Gettysburg. Armageddon. The War of the Rings.

Those are some of the superlatives culture warriors on both sides of the same-sex marriage divide are using to convey the urgency surrounding Proposition 8 on the Nov. 4 ballot, which would place a ban on gay marriage in the state Constitution.

To the initiative’s backers, nothing less weighty than religious liberty and even the building blocks of society are at stake. To its opponents, the California Marriage Protection Amendment tests nothing more cherished than the American ideals of equality and personal freedom.

All of it is riding on whether voters in the nation’s most populous state accept or reject 14 words: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

Proposition 8 is one of three proposed gay marriage bans appearing on ballots around the country this November. It would amend the state Constitution to overturn the California Supreme Court decision earlier this year that legalized same-sex unions.

It will be the first time a marriage amendment goes before voters in a place where same-sex couples — thousands of them since the court’s ruling took effect in mid-June — have legally wed.

“There is a sense that this is a potential tipping-point election,” said Jon Matsusaka, president of the Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California. “If voters here accept the concept of same-sex marriage, that will have an effect on the way people think across the country.”

By Election Day, the measure’s opponents and supporters expect to spend about $40 million — a large amount for a social issue initiative, according to Matsusaka. Volunteers on both sides will have spent thousands of hours getting their messages across to the state’s 16.2 million registered voters.

More than 9,500 people from all 50 states and the District of Columbia have contributed nearly $22 million to support or oppose the measure, while institutions have kicked in another $7.8 million.

Read the full story from Southern Voice.