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Associated Press/Photo by Rich Pedroncelli

Prop 8 foes turn violent

Family | The heated battle over marriage in California has resulted in vandalism and even death threats

On Wednesday, Jim Franklin dealt with death twice in one day. After presiding over a funeral, the senior pastor of 3,000-member Cornerstone Church in Fresno, Calif., was having a meal with the family of the deceased when his telephone rang.

The caller was Georgeanne White, chief of staff for Fresno Mayor Alan Autry.

Someone opposing California's Proposition 8, White said, had just issued a pair of email death threats. One was directed at Autry, the other at Franklin, both of whom had spoken on Sunday at city hall in support of Proposition 8, which would restore traditional marriage as the only kind recognized in the state.

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"Is the threat serious?" Franklin asked White on the phone.

Yes, she said-and specific. The email explained exactly how the sender intended to dispatch the two men.

The threat was also serious enough that the next call Franklin received was from Jerry Dyer, Fresno's chief of police. "By the end of the day, I had [police] officers with me," Franklin told WORLD. "They were also at our services that night."

The pastor said his home, as well as Cornerstone's church offices and sanctuary, located in an historic theater in downtown Fresno, were also vandalized this week; all three locations are now under police surveillance.

"Yes on 8" organizers say similar vandalism has occurred all over the state. In Huntington Beach, vandals scrawled the word "biggot [sic]" on a sign supporting the measure. In Mission Viejo and the City of Orange, Proposition 8 foes left dog excrement on supporters' doormats.

In Modesto, outside St. Stanislaus parish school, a man snatched up a stack of Yes on 8 signs and ran with them, dumping them over a fence onto the property of a nunnery. The man who had planned to distribute the signs gave chase and received for his trouble a fist in his eye and 16 stitches.

"No on 8" field manager Kathleen Campisano told The Orange County Register that groups opposing the measure had not tracked incidents of vandalism by Proposition 8 supporters. But she's sure it's happening on both sides of the campaign, she said.

Jim Franklin, who hosts a radio talk show on KMG-AM, has been a vocal supporter of Proposition 8. His essential message, both on the air and in the pulpit, has been that Proposition 8 "is not just about two people who love each other wanting to live together in marriage," he said. "It's about freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the freedom of parents to raise their children according to their own values."

Support for Proposition 8 is gaining in polls. An Oct. 18-28 Field Poll of 966 likely voters showed 49 percent opposing Proposition 8, with 44 percent in favor and 7 percent undecided. The measure trailed by 14 points just a month ago.

Women oppose Proposition 8 in greater number than men, according to Field, and people who said they personally knew a homosexual person were more likely to oppose Proposition 8 than people who said they did not.

Franklin said the death threat against him was "a big dose of realism. You realize that people on both sides of this issue are passionate." Still, it surprised him that those opposed to Proposition 8 would resort to violence.

"For an issue that's supposed to be about two people who love each other," he said, "there isn't much love in that."

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