California court takes up issue as evangelical leaders plot fight

( [email protected] ) May 29, 2004 05:21 PM EDT

Evangelical leaders from across the country are preparing for a fight that some say is a battle for Western Civilization itself.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins commented, "I am not exaggerating when I say the next 12 to 18 months will likely determine not only the future of this country, but of Western Civilization."

The last few weeks have been historical, as Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex "marriage,” and as protest rallies across the United States saw thousands of Christians and pro-family groups standing together with one unequivocal voice.

"This is such a critical moment," Focus on the Family founder James Dobson said. "We do stand at a crossroads."

Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, called the fight over same-sex marriage, "the mother of all culture war battles. This is the one that decides what kind of a country we’re going to be."

Colson called evangelical Christians "the great sleeping army" and said they are the key to forcing congressional support for a federal marriage amendment.

At least six lawsuits arguing for or against the right of homosexuals and lesbians to marry are now pending in San Francisco and Los Angeles superior courts. But it could take two or three years for those cases to reach the state's highest court.

The broader constitutional issue is separately working its way slowly through state trial courts.