A group of Christian pastors has begun an online campaign to resist performing gay marriage ceremonies, regardless of the imminent Supreme Court decision that may declare same-sex marriage a constitutional right in the United States. About 40,000 pastors and church leaders have signed a petition to "resist all government efforts to require them to accept gay marriage" and proclaim they will "accept any fine and jail time to protect their religious freedom and the freedom of others," Dr. Rick Scarborough of Pearland, Texas, a Baptist pastor and president of the group Vision America, told WOAI radio in San Antonio Friday, reported Christian Today.

The petition asserts that "marriage as existing solely between one man and one woman precedes civil government," according to Christian Today (not to be confused with the magazine Christianity Today). Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee have both signed the pledge, which says "marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of Creation" and that "marriage is ontologically between one man and one woman, ordered toward the union of the spouses, open to children and formative of family."  

The petition comes swift on the heels of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signing a law called the Pastor Protection Act, which allows clergy members to refuse to conduct same-sex marriages if they feel their beliefs were violated. The bill passed the Texas House 141-2 Thursday with support from the two openly gay representatives, according to the Texas Observer. Since under the First Amendment no church can be forced to perform any marriage in any case, the law has been seen as political posturing in anticipation of the Supreme Court decision, which many expect will institute civil same-sex marriage nationwide.

Recognizing the economic consequences of broader legislation that might allow the discrimination against gay couples -- an issue in Indiana -- Texas' law is limited to members of the clergy performing same-sex weddings.

In his interview, Scarborough compared his "civil disobedience" campaign to the fight against segregation by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., declaring "Dr. King, in the Birmingham Jail, said Christians have a 'duty to obey and respect God's law." 

Sixty percent of Americans said they opposed small-business owners refusing products or services to gay or lesbian people, even if it violates their religious beliefs, according to a recent poll by the Religion and Politics Tracking Survey. Sixty-five percent of Americans expect that the Supreme Court will legalize same-sex marriage.