In an effort to overturn California’s new physician-assisted suicide measure, parishes across the Archdiocese of Los Angeles began collecting signatures the weekend of Christ the King Sunday (Nov. 21 and 22) to support a statewide referendum challenging the End of Life Option Act, which was signed Oct. 5 by Governor Jerry Brown and is slated to take effect this coming spring.

The Southern California Chapter of the Knights of Columbus coordinated the local signature-gathering effort — delivering petitions and providing information to the parishes — and the coalition group Seniors Against Assisted Suicide is leading the referendum campaign. In order to qualify for the November 2016 ballot, 366,000 certified signatures must be in Sacramento prior to Jan. 4.

Richard Marciniak, president of the Knights’ Southern California Chapter, told The Tidings that he feels “very confident that we will collect the signatures required” by the deadline, thanks in part to the support of his fellow Knights, the parish teams, and the “astounding” leadership of Archbishop José H. Gomez.

“I have been particularly impressed by [Archbishop Gomez] on life issues,” he said. “We have a real advocate and supporter in the archbishop, and I’m hopeful that he will continue to challenge us to take on these issues [in order to support] the whole culture of life, which is under attack.”

According to Vina Dungo, a parishioner at Holy Family Church, Artesia, where they have collected about 1,000 signatures thus far, the response from her fellow parishioners has been “mixed,” with some expressing fervent support for overturning the measure, while others remain undecided regarding the issue (especially young adults, she noted).

“This referendum is so important, since it can potentially give us a second chance to repeal the law and not just accept the signed bill,” she said. “We now have another chance to fight against it, educate more people about this bill and promote a culture of life.”

Father Chinh D. Nguyen, SDB, administrator at St. Dominic Savio Church, Bellflower — where they collected 750 signatures over two days, and already mailed them to the state capital to ensure timely certification — said that his message to parishioners concerning the purpose of the referendum was simple and straight-forward: “Let’s have the referendum to get a fair hearing and debate [about this life issue], because the law was rushed for passing behind our backs!”

Although California’s original assisted suicide bill — SB 128 — had stalled in the Assembly Health Committee in July of this year due to lack of support, bill supporters reintroduced the issue as ABx2-15 in a special session, bypassing the usual committee hearings and rushing the bill through an abbreviated process.

Geri Urrutia, a parishioner at Holy Family Church, Glendale, where she serves as chair for the parish’s Respect Life ministry, echoed Father Nguyen’s thoughts about the referendum, stressing that “we’re not voting to make a new law; this is a referendum to give it to the voters” on election day in November 2016.

“This referendum will allow everyone in the state to vote on this [issue],” she explained, adding that continued education about the realities of physician-assisted suicide is imperative to ensure that people understand that “we are all vulnerable, but it would especially target the poor [and] the unspoken for.”

“This is such an important issue — it’s a moral issue — and signatures are imperative,” said Urrutia.