Breaking: Bishops’ president decries ruling on California marriage law

Press release just issued by the USCCB:

WASHINGTON-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’ 2008 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. 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.”

23 Responses

  1. In matters of civil law, which this is, the Constitution not only supersedes popular prejudice, it also supersedes Catholic Church dogma. Catholic church marriage and civil marriage are NOT the same thing. No religion has the right to insist that its discriminatory preferences be incorporated into civil law.

  2. However, faithful Catholics MUST vote, pray and live their faith. Our faith is not a matter of popular opinion. We rely on the wisdom of the Holy Spirit though the church to lead us and so it is beyond the current time and beyond the current politics. Truth is truth and so we should pray for it, hope for it, and fight for it.

  3. True faith–that is, the belief in something in the absence of evidence– is intensely personal and private. The current fashion of advertising one’s faith in public forums and using it for political or personal profit cheapens and corrupts religion. Yes, faith is not a matter of popular opinion. It is also not a basis for civil law, nor is it a basis for voting in a secular democracy like our America.

    Faith is not a matter for reason and public debate; but laws based on anything other than reason and public debate have no place in our country. Maybe in a theocracy, like Iran. But not America.

    Further, the confusion of truth with faith is the source of many of mankind’s most profound mistakes.

  4. “….but laws based on anything other than reason and public debate have no place in our country.”

    Agreed. The topic was debated by the public, set to a vote by the public and defeated by the VOTERS (public) of California and not the churches of California. It is the biased court that disregarded the will of the public, not the churches.

    The whimsical use of the word “reason” is telling. Here we see that if you disagree with the MINORITY position on the issue you are, through the use of some semantic gymnastics, unreasonable.

    In a country like Iran and NK, you have a small group of individuals, some referred to as “judges,” that impose on the society unpopular ideas/policies that, if put to a binding vote would be defeated. Sound familiar?

    The implication that people of faith and churches should keep silent, when issues that affect the entire society are debated, is on its face, intolerant, bigoted, hateful and better suited to North Korea, Iran or Communist China,

    Isn’t it telling that those who yell the loudest about freedom and rights are the first ones to advocate taking them away from people that disagree with them.

  5. As I said in the beginning, majority vote is not a basis for violating the Constitutional guarantee of “equal protection under the law.” If majority votes were allowed to decide what Constitutional protections were provided to minority groups, African-Americans would still be drinking out of water fountains labeled “Colored.”

    The opinion by Judge Walker and the public record during the time the proposition was being debated and since that time make it clear that much of the campaign in favor of Prop 8 was based on untruths (churches would be forced to marry gay couples, for example) and prejudice (the gays are out to get your children). As you imply in your earlier posting, the Catholic church told its members how they should vote, and that advice was based on religious dogma and prejudice, not reason.

    When a judge makes a ruling based on law, he doesn’t disregard the opinion of those who disagree with his ruling–rather, he imposes the requirements of the law (in this case, the law being our Constitution). Of course judges may error, and time will tell if Judge Walker erred.

    Churches do not have to keep silent on any public issue and it is unfair of you to imply that is what I advocate. They can enforce their views on their members, and they can try and persuade those who are not members of their religion to agree with their position. What they cannot do is impose their religious dogma on the public via civil law.

    Those who shout the loudest about freedom and rights are those who see those freedoms being taken away from them, which is what happened in California. As you may recall, gay people had the right to marry until a vote was taken and the majority of people who voted, voted to take those rights away.

  6. Gays had the right to marry only via judicial fiat. This is an issue of states rights, the US Constitution should not come into play and if it does the 14th Amendment does not apply. Blacks are the same as whites as human beings therefore slavery was outlawed, however this is a ‘marriage’ ‘between a man and women’ as defined by all societies thoughout history. It does not effect a ‘man and a man’ or ‘women and women’ because based on Divine Law, biology, common sense, and the desire of society to raise children those groupings do not apply. Gays have civil unions, the courts should not destroy the concept and protection of ‘marriage’ for the sake of a ‘union’ ‘between’ two members of the same gender.

  7. I agree with Tim In Chgo. As a Christian I believe that marriage is between a man, woman and God. But as an American I believe that it is NOT the role of any government to impose my religious beliefs on others, unless it can be clearly shown that these beliefs coincide with the public interest. Judge Walker’s ruling is right and correct.

  8. The question is whether there is a “rational basis” for the state of California to retain the traditional definition of marriage.

    Heterosexual unions, i.e. marriages, provide a critical benefit to the state by creating, birthing and enculturating the next generation of citizens. To encourage and support the benefits that marriage provides, states throughout history have recognized that institution, an institution that pre-dates any formal legal system, in law and accorded it various rights and privileges.

