As you read this letter, a drama is being played out in California that has serious implications for the institution of the family, not only in the Golden State but throughout the nation. On March 7, voters will go to the polls to consider Proposition 22, known as the Protection of Marriage Initiative. If this pro-family measure passes, it will add these fourteen crucial words to the California Family Code: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
This electoral decision is monumental in scope. A "yes" vote by the citizens of our most populous state would affirm the validity of the traditional family as designed by God at the dawn of human existence. But if Proposition 22 fails, the unraveling of that time-honored institution would accelerate. Homosexual marriages that might become legal in other states would be binding in California as well.
The initiative is critical right now because a few weeks ago, the liberal Supreme Court of Vermont directed the state legislature to either allow homosexuals to "marry," or to establish some form of domestic partnership that would create a quasi-marital relationship. It was a major victory for gays and lesbian activists because it represents the first big domino to fall. They have lost previous efforts to redefine marriage at the voting booths in Maine, Hawaii and Alaska, demonstrating that the majority of the people in those states oppose their agenda. But as is so often the case, a handful of unelected, leftist judges have imposed their will on the culture. Now by defeating the Protection of Marriage Initiative in California, activists would achieve one of their greatest victories in an era of unprecedented gains.
Who would have believed even a decade ago that leaders in dozens of countries around the world would be moving toward so-called "homosexual marriage" and other objectives that had almost no support at the outset. Indeed, the president of the United States is personally committed to that radical agenda. Bill Clinton meets regularly with activists, speaking at their fund-raising events and promising vigorous support for their goals. On the print edition of this letter I have shown a picture of the president at a meeting last December 16, during which he pledged himself again to the principle of homosexuals in the military.
Clinton said during this event, "I ask you to stay with me and to make a good effort. I think we've got a much better chance to pass (pro-gay and lesbian legislation) in 2000, and I hope you will help me with that." Then he added, "I have said many times, I wish we could have done more [to promote the homosexual agenda,] but I'm glad we did what we did." Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a national leader who was this supportive of the traditional family and the moral principles that undergird it?
In keeping with his pledge, the president is expected to do everything he can to help his activist friends defeat Proposition 22 in the closing days before March 7. He will not be the only prominent Democrat to enter the fray. California's attorney general took it upon himself to change the name of the referendum from the Definition of Marriage Initiative, which was signed by 700,000 citizens who placed it on the ballot. Instead he called it "The Limit on Marriages Initiative." That revision will hurt its chances of passage, because Americans don't like to be "limited" in any way.
California's governor, Gray Davis, and a majority of state representatives are also committed to the gay agenda. They have crammed through radical bills in the past few months that wouldn't have had a chance four years ago. Sheila Kuehl, an openly lesbian assemblywoman in California, described herself as "euphoric" over what is happening to her movement. She said about the governor, "[His] action in signing [recent pro-homosexual] bills moved me beyond words. The importance of these laws to many thousands of people can't be underestimated." This comment illustrates the zeal and momentum that the pro-family community in California is facing as the election approaches on March 7.
Furthermore, we have just learned that homosexual activists in the Golden State are planning to capitalize on their victory if they are successful in defeating the Protection of Marriage Initiative. They have begun circulating petitions to get a constitutional amendment on the November 2000 ballot that would formally legalize same-sex marriage. Clearly, those with whom we disagree are committed to their cause. The question is, are we as dedicated to ours?
Quite literally, the institution of the family is hanging in the balance. If homosexuals are permitted to marry, then the entire legal basis for the family will be undermined. For example, if marriages between two men or two women are recognized by the state, then why not three men or four women, or perhaps four men and two women? Once the traditional family is jettisoned, who knows what California's liberal court system will decide is "constitutional"? Marriage would mean anything-or, more likely, nothing at all. What is at stake here is nothing less than the future of the family-the basic unit of society on which everything of value rests.
Can you imagine the chaos that would occur if the institution of marriage finally collapses or becomes ineffectual in various nations of the world? Everything of value would quickly unravel, beginning with the welfare of the younger generation. The family is the greatest vehicle ever invented for the care, nurturance and spiritual development of children. When boys and girls are raised in unstable settings and then shuffled from pillar to post, serious behavioral problems begin to appear. Furthermore, history confirms that the stability of society itself crumbles. Cultures that have allowed their families to disintegrate have quickly deteriorated or passed from the world scene.1 These are the implications of the upcoming election in California and the other places where the civil war of values rages.
Returning to the situation in California, activists are reportedly spending upwards of $10 million on an advertising campaign designed to confuse the issue and influence the people. Misleading television ads are permeating the media in these closing days before the election. The question remains, what will be the response from the pro-family community? I'm almost afraid to ask. My concern is that conservative pastors and their constituencies in California will sit out this landmark battle. Will Christians abandon the family at its time of greatest peril? Recent history is not encouraging. More than 126 million people who were eligible to vote in the general election of 1998 stayed at home, and many of them were Christians. That is disgraceful. It permitted those in favor of abortion, gambling, homosexuality and other liberal causes to win the day. Without a concerted effort, the traditional family will continue to decline.
Excerpted with permission from the February 2000 edition of Family News from James Dobson. Copyright 2000 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.