Yesterday, the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8. The decision was met with disappointment, but not surprise, from gay marriage advocates, who have vowed to fight on.

Campaigners say the decision, which has allowed the 18,000 gay couples who married to stay wed, has created an “apartheid” in the state.

The plan is to get the issue back on the ballot in November 2010 instead of waiting until 2012, a move which has been overwhelmingly supported by members of Equality California (EQCA) and the Courage Campaign.

To do this, advocates will need to gather nearly 700,000 signatures in support of a new vote.

In November, Proposition 8 was approved by a slim majority of 52 per cent of voters. Gay marriage supporters believe opinion can be swayed enough to give them a majority.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is running for the Democratic nomination to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger next year, has said he will be pleased to see the issue back on the ballot.

“Now is our opportunity to go back to the people and to reach out to the voters, those who were on the fence and those we were against us,” he said.

Marc Solomon, EQCA’s marriage director, said: “Despite today’s setback, Equality California is committed to restoring the freedom to marry. We believe, as do the majority of our members, that 2010 is the best time to return to the ballot to repeal Prop 8. We must take full advantage of the momentum and commitment people now have to do the work required on the ground.”

He added that a final decision on the return to the ballot would be made in collaboration with coalition partners throughout the state.

A grassroots campaign of canvassing, TV commercials and donations has begun and there are plans to enlist 1,000 clergy members to help gather support for gay marriage.

Soloman concluded: “Introducing ballot language is simple; winning an affirmative referendum on the freedom to marry will be difficult and expensive. But we have confidence that we can and will prevail.”

California has a constitution longer than that of the US. Critics have claimed the state is suffering from an overload of democracy, which allows extreme elements the opportunity to pass laws.

Proposition 13, brought through in 1978, capped property taxes while limiting the state’s ability to raise revenue in difficult financial times. It has been blamed for the state’s current financial situation.