    Since same sex unions cannot provide the state with the benefits provided by marriage the state may quite rationally exclude same sex unions from the recognition and privileges established to support marriage.

  9. Mike, have you read the opinion and the trial record? Your points are exactly some of the same points the Prop supporters made and if you read the opinion, you will see that those points were all pretty much demolished during testimony.

    Many heterosexual unions do not create, birth, or educate children and some marriages are entered into with no such intent. And many same-sex relationships do create, raise, and educate children. In fact, the respondent’s witnesses admitted such during the trial and agreed with the plaintiffs that marriage would benefit the children of such same sex unions.

    Marriage has differed in many aspects, depending on the era and local culture, and has changed over time. I’ve seen the change myself during my life. Civil marriage (which is what we are talking about here) was unlawful in many states if it was between partners of different races, for example, not too many years ago. And today we are seeing some states adopting “no fault” divorce, as well as the concept of “covenant marriages.”

    As you imply, the state does indeed have a rational basis for encouraging stable marriages. What it doesn’t have is a rational basis for limited such encouragement to heterosexual couples only. Same-sex families are not second class families, and children being raised by by same-sex partners shouldn’t be relegated to second class status by the state.

  10. Tim does raise a point–there are people who promote screeds about homosexuals chasing your children. Moreover, white supremacists insist that the separation of races is a matter of Divine Law, biology, common sense, and history. How would you address those points?

  11. Tim,

    I did read the opinion and did not find it particular compelling. It is larded with many, often dubious, findings of fact that would make fine grist for a political campaign but are mostly irrelevant to the main issue – does the 14th amendment, under a rational basis standard, compel a redefinition of marriage to include same sex unions.

    I cited one rational basis for maintaining the traditional definition of marriage – providing support for procreative unions.

    Your observation that some marriages do not produce children doesn’t void the state’s interest in promoting those that do. Nor does it follow that the state must extend the benefits of marriage to all non-procreative unions if, for reasons of practicality, it extends them to any such unions.

    To quote Justice Kennedy: “A classification does not fail rational-basis review because it “ ‘is not made with mathematical nicety or because in practice it results in some inequality.’ “The problems of government are practical ones and may justify, if they do not require, rough accommodations”

  12. Brian, funny you should bring that up. I remember when I was a kid back in the 60’s hearing exactly that sort of argument from my great grandmother. She even had Bible verses she would quote to show why interracial marriage was an evil thing. She also thought that Martin Luther King was little more than an agitator and believed that if he would just quit making trouble, the world would be a better place. Still, I loved her dearly and I knew, even as a 13 year old, that she was a product of her time and her southern Illinois culture.

  13. Tim makes many good points. Although I come from an Italian-Catholic family, of those three things ‘family’ has always been the most important to us. When one member of the family turned out to be gay and wished to bring the partner home, there was some internal family debate. But the matriarch of our clan (Aunt Rose) gathered everyone together and said ‘look we may all have our own personal opinions and religious views on this, but nothing is more important than the family and he is part of this family, so his partner is now part of this family. So let it end there.” And amazingly it did, and we welcomed the new same-sex partner into our family and we’ve all been quite happy with the arrangement since. Even our priest has stopped the anti-gay rants and just doesn’t bring it up anymore. We think everyone should just get used to it… it was the same with interracial marriage and as I recall, the church was opposed to that too. Most rational people and the church have accepted it and moved on. The same will happen with same-sex marriage.

  14. Mike says: “Your observation that some marriages do not produce children doesn’t void the state’s interest in promoting those that do. Nor does it follow that the state must extend the benefits of marriage to all non-procreative unions if, for reasons of practicality, it extends them to any such unions. ”

    Mike, are you advocating that the state only validate civil marriages which produce or are raising children? That seems to be your argument here. If that is your argument, then it would follow that the state must recognize all civil marriages (even same sex) which produce or raise children, and must not recognize any marriages (even mixed sex) which do not.

    I disagree that the judgment was “…larded with many, often dubious, findings of fact that would make fine grist for a political campaign but are mostly irrelevant to the main issue.” The main issue is: does the state have a compelling interest in denying equal protection under the law to gay couples who wish to share the benefits and obligations of civil marriage. The judgment clearly confirms that it does not.

  15. David,

    You need to review your history.

    Far from opposing interracial marriage, the Church was always in the forefront of fighting so-called anti-miscegenation laws.

    In fact, the first suit to successfully overturn a statue barring interracial marriage was brought in 1948 in California on behalf of two Catholics with the backing of the Church at a time when they could find backing nowhere else, including the ACLU.

    See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/blaise-zerega/how-the-catholic-church-f_b_213428.html

    And: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perez_v._Sharp

    The church was consistently active in opposing such laws during the 15 years between the Perez case and the Loving case that declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loving_v._Virginia

    So David – I think you owe the Church (your Church?) an apology.

  16. Tim,

    I think I stated my argument pretty clearly. It’d be nice if you answered that argument instead of the strawman you constructed.

  17. Hi Mike:

    I thought I had done that. Which argument did I miss? If I understand your primary argument correctly, you identified “…one rational basis for maintaining the traditional definition of marriage – providing support for procreative unions.”

    As I pointed out, some same sex unions ARE procreative unions. Gay people give birth, they raise children, they educate those children and they provide stable, healthy, environments for those children. That is a fact of life and it is a fact that was reiterated in the judge’s opinion. Perhaps that is one of those facts that you consider “dubious”? If you don’t accept the facts of the case, there is no argument to be made.

    If you do accept these facts, then logically, accepting your argument would mean that the state has a rational basis for redefining marriage to include gay couples, but only when those couples were engaged in the procreative process. Also, logically, it would follow that the state has no interest in recognizing heterosexual unions where the couple is not giving birth to or raising children. Is that the logical conclusion?

    By the way, I appreciate the thoughtful and respectful discussion that occurs at the blog. I think it gives everyone a chance to see the other sides of the discussion and sharpen their own arguments.

  18. Thanks Mike. Appreciate the historical references. Hopefully we will soon see similar supportive behavior from the Church on this issue of two loving individuals creating a family unit in the eyes of government and the church. This is the true civil interest, as the judge put it so well in his review of the California law. One of the main purposes of the 14th ammendment is to make sure the opinions, attitudes and prejudices of the majority (even a very slim majority in the case… 52-53%) don’t unfairly penalize the minority without having some compelling state interest. This clause has protected minorities (women, blacks, etc.) for a long time, and unless someone is suggesting removing the clause from the Constitution, it will do so forever more.

  19. Tim,

    It’s a “fact of life” that children are created by the union of female egg and male sperm, a fundamentally heterosexual process whether it is brought about naturally through heterosexual sexual activity or, in what will always be a tiny percentage of cases, artificially through some sort of technological means. It’s also a fact of life that the mutual sexual activity of same sex partners cannot generate life and so such unions are not procreative.

    My claim is that supporting the good of procreation and the stability of the unions that generate life forms a valid, rational basis for the state’s retaining the traditional definition of marriage and for extending unique benefits to married couples.

    How is the state to do this? It could, as you suggest (and as I most definitely have not suggested), “validate only marriages that produce children.” The state has not chosen to do this. Instead, as a practical and straightforward way of reaching its aim in a way that does not overly intrude on the privacy of couples seeking marriage, the state has chosen to recognize traditional marriages whether they produce children or not.

    Does this extension of benefits to marriages that either choose not to procreate or, due to infertility, are incapable of doing so, void a procreational basis for retaining the traditional definition of marriage?

    Under rational basis scrutiny the actions of the people and their representatives are quite properly given wide latitude. I’ll repeat Justice Kennedy’s statement: “A classification does not fail rational-basis review because it “ ‘is not made with mathematical nicety or because in practice it results in some inequality.’ “The problems of government are practical ones and may justify, if they do not require, rough accommodations”

    So, as I said above, under rational basis scrutiny, it does not follow that the state must extend the benefits of marriage to inherently non-procreative, same sex unions because it chooses, for practical reasons, to extend those benefits to some heterosexual unions that do not produce children.

  20. David,

    I still think you owe an apology for implying that the Catholic Church is racist.

    As for your hope that the Church will change it’s mind about same sex marriage, that is just not going to happen. The Church opposed laws that barred inter-racial marriage because they were unjust. It opposes and will continue to oppose the redefinition of marriage that you seek for the same reason.

    To understand why you have to understand the Church’s teachings on homosexuality. From articles 2357 – 2359 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

    2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

    2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

    To summarize: same sex sexual acts are gravely sinful and same sex attraction is objectively disordered. These conclusions follow from natural law, tradition and scripture. People suffering with same sex attraction are called to chastity. They have a heavy cross to bear and must always be treated with dignity and compassion and unjust discrimination against them must be both avoided personally and opposed within the community.

    The Church has long held these positions and will continue to hold them as objectively true in the face of whatever cultural changes may occur. Further, all Catholics, as Catholics, owe these teachings religious assent.

    The Church opposed laws banning inter-racial marriage because race has no moral dimension and such laws were thus unjust. This is not the case with same sex marriage whose recognition would constitute normalization of the objectively immoral acts that proceed from same sex attraction.

    To quote the CDF document “Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons”:

    Where the government’s policy is de facto tolerance and there is no explicit legal recognition of homosexual unions, it is necessary to distinguish carefully the various aspects of the problem. Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons.
    .
    .
    In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.
    .
    .

    The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself.

  21. Mike:

    If one party to the debate doesn