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In California, gay marriage fight heats up

Supporters of Proposition 8, which would outlaw the practice, nose ahead in polls.

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Formal studies have shown that polls have underestimated the pro-traditional-marriage vote by an average of 7 percent over the past several years. That is based on the observation that many respondents don't want to tell pollsters how strongly they feel about conventional marriage.

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However, new voters, especially from young and minority groups, have been brought into politics this year by Barack Obama. Which of them show up on voting day could also affect the outcome.

Younger voters tend to be more liberal while black voters tend to be more conservative about this issue, says John Neu, a political scientist at Whittier College.

Some critics of the measure say the only reason it is on the ballot is that the state Supreme Court was inappropriately activist about the issue.

"It's obvious that … in this case the judicial branch has overstepped its bounds and is legislating from the bench," says Dr. Godzich. "The people of California in 2000 spoke their desires [in approving Prop. 22 in 2000] and these judges are overturning their will."

But opponents say times have changed. "[California Gov.] Arnold [Schwarzenegger] is against ending same-sex marriage, and the legislature has approved such laws twice," says anti-Prop. 8 strategist Mr. Smith. "Out of the four justices who made the decision, three were appointed by conservative Republican governors."

Ad spending rises

Pro and con ads are flooding state television. One ad against the measure features a gray-haired heterosexual couple, married 46 years, with three children, one of whom is gay.

"My wife and I never treated our children different, we never loved them any differently, and the law shouldn't treat them differently either," says the father.

In recent days, opponents of same-sex marriage have stepped up television advertising and warned voters that if Proposition 8 is defeated, children will be taught about gay marriage in elementary schools. Gay-marriage supporters call that argument misleading.

As of last week, the campaign supporting the measure had raised $25.4 million, compared with $15.8 million for those supporting the right to gay marriage.

Gay-rights advocates are turning to Hollywood celebrities for help. In recent weeks, director Steven Spielberg and actor Brad Pitt each donated $100,000 in support of the campaign to preserve the right to gay marriage.

Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who wed actress Portia de Rossi in August, had vice presidential candidate Joseph Biden (D) on her show Monday opposing Prop. 8 and has thrown $100,000 to buy TV time to fight the ban.

• Material from Reuters was used in this article.