SACRAMENTO AND LAKE FOREST — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sunday expressed hope that the California Supreme Court would overturn Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage. He also predicted that the 18,000 gay and lesbian couples who have already wed would not see their marriages nullified by the initiative.
"It's unfortunate, obviously, but it's not the end," Schwarzenegger said in an interview Sunday on CNN. "I think that we will again maybe undo that, if the court is willing to do that, and then move forward from there and again lead in that area."
With his favorable comments toward gay marriage, the governor's thinking appears to have evolved on the issue.
In past statements, he has said he believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman and has rejected legislation authorizing same-sex marriage. Yet he has also said he would not care if same-sex marriage were legal, saying he believed that such an important societal issue should be determined by the voters or the courts.
Schwarzenegger publicly opposed Proposition 8, which amends the state Constitution to declare that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
On Sunday, he urged backers of gay marriage to follow the lesson he learned as a bodybuilder trying to lift weights that were too heavy for him at first. "I learned that you should never ever give up. . . . They should never give up. They should be on it and on it until they get it done."
The governor's position on the fate of the existing same-sex marriages aligns him with California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, who has said he believes that the state Supreme Court will uphold the existing marriages as valid.
The 14-word constitutional amendment does not state explicitly that it would nullify same-sex marriages performed before the Nov. 4 election, although proponents say it will. Legal experts differ on this point.
Schwarzenegger's comments came as protesters took to the streets for a fifth day in a row, sometimes marching to Catholic and Mormon churches that supported passage of the ballot measure.
Hundreds of Proposition 8 protesters in Orange County gathered down the hill from Saddleback Church in Lake Forest as several thousand congregants attended services inside the sprawling religious campus.
Martijn Hostetler, 30, of West Hollywood held a sign that read "Purpose Driven Hate," a dig at the church's celebrity Pastor Rick Warren, author of the bestseller "The Purpose-Driven Life," who backed the ballot measure. "I don't think Jesus would approve of a gay-marriage ban," he said. "I don't think God discriminates."
While demonstrators received supportive honks from motorists, many members of the mega-church said they had little sympathy for the protesters because the matter had already been settled by voters.
"We're a democracy and our strength is that the majority wins the vote," said John Kirkpatrick, a church member.
Sherrie Derriko, a longtime Saddleback Church member and hair salon owner from Mission Viejo, said she was bothered that protesters had targeted houses of worship. As she drove by, she rolled down her window to offer some advice.
"Read the Bible. God made man and woman, and that's what a marriage is," she called from inside her SUV.
Derriko recounted the incident after attending services. "When we saw them out there, we thought, 'Why are they not over this? Do they think they're going to change anything, or are they just stirring up trouble at our church?' "
But for Sally "Sal" Landers, 52, a Saddleback Church member from Lake Forest, her participation in the protest was a deeply personal matter. Landers and her female partner of three years plan to marry and adopt children. When she received an e-mail from Warren urging a "yes" vote on Proposition 8, she said, "I felt like I was kicked in the stomach by someone who loves unconditionally."
So on Sunday, Landers joined the protesters outside the church rather than the parishioners inside. "We really love him and respect his opinion," Landers said of Warren. "I need some reassurance that I'm welcome here as a gay American citizen."
Other protests were staged outside Mormon temples or churches in Oakland, Yucca Valley and other cities.
In downtown Los Angeles, 150 protesters congregated in front of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, chanting, among other things, "What would Jesus say?" The crowd was joined later in the day by protesters who marched from Lincoln Park on the city's Eastside.
Some churches, to be sure, assailed Proposition 8 as discriminatory.
"We will continue to bless same-sex unions here until we can legally celebrate same-sex unions again," the Rev. Ed Bacon told 1,000 congregants during Sunday services at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, which has blessed same-sex unions for 16 years.
After the service, Bacon and other clergy members held a news conference on the church steps. They were surrounded by gay and lesbian couples, some standing with young children.
"I know these couples. I know their relationships," Bacon said, addressing a phalanx of television cameras. "They should be celebrated, rather than disparaged. . . . In the eyes of God, these people are married."
Times staff writers Victoria Kim, Sam Quinones and Kenneth R. Weiss contributed to this report.
Michael Rothfeld reporting from Sacramento
Tony Barboza reporting from Lake Forest