Court hands conservatives a victory in gay marriage case

LOS ANGELES -- The California Supreme Court handed conservatives a big victory on Thursday by allowing them to defend a statewide ban on gay marriage that a federal judge struck down as unconstitutional last year.

The court's 7-0 ruling is a victory for conservative and evangelical backers of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that ended same-sex marriage in California. State officials have declined to defend the measure in a federal appeals court.

"When an initiative measure is challenged in court, the integrity and effectiveness of the judicial process require that a competent and spirited defense be presented," Justice Joyce Kennard wrote in a concurring opinion.

"If public officials refuse to provide that defense, the ability of the initiative proponents to intervene in the pending litigation, and to appeal an adverse judgment, is inherent in, and essential to the effective exercise of, the constitutional initiative power."

McCain to make full-throttle push for Catholic vote

ST. PAUL, Minn.

At 67 million strong and packed into must-win states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida, U.S. Catholics are the ultimate electoral prize for any candidate seeking the White House.

Since 1976, winning the Catholic vote has meant winning the Oval Office -- except for Al Gore, who narrowly carried Catholics by two points but nonetheless lost 2000's disputed election to George W. Bush.

Catholics are, to put it simply, the ultimate swing vote.

Yet with their size and diversity -- think Ted Kennedy and Mel Gibson, Catholics both -- they are notoriously hard to fit into one partisan profile. Which is why John McCain and the GOP aren't willing to lose the Catholics to Barack Obama -- at least not without a fight.

Here at the Republican National Convention, Catholic members of the GOP are confident McCain can win the Catholic vote, especially with the help of his staunchly anti-abortion running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Megachurch reflects on presidential event

LAKE FOREST, Calif. -- A day after hosting presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain, megachurch pastor Rick Warren said Sunday (Aug. 17) that a politician's soul is as important as his solutions.

"Don't just look at issues, look at character," Warren sermonized here at his Saddleback Church. "Issues are important but you also have to look at character."

The megachurch pastor made only a passing reference to his "buddies named Barack and John," but he made clear what he looks for in a leader.

"Our leaders used to be known for the integrity ... `Honest Abe' or George Washington," Warren said. "Does the private life of a leader matter? Absolutely it matters. Because what you do affects everybody else, even in your private life."

On Saturday night Warren and Saddleback hosted a "civil forum" with Republican presumptive nominee McCain and Obama, the presumed Democratic nominee. It was this presidential campaign's third faith-focused forum -- the first two included only Democratic nominees -- highlighting the importance religion has assumed in recent elections.

Both sides gear up for costly Calif. fight over gay marriage

By David Finnigan
Religion News Service

LOS ANGELES -- The election-year fallout from last week’s ruling by the California Supreme Court to allow same-sex marriage has both sides of the religious and political landscape building their barricades.

Gay marriage advocates are jubilant but cautious as they hold onto their landmark court victory, while the opponents hope to make it a major issue in the November elections.

"A lot of people are very angry about the court's decision, calling up, e-mailing, asking what they can do to help," said Andrew Pugno, the attorney for backers of a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage and, if approved by voters, trump the court's decision.

With funding from Focus on the Family and other groups, the "Protect Marriage" measure has gathered more than 1.1 million signatures to qualify for the November ballot.