After several weeks of trailing in the polls and at a financial disadvantage, gay marriage backers in California appear to have regained their lead against supporters of Proposition 8 – the ballot initiative that seeks to forbid gay marriage in the state once more.

A new poll released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California reports that 52% of likely voters surveyed opposed Proposition 8 while 44% supported it. But the San Francisco-based institute found a higher percentage of voters opposed to banning gay marriage in September, when 55% of responders said they opposed the measure and 41% favored it.

The new poll was welcome news for gay marriage backers who had been stunned by back-to-back weekly polls showing the gay marriage ban winning – if only by a thin margin. The latest Oct. 17 CBS/SurveyUSA poll showed a majority of voters in favor of the measure 48% to 45%.

Donations to fight the gay marriage ban in Calif. have also dramatically increased over the past several weeks; No-On-8 reported raising $11 million in the first 21/2 weeks of October. And that does not include $3 million in new donations – Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, chat show host Ellen DeGeneres and Hollywood filmmaker George Lucas included.

Apple Corp. announced on Friday it would make a $100,000 donation in support of gay marriage saying, “Apple views this as a civil rights issue, rather than just a political issue, and is therefore speaking out publicly against Proposition 8,” in a statement.

The new donations have helped the No-On-8 campaign erase a $10 million lead held by Prop. 8 supporters. The two groups have raised a combined $60 million to decide the gay marriage issue in California., the primary backer of Proposition 8, said it had raised only $2.4 million in October.

“The Yes on 8 campaign is being supported by regular Californians from every corner of the state who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman,” said campaign spokesman Chip White. “But make no mistake, if the other side continues fundraising at this rate, and the Yes side does not kick fundrasing into high gear, we are going to be overrun.”

An aggressive Yes-On-8 fundraising effort that threatened to “out” some three dozen No-On-8 contributors if they did not give an equal contribution to the Yes campaign, underscored the newly-found financial peril of the Yes-On-8 campaign.

“Make a donation of a like amount to which will help us correct this error,” reads a Yes-On-8 letter revealed this week. “Were you to elect not to donate comparably, it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition to traditional marriage. ... The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to but have given to Equality California will be published.”

This is not the first time Yes forces have used strong-arm tactics to get their message across. The campaign's decision to place school children at the center of the gay marriage debate has been described as “despicable” by the No-On-8 campaign.

“Prop. 8 has nothing to do with schools or kids,” said Geoff Kors, No-On-8 executive committee member. “The Prop. 8 campaign continues to use scare tactics and lies to bolster their campaign. It's despicable that children are being used for political gain.”

But gay marriage foes insist that without the gay marriage ban school children will be taught gay marriage in public schools.

“Not only do the organizations leading the No on 8 campaign want gay marriage, under the guise of 'diversity', taught in public schools, they believe it is important to teach it at the earliest possible age,” Yes-On-8 Campaign Manager Frank Schubert said in a statement.

Gay marriage backers countered with a tough new television commercial this week, where California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell says, “Our schools aren't required to teach anything about marriage. And using kids to lie about that is shameful.”

The ad reminds Californians that virtually every major newspaper opposes the gay marriage ban, and even the state's largest teachers union, the California Teachers Association, disagrees with Prop. 8.