One day after a California legislative committee passed a bill that would fully legalize marriage for same-sex couples in the state, a new coalition of antigay religious groups announced plans to place a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage before voters next year, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The announcement by the group, ProtectMarriage.com, came a day after Assembly Bill 19 cleared the first of two committees it must pass to reach a floor vote in the state
In March 2000, California voters passed Proposition 22, a measure that added a male-female definition to marriage in the state's family code. Coalition leaders said Wednesday that their petition drive would seek to put similar language in the state constitution, as other states have recently done. According to the Chronicle, Republican state senator Dennis Hollingsworth, a leader of the Prop. 22 Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said Wednesday that the will of the voters is being attacked by "public officials hostile to it and runaway courts." Republican assemblyman Ray Haynes, a member of both groups, said a drive to enshrine a male-female definition of marriage in the state constitution will allow voters to "tell the government, 'We know what we wanted, and, doggone it, if you aren't listening, we're going to have to tell you one more time.'"
Gail Knight, widow of the late senator Pete Knight, who crafted Proposition 22, appeared with the group Wednesday. "Pete wouldn't have taken it personally," she said of the same-sex marriage legislation, "but he certainly wouldn't have rolled over."
Shannon Minter, legal counsel for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is representing gay couples in state court cases to overturn Proposition 22, said the coalition's coming ballot push represents a grave threat to proponents of same-sex marriage--one that the constitution's equal-protection section would not likely nullify. "It would definitely create a terrible problem for our community," Minter told the Chronicle. "The general rule is that a [constitutional] provision that's more specific would take preference over one that's more general. So far, whenever this has happened...the court [has] said, 'That's the end of it.'"
ProtectMarriage.com did not have any initiative language available Wednesday, but Hollingsworth said its proposed measure's wording will be similar to that of Proposition 22. He said the group will submit a proposed initiative to the attorney general within weeks in hopes of qualifying it for the June 2006 ballot. The coalition includes the California Family Alliance, Focus on the Family of Colorado Springs, Colo., and the Family Research Council.