Mormon leaders asked their California members to “do all you can” to support a gay marriage ban, and Pope Benedict told Catholics gay unions are false and immoral in opposing gay marriage, while Episcopal Bishops in California took an opposing view in the gay marriage debate, calling gay marriage “the principle way” gay couples can show their love, devotion and life-long commitment to each other.

Religious leaders in California, who played a big role in passing a 2000 gay marriage ban, continue to wield tremendous influence on California's current gay marriage debate.

The California Supreme Court ruled in May that gay couples have the constitutional right to marry, overturning a voter-approved gay marriage ban. And on June 15th, the State started offering gender neutral marriage licenses. Since then several thousand gay couples have married.

But a November ballot initiative, Proposition 8, aims to constitutionally ban gay marriage in the Golden State – again.

In June, the Mormon Church (the Mormons) sent out a letter to be read at all California congregations asking members to “do all you can” to support Proposition 8.

“The church's teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained by God,” Mormon leaders said. The leaders also urged members to donate their “means and time” in support of Proposition 8.

Pope Benedict, the head of the Catholic church, has often condemned homosexuality while rallying against gay marriage.

“The union of love, based on matrimony between a man and a woman, which makes up the family, represents a good for all society that can not be substituted by, confused with, or compared to other types of unions,” Benedict said a day after the court's ruling.

Catholic leaders in California have heeded the call, forming coalitions and donating millions in support of the gay marriage ban.

“We're asking people to volunteer to help in parishes, to participate in telephoning, talking with neighbors,” Bill May, chairman of Catholics for the Common Good, told the Catholic News Service. “This is a really important issue. Marriage is the foundation of the family. People are very upset that the [State] Supreme Court overruled the will of the people.”

In a statement released Wednesday, the Episcopal Bishops of California urged voters to vote against Proposition 8.

In making a gay marriage-affirming statement, the California Episcopal Bishops are certain to face criticism by their own church, which remains in a theological free-fall over the election of an openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson, to the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003.

The bishops said marriage would enhance the “Christian values” of monogamy, love and commitment for gays and lesbians.

“Jesus calls us to love rather than hate, to give rather than to receive, to live in hope rather than fear,” says the statement signed by California's six most senior bishops. “We believe that this continued access [to gay marriage] promotes Jesus' ethic of love, giving, and hope.”