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Court Strikes Down California’s Proposition 8

By Matt Smith

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled Wednesday, August 4, 2010, that California’s Proposition 8, which outlawed same-sex marriages in California after the state Supreme Court legalized them, is unconstitutional.

Proposition 8 passed with 52 percent of the vote in November 2008 and has been under siege ever since. The court’s ruling today will certainly green light same-sex marriages to proceed in California and other states will be forced to recognize them.

Supporters of Proposition 8 will automatically appeal the ruling, and the case will now move to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, then likely the Supreme Court. We can say “likely” because the 9th Circuit is known as the most progressive, legislate-from-the-bench court in the country which will ultimately force the Supreme Court to consider taking the case.

The Proposition 8 case is different in that it is striking down the will of the majority of the people who voted to preserve marriage as between one man and one woman.

The Supreme Court eventuality makes this week’s vote to confirm Elena Kagan as an Associate Justice all the more important. Unfortunately, news out of Capitol Hill this afternoon indicates she is likely to be confirmed.

Catholic Advocate alerted you to issues regarding her activist world-view rather than a fair jurist approach to the law and through Catholic Advocate Voice encouraged you to contact your Senators to oppose her confirmation, which you did. However, her confirmation would not be so easily in hand if not for the same-party majority enjoyed in Washington these days.

Make no mistake there is a progressive agenda gaining ground. Whether repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, overturning the will of the voters in California, or ensuring there is a loyal vote for the cause when issues reach the highest court in the land.

As Manuel Miranda wrote back in February:

“Most frontline conservatives know what GOP operatives and Senate leaders in Washington do not: there is no better opportunity to show sometime-voters and Catholic swing voters that Senate elections matter than Supreme Court confirmation hearings and floor debate. No issue serves better than judicial nominations as a surrogate for so many others that standing alone may scare the horses.”

It is weeks like this in our democratic system of government when people look around and wonder if they still recognize the country we live in and whether activists are remaking our society to fit their image.

As Catholics, we can support each other and our Church in speaking out during these important debates. Or as my colleague Deal Hudson has asked, “Is It Time For a Catholic Tea Party?

Matt Smith is Vice President of Catholic Advocate

Below are the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops comments on the Proposition 8 ruling:

Archbishop Kurtz Joins Cardinal George in Criticism

Notes That Voters Have Upheld Traditional Marriage at Every Turn

Calls Marriage Essential to Well Being of Society

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 — Cardinal Francis George, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, decried the August 4 decision of a federal judge to overturn California voters’ initiative that protected marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

“Marriage between a man and a woman is the bedrock of any society. The misuse of law to change the nature of marriage undermines the common good,” Cardinal George said. “It is tragic that a federal judge would overturn the clear and expressed will of the people in their support for the institution of marriage. No court of civil law has the authority to reach into areas of human experience that nature itself has defined.”

Joining Cardinal George in his criticism of the court decision was Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage. Archbishop Kurtz noted that “Citizens of this nation have uniformly voted to uphold the understanding of marriage as a union of one man and one woman in every jurisdiction where the issue has been on the ballot. Â This understanding is neither irrational nor unlawful,” he said. “Marriage is more fundamental and essential to the well being of society than perhaps any other institution. It is simply unimaginable that the court could now claim a conflict between marriage and the Constitution.”

SOURCE U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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2 Responses to Court Strikes Down California’s Proposition 8

  1. sid says:

    God cannot be happy with us.

  2. Greg says:

    One decision by a lower court does not determine law, and one would expect the Supreme Court to uphold the vote on the proposition. (They might also take the position that such ballot measures are unconstitutional and really surprise us.)

    Thinking in “blue sky” mode… it is clear that the civil aspect of marriage is not the same as the sacramental aspect of marriage. Will it be necessary (and even wise) to begin to make the distinction and employ new language to address the sacrament, the spiritual union, so as to “turn the other cheek” and walk away from this conflict? Perhaps the tie to the civil aspect of marriage is simply an invitation for the type of attack taking place. Sometimes the best response to an invitation to brawl is to simply walk away and play another game.

    One does not require the State to bless the spiritual union; in essence, the State has nothing to do with the sacrament so perhaps the Church should simply make the sacrament clearly separate and contingent upon specifically religious factors that could not be open for debate.

    My worry is that the more we delay in taking this route the higher the possibility that co-mingling the sacrament with the civil law will provide a bridge for civil authority to impinge upon the sacrament. In other words, if there is a civil component they may feel they have the right to dictate to a faith the conditions for the sacrament, whereas, if we distinguish the two in the near future we may build a legal firewall that will have value in the future. ??

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