What's next for gay marriage in California?

If conservative organizations get their way, voters will have an opportunity this fall to overturn the state Supreme Court's ruling legalizing gay marriage.

By Alex Koppelman
May 15, 2008 11:50PM (UTC)
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If Californians don't like Thursday's state Supreme Court decision that struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, they'll probably have an opportunity to overrule it this fall. Organizations opposed to same-sex marriage have collected more than 1.1 million signatures in favor of putting an initiative on the ballot in November that would, if passed, add an amendment to the state Constitution that reads: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

At least 694,354 of the signatures must be declared valid for the initiative to go to the voters in November; that count will reportedly be finalized at the end of June. One of the laws struck down by Thursday's ruling had been passed by ballot initiative in 2000, with 63 percent of the vote. According to Andrew Sullivan, recent polls have shown the state about evenly divided on the issue.


These kinds of state initiatives and referendums were key to Republican turnout efforts in recent years, as they were used to ensure that the base would come out to vote. Some Republicans are already considering the potential implications in California. One senior Republican strategist told Salon that the GOP wants to try to find a way to put California in play in the general election; the strategist expressed some optimism that the decision might be helpful to the party.

The state seems very unlikely to vote for a Republican for president, but national Republicans could use the initiative to make the Democratic nominee uncomfortable and force the Democrats to pay more attention to the state than they otherwise would.

In a statement, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said, "I respect the Court's decision and as Governor, I will uphold its ruling. Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling."

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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California Gay Marriage War Room