(Also, see Mad Professah’s diary on this topic — it’s chock full of info.)

The Protect Marriage web site says it has collected and is processing  the petitions for the “Limit on Marriage” initiative and plans to deliver them to all the county election officials. In order to qualify, the anti-gay coalition needed to gather 694,354 signatures.

Registrars are then required to take a random sample of signatures to verify.  If that sampling shows at least 10 percent more valid signatures than required the petitions will be certified and the measure will be placed on the November ballot. Protect Marriage said it has so many more names than the law mandates it has no doubt the question will be put to voters.

They are incensed about the Governator’s opposition to the ballot initiative:

Ron Prentice, Chairman of the ProtectMarriage.com steering committee stated, “Governor Schwarzenegger’s flip-flopping reveals his false regard for the will of the people of California. More than 61% of California’s voters defined legal marriage as only between a man and a woman with the passage of Proposition 22 in 2000. However, the Legislature& rsquo;s devotion to special interest groups forces citizens to pursue a constitutional amendment to protect marriage.”  

A constitutional amendment is the only way to stop the courts from overturning the will of the voters on this issue.  If the Governor truly supports the will of the voters, he would back the amendment.  Perhaps he’ll come to realize that we are just protecting the current definition of marriage.

More after the jump.Protect Marriage raised $1.5 million cash and hired paid signature gatherers to obtain its goal; equality advocates had a counter campaign that, at this point, seems to have failed to stop the fundie juggernaut.

A coalition of gay rights groups called Equality for All launched an aggressive counter-campaign to persuade people not to sign the qualifying petitions.

Its “Decline to Sign” volunteers approached patrons outside the shopping centers where the signature gatherers were working and asked them instead to sign pledges supporting same-sex marriage.

Representatives from the two sides have accused each other of trying to squelch free speech. There were reports of heated debates and even fisticuffs in some locations.

Dan Hawes, an organizer with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force who has spent two months on the effort to keep the initiative from qualifying, said he had never seen such a coordinated attempt to prevent a marriage amendment from making it to the ballot.

“There is a real sense of hope and possibility here because of the court ruling that is coming down in June,” he said. “The fact that could be taken away in five months is really painful for people who want to marry.”

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding