WASHINGTON — Defenders of traditional marriage say last month’s California Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex “marriage” is both a crisis and an opportunity.

Even before the decision was announced, Catholics and other supporters of traditional marriage had succeeded in placing an initiative on the November ballot next fall that would overturn the May 15 decision by amending the state constitution to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

“When we win this in California, especially in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, this will send shock waves throughout the country,” said Brian Brown, executive director of the New Jersey-based National Organization for Marriage.

Opponents of same-sex “marriage” stress that they aren’t downplaying the significance of the California decision when they predict it will galvanize Americans to reject the concept decisively at the ballot box.

They say that it’s precisely because the decision is so potentially damaging — because it explicitly equates discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation with race-based discrimination — that it highlights to voters what’s really at stake in the national marriage debate.

Brown said the California decision has opened the door to challenges of churches’ hiring practices, tax-exempt status and other areas where they have policies based on their belief that homosexual conduct is immoral.

“In a nutshell, this decision opens up all sorts of fronts for undermining religious liberty,” Brown said. “There is no question that the decision has now made same-sex ‘marriage’ a major issue in the upcoming elections.”

Political Landscape

Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage, said homosexual activists are currently targeting several states, including Vermont, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut, Iowa and New York, as the next venues where same-sex “marriage” may be legalized.

But he said homosexual activists are delaying their push until after the November elections because they are fearful of a backlash like that in 2004, when “values voters” came out in force to vote against candidates who support same-sex “marriage.”

Said Daniels, “Those are all states where the other side has made significant progress in the past and is poised either in the courts or the legislature or both to renew their efforts after the election.”

The California decision overturned a ban on same-sex “marriage” instituted in 2000 through a referendum called Proposition 22, which defined civil marriage as between one man and one woman.

Daniels, whose organization is promoting an amendment to the federal Constitution that would define marriage as consisting “only of the union of a man and a woman,” said this confirms that only constitutional amendments can provide the required protection against activist judges who don’t respect the judgment of voters.

At the state level in 2008, California and Florida both have initiatives on their ballots to define marriage as between one man and one woman, and a drive is under way to place a similar measure on the ballot in Arizona.

Voters in 25 other states already have voted in favor of initiatives that amended their state constitutions to define marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution.

“We’ve seen victories in virtually every state where voters have had a chance to express their views democratically,” Daniels said. “Whenever we take it to the people, we win.”

Homosexual activists oppose allowing voters to decide whether the federal and state constitutions should be amended to bar same-sex “marriage.”

Brad Luna, director of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said his organization opposes such initiatives because historically the U.S. Constitution has been amended only to expand rights, not restrict them.

And while he acknowledged voters have generally rejected same-sex “marriage” when given the chance, Luna attributed this to propaganda employed by “the anti-gay side.”

Luna rejected the argument that homosexuality is a behavior rather than an innate characteristic like race and therefore not deserving of similar civil rights protection.

“A person’s sexuality is an innate trait of who they are,” Luna said, “So this is not a ‘lifestyle’ or a ‘behavior’ or, you know, all of those buzzwords that anti-gay extremists on the right like to throw out there.”

But according to Pennsylvania psychiatrist Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, co-author of the Catholic Medical Association’s handbook “Homosexuality and Hope,” scientific studies of the incidence of homosexual behavior among identical twins have proven it is not an inborn characteristic.

“Genetic research demonstrates very clearly that it is not innate,” he said. “The issue is not fundamentally one of civil rights because this is something that is not genetically determined.”

Fitzgibbons suggested that in political debates over the definition of marriage, it’s also important to note that it’s scientifically known that homosexual relationships are associated with extremely high rates of promiscuity and other damaging behaviors.

“These relationships are fundamentally pathological,” he said. “They are radically different from marriages.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” and that “under no circumstances can they be approved” (No. 2357).

Voter Awareness

Despite the national controversy generated by the California Supreme Court decision, Human Rights Campaign spokesman Luna insists same-sex “marriage” will have little influence on the outcome of the 2008 elections.

“In 2004, I think it reached its peak,” said Luna, who called efforts to make it a key election issue “a political ploy” to deflect voter attention away from other issues like gas prices and health care.

Brown said Luna couldn’t be more wrong — so long as defenders of traditional marriage do the political legwork required to ensure the issue remains prominent in the minds of voters.

“In states where a constitutional ballot is going to be on the ballot, especially in California and Florida, they need to get the word out, they need to volunteer and they need to donate,” Brown said. “In the other states, people need to be talking to their legislators. They need to find out who their legislators are and make clear that they do not support same-sex marriage.”

Brown noted that talking points for discussing the issue with politicians are available on the National Organization for Marriage’s website, nationformarriage.org.

Said Brown, “People need to have hope, and they have to get involved because we can still stop this.”

Tom McFeely is based in

Victoria, British Columbia.