SAN FRANCISCO— With a stroke of his pen, a federal judge has overturned 7 million California votes that upheld marriage as being between one man and one woman.
The exclusion of homosexuals from marriage “exists as an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage,” wrote Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker. “That time has passed.”
With that judgment, he single-handedly overturned Proposition 8, an amendment to the state Constitution approved in 2008 by 52% of the state’s voters.
Walker held that Prop. 8 violated same-sex couples’ right to equal protection under the U.S. Constitution. Further, he ruled that Prop. 8 “fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license.”
Charles LiMandri, general counsel for the National Organization for Marriage in California, charged that Walker “dismissed all the evidence that traditional marriage is good for kids, all evidence that there’s a rational basis for Californians to uphold marriage between one man and one woman.”
The case was filed on behalf of two same-sex couples who had been denied marriage licenses. Attorneys for the legal team working to protect marriage filed a notice to appeal the decision.
The case is widely expected to end up at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Plaintiffs attorney David Boies called the ruling a “great result,” saying that “discrimination against gays and lesbians is the last area where you have state-enforced discrimination, and this ruling goes a long way to eliminating that.”
New Definition of Marriage
In his ruling, Judge Walker offered a new definition of marriage for all of society. “Marriage is the state recognition and approval of a couple’s choice to live with each other, to remain committed to one another and to form a household based on their own feelings about one another and to join in an economic partnership and support one another and any dependents,” Walker said.
Dismissing children as secondary to the institution of marriage, the judge declared, “California, like every other state, has never required that individuals entering a marriage be willing or able to procreate.”
Bill May of Catholics for the Common Good said that throughout the trial Judge Walker seemed “to struggle with confusion” over the definition of marriage.
“What Catholics need to know is that marriage has already been redefined in the minds of many, many people in our nation, and it’s being redefined every day in our schools,” May said.
May distinguished between two fundamentally different definitions of marriage in our society. The postmodern adult-focused definition of marriage holds that “marriage is an institution merely for the benefit of loving adults. Therefore, it is thought to be discriminatory to deny access to it to any adults who love each other,” May said.
In contrast, the millennia-old child-focused definition of marriage says that marriage is the foundation of the family with a mother and a father for children. “Having a married mother and father is in the common interest of every child without exception,” May said.
“The debate should really be the public interest between these two conflicting definitions of marriage,” May said. “But that’s a debate for the political sphere, not the courts.”
May now heads a new California pro-marriage activist group called Stand With Children that has been set up to train Catholics how to defend traditional marriage at a time of great confusion over the meaning of sexuality. Stand With Children already has conducted some 40 workshops throughout California, with more to come.
Alliance Defense Fund attorney Dale Schowengerdt said that if Judge Walker’s decision is upheld, same-sex “marriage” advocates “will redefine marriage for the entire country.”
The Road Ahead
Cardinal Roger Mahony, in an article published on his blog yesterday, challenged the judge’s decision at the most elementary level. “There is only one issue before each of us Californians: Is marriage of divine or of human origin? Judge Walker pays no attention to this fundamental issue, and relies solely upon how Prop. 8 made certain members of society ‘feel’ about themselves.”
A court ruling doesn’t change the situation for Catholics, he wrote: “We will continue to believe that God is the origin of marriage, and we will follow God’s constant revelation to that effect.”
Similarly, Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis called the ruling “both a disappointment and a challenge.”
He called on all people of good will to work tirelessly to defend marriage in this country against the efforts of those who seek to redefine it and thwart its sacred purpose.
Calling Judge Walker’s decision “only temporary,” National Organization for Marriage CEO Maggie Gallagher said, “Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this case is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court, where the rights of states to define marriage as between one man and one woman will be affirmed — and if the Supreme Court fails, Congress has the final say.”
Meanwhile, Bill May said, “The decision should create a new sense of urgency among California voters for joining our Stand With Children effort to rebuild a marriage culture based on the interest that every child has in the marriage of his or her mother and father.”
Sue Ellin Browder writes from Ukiah, California.