SAN FRANCISCO (EWTN NEWS/CNA)—The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Feb. 7 that California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutionally defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, clearing the way for a possible U.S. Supreme Court hearing on same-sex “marriage.”
Proposition 8 “served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California,” the federal court said.
The 2008 California ballot measure garnered 52% of the vote. It overturned a previous state Supreme Court ruling which imposed legal recognition of the unions.
Prop. 8 backers may now appeal to a larger panel of the Ninth Circuit or may appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court has never heard a case on same-sex “marriage” before, but it is believed to be divided on the issue. Many legal scholars believe Justice Anthony Kennedy will be the deciding vote, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The ruling’s effects are likely to be limited to California.
Ahead of the decision, Prop. 8 backer Catholics for the Common Good called for a “massive response” by supporters involving emails and calls to radio and TV talk shows and letters to the editor of newspapers.
“Our opponents made an unprecedented request that the court give them 24 hours’ notice before releasing their decision. They are no doubt rallying their troops and want to make the issue about gays and lesbians,” the San Francisco-based organization said.
In May 2009, the California Supreme Court upheld Prop. 8.
However, on Aug. 4, 2010, U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the initiative “unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.” He said it fails to advance “any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license.”
Judge Walker, an appointee of Republican President George H.W. Bush, is himself homosexual.
His decision declared several findings of fact, including the claim that religious teachings like those of Pope Benedict XVI “harm” homosexuals.
The Ninth Circuit appeals court refused today to invalidate his ruling. Prop. 8 backers had requested the invalidation on the grounds that he should have disclosed he was in a same-sex relationship and could have personally benefited from the decision.
Catholics for the Common Good charged that Walker’s ruling created “an entirely new definition of marriage as merely the public recognition of a committed relationship between adults.”
“In reality, Prop. 8 protected the only decision that unites children with their moms and dads. How can anyone fail to see the value in that for children and society?”
Feb. 8 additions:
Critics found the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ Feb. 7 ruling against the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 to be “absurd” but not surprising.
“This decision was completely expected,” said William May, head of Catholics for the Common Good Action. “You have to remember: This is the most liberal, most-overturned appeals court and most-overturned judge in the country.”
Backers of Prop. 8 never expected to prevail at the appellate level, but saw it as a step to the U.S. Supreme Court. They will now appeal directly to the Supreme Court rather than ask for a full hearing from the Ninth Circuit, May told EWTN News on Feb. 7.
May said it is “absurd” to say there is no rational reason or public interest in “protecting the only institution in society that unites kids with their moms and dads.”
“They’re looking at marriage as merely something for the benefit of adults, not as the foundation of the family.”
Redefining marriage will tend to isolate religious groups, including Catholic parishes, from the wider community, he predicted, adding that it will change what children are taught.
“If marriage is redefined, that’s what will be taught in the schools. That’s a fact,” May said.
“It’s not prejudiced for the people of California to want their kids to learn the reality of what marriage is in a way that supports them and influences positive decisions they make about marriage and family in their lives.”
Other supporters of Proposition 8 criticized the ruling.
“No court should presume to redefine marriage,” Alliance Defense Fund senior counsel Brian Raum said Feb. 7. “No court should undercut the democratic process by taking the power to preserve marriage out of the hands of the people.”
He said Americans “overwhelmingly” reject changing the definition of marriage, noting the millions of people who voted in 31 states to preserve marriage as the “timeless, universal, unique union between husband and wife.”
“We are not surprised that this Hollywood-orchestrated attack on marriage, tried in San Francisco, turned out this way. But we are confident that the expressed will of the American people in favor of marriage will be upheld at the Supreme Court,” Raum stated.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the decision was “disappointing but not surprising.”
“This is not about constitutional governance, but the insistence of a group of activists to force their will on their fellow citizens,” he charged.
“This ruling substitutes judicial tyranny for the will of the people, who in the majority of states have amended their constitutions, as California did, to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
Perkins expressed confidence that the Supreme Court will reject “the absurd argument that the authors of our Constitution created or even implied a ‘right’ to homosexual ‘marriage’ and will instead uphold the right of the people to govern themselves.”
May told EWTN News he thought the prospect of success in the Supreme Court is “good” because the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision is “really out of line with every other court and the Supreme Court in cases similar to this.”
“This will ultimately be decided in the Supreme Court, and we think that is the place to get a sober review of the arguments based on law, not on emotional rhetoric.”
He asked supporters of Prop. 8 to pray and to voice their opinions in letters to the editor and in calls to television and radio talk shows.
“It’s really important for supporters of Prop. 8 to realize that this debate about marriage is going on continuously. It’s going on in families. It’s going on in public forums. It’s going on in legislatures.
“It’s critical that people become informed about how to talk about the reality of marriage in secular terms and to be able to engage in a positive way, related not only to protecting but promoting the only institution that unites kids with their moms and dads.”