Sen. John McCain endorsed on Thursday a ballot initiative in California that would overturn the recent state court ruling legalizing same-sex "marriage."
"I support the efforts of the people of California to recognize marriage as a unique institution between a man and a woman, just as we did in my home state of Arizona. I do not believe judges should be making these decisions," the Republican presidential candidate said in a statement, according to ProtectMarriage.com.
McCain's support for traditional marriage was welcomed by conservatives and pro-family groups especially at a time when many of them remain unsure of the Arizona senator and his stance on social issues.
But McCain is slowly winning the hearts of evangelicals and conservative leaders as polls show him head-to-head with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.
On Thursday, McCain met privately with several conservative leaders in Ohio to talk about social issues, including embryonic stem-cell research, judges and gay "marriage." Although McCain wasn't their first choice for the Republican nomination, some are rallying behind him against Obama.
Participants of the private meeting said the Arizona senator indicated he would take seriously their requests that he choose an anti-abortion running mate and would talk more openly about his stance supporting traditional marriage, according to The Los Angeles Times.
After that meeting, a lot of hearts were changed, said Phil Burress, who led Ohio's anti-gay-marriage ballot measure in 2004, the Times reported. "We realized that he's with us on the majority of the issues we care about."
Although McCain has opposed a federal constitutional amendment preserving traditional marriage, saying he believes states should decide the issue, McCain's announcement supporting the California Protection of Marriage initiative would indicate to many evangelicals that he's on their side when it comes to the core social issues.
"As a leader in the United States Senate and the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Senator McCain's position will be an important factor to millions of Californians," ProtectMarriage.com chairman Ron Prentice commented. "We are honored to have the support of Senator McCain."
Although Prentice also invited Obama to endorse the ballot initiative, his wife, Michelle, delivered a speech Thursday indicating that he would most likely not hop on the traditional marriage bandwagon.
Obama will fight for equal rights for gays just as he fought to help working-class families overcome poverty, she said at a Manhattan fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee's Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council, according to The Associated Press.
McCain is continuing his more aggressive push to reach out to his party base as he is scheduled to meet with the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, on Sunday. He said he also hopes to meet with influential evangelical Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.