On Friday, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen granted a gay rights group permission to move forward with a petition seeking to reinstate same-sex marriage in California.
The initiative was instigated by Los Angeles group Love Honor Cherish. The group must gather 807,615 signatures -- or 8 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2010 gubernatorial election -- in order to qualify the measure for the ballot, and all signatures are due by May 14, 2012.
The initiative would amend the California Constitution to read that, "marriage is between only two persons and shall not be restricted on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion." It would also clarify that the initiative "shall not be interpreted to require any priest, minister, pastor, rabbi, or other person to perform a marriage in violation of his or her religious beliefs."
The initiative comes on the heels of Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, the so-called Prop. 8 trial -- a federal lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of Proposition 8. The decision of that trial could be handed down as early as this month, but Love Honor Cherish says the group is not waiting for the lawsuit to unfold.
"Obviously we are hoping that case succeeds in overturning Prop. 8," said Love Honor Cherish interim Executive Director Eric Harrison to The Huffington Post. "But we need to be prepared to put this on the ballot in case the court case doesn't go well. We are approaching this with an offensive strategy and sending a message that we're not just going to be reactive anymore."
Love Honor Cherish is talking to firms that specialize in signature gathering, and has hired Harrison to focus specifically on the ballot measure.
"When we first approached this in 2010, we relied solely on volunteers," said Harrison. "And now, although we've always had tremendous community support, we don't have any illusions about what we need to do, and we know that we need people devoting their time and energy to this entirely. It's too important."
Proposition 8, the initiative that amended the California constitution to read that only marriages between a man and a woman would be considered valid, was passed with a 52 percent vote in 2008 -- just five months after the state Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. The proposition's passing surprised many Californians, and opponents immediately launched repeal campaigns, investigations and even a musical mocking support groups.
"Life is tragically short," said Harrison. "And every day that gays and lesbians aren't allowed to marry is another day that we are denying equality. That sends a message not only to those who aren't allowed to marry, but to everyone -- to our children. It's time for us to seize the day and claim our rights."
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