Californians will consider a "limit on marriage" initiative on March 7 that could set a precedent for laws against same-sex unions across the country.
If passed, the legislation would forbid California from recognizing same-sex unions performed in other states. California does not yet recognize homosexual marriages, but all 50 states recognize lawful marriages, regardless of which state issued the marriage license.
Advocates of homosexual rights say approval of the "limit on marriage" initiative would be a major defeat, especially in a state known for its social tolerance. About 60 percent of Californians support the initiative.
The legislation gained greater attention in December when Vermont's state supreme court moved closer to legalizing same-sex marriages.
The court found it discriminatory to deny marriage licenses to homosexual couples, depriving them of benefits such as tax breaks, inheritance rights, and health insurance.
The court left it to the Vermont legislature to decide whether the state will include same-sex unions in its marriage laws or establish another system to recognize homosexual partnerships. Same-sex marriages are banned in more than 30 U.S. states, including Hawaii, once considered one of the most likely states to legalize homosexual marriage. In December, the Hawaiian supreme court recognized a 1998 amendment that reserves marriage for heterosexual couples only.