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On the Eve of Big D.C. March, Leaders Argue California Should Be Patient About Same-Sex Marriage

The founder of the nation's largest LGBT church and a noted activist say when it comes to restoring same-sex marriage to California, patience is a virtue.

Editor's Note: This October 10-11 weekend in Washington, D.C, thousands will join together for the National Equality March to push for equal rights for the LGBT community, such as the right to marry, donate blood and serve in the military. To participate in the march and learn more about it, visit the Equality Across America website.

For more than a generation, efforts to recognize gay people and same-sex couples in the law have been central flash points in California politics.

Religious identity and the frequency with which one attends religious services remain key predictors of a voter's stance on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Religion continues to shape debate in California over marriage and Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that overturned marriage equality. But two dynamics show potential in coming years to blur the traditional battle lines over faith and the full equality for LGBT people.

First, as members of a new generation, even those no less religious than their parents, register to vote, a shift is in the offing.

Second, a broad coalition of marriage-equality allies has focused on a three-year drive to overturn Prop. 8 and is engaging equality-minded people of faith in that effort.

We are troubled by the current "faith divide" in the politics of equal rights. Overcoming it is crucial to our goal of regaining civil marriage in California by passing a constitutional amendment to restore the freedom to marry for committed same-sex couples.

The three-year drive to approve such a measure unites the leading organizations for civil rights, people of color, family advocacy, labor, health and community service in the state. This broad coalition can win in 2012 in part by reaching out and realizing the room for growth in support for marriage equality within the ranks of the faithful.

To ensure that existing programs of dialogue and outreach among churchgoing Californians on the importance of marriage equality endure and bear fruit, nothing less than the strategic use of precious resources and the healing balm of time will be required.

Rushing back to the ballot next year with a bid to overturn Prop. 8, which a handful of gay groups is now pursuing, threatens to nip these important conversations in the bud at precisely the time when they hold the most potential.

A mad dash to the ballot box also squanders the harvest we could reap when today's 15-year-olds, who have grown up in a world of "out" people, arrive at the polling booths in 2012.

We know firsthand the missionary power of the love and devotion of same-sex couples to change the hearts and minds of family, friends and neighbors. As guest, participant or officiator, we witnessed some of the weddings in 2008 that united 18,000 pairs -- that's 36,000 lesbians and gay men -- in marriage in California.

Among the thousands from outside the LGBT community who attended these ceremonies, many found that witnessing the vows of committed couples opened their eyes to the joys, anxieties, ordinary pressures and often extraordinary dignity that gay people show one another and our families, even while facing treatment that may fall short on grace and respect.

Many, many times in the course of these ceremonies, we saw siblings, parents, co-workers and fellow worshipers of all racial, class and language backgrounds moved to tears and to prayer at what God had brought together.

We breathed a sigh of relief when, in May, the state Supreme Court, even while upholding Prop. 8, refused to tear these couples asunder.