The passage of Proposition 8 set off a backlash that rippled across state borders. Organizers used Internet sites such as Facebook to draw huge crowds from New York to Los Angeles and cities in between.
Advocates turned the vote on Proposition 8 into a countrywide referendum on gay rights, calling it "the new frontier in the civil rights movement."
The protests lining the streets were a contrast to the joyful celebrations of same-sex weddings at city halls throughout California last summer. Those ceremonies were filled with a sense of hope and acceptance. Now that has given way to anger, defiance, and a war of words.
The Mormon Church has become one of the key targets of protestors after it was revealed that their members contributed millions of dollars to defeat gay marriage.
Many like Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobby based in Washington, joined in the fight to pass the ban, saying it was "more important than the presidential election."
"We've picked bad presidents before, and we've survived as a nation," Perkins said. "But we will not survive if we lose the institution of marriage."
Advocates on both sides of the issue spent $83 million on the ballot campaign, the most ever on a social issue in the nation's history.
"It's a staggering amount," said Matt Coles, director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposed the ban. "California is a cultural trendsetter. If voters decide same-sex couples can marry, it has an enormous influence."
But Leslie Fisher, 45, who owns a house with her same-sex domestic partner in Oakland, Calif., said the the referendum on gay marriage was "symptomatic" of a need for "restructuring" of government in California.
"It's a weird mix of extremes," the marketing consultant told ABCNews.com. "There are really liberal and really conservative people in the state and it's not representative of the people. That's why issues are battered back and forth -- in our favor one year and not the next."
"Anybody can get a bunch of signatures and overthrow was is passed and the issue goes back and forth," she said.
Fisher insists she will not get married until it is legal for all gay couples. "I think it's a civil rights issue and marriage for gays and lesbians shouldn't be made a concession."