parties and many of them watch Ellen on television and think very highly of her," Duran said. "So we think Ellen's wedding will be very helpful."
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and John O'Callaghan)
(please visit our entertainment blog via www.reuters.com or on blogs.reuters.com/fanfare/)