Gay marriage campaigners have said they will wait until 2012 to challenge Proposition 8, the initiative that banned gay marriage in California.

Equality California (EQCA) has recommended that efforts should be focused on getting the issue on the ballot for 2012 rather than 2010.

It is thought that the battle for hearts and minds can be solidly won within this timeframe.

Geoff Kors, executive director of EQCA, said: “Waiting indefinitely to return to the ballot is not an option, but we must be strategic in selecting the election that gives us the best opportunity to permanently secure the freedom to marry.

“For the first time in our state’s history, our community will determine the timing of an election for our equality instead of having to defend ourselves at an election chosen by our opponents.”

The organisation has launched a new three-year strategy to persuade voters to allow gay marriage.

EQCA marriage director Marc Solomon cited a “fierce” and “aggressive” fight to win back the right to marry.

He commented: “For us, waiting has never been a possibility. We’ve already talked to thousands of voters across the state. The real issue has been whether it will take 15 months or 39 months to change enough hearts and minds so that future generations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Californians never have to fight again at the ballot box for their basic humanity.”

However, the Los Angeles-based Courage Campaign has said it will continue to push for a 2010 ballot.

Gay marriage was legalised in California in May 2008. However, Prop 8 defined marriage as being between a man and a woman last November. Supporters of gay marriage argued the initiative was unconstitutional and discriminatory.

In May, Supreme Court judges rejected an argument from gay marriage supporters that the ban was unconstitutional but unanimously ruled that the 18,000 gay couples who married while gay marriage was legal will stay wed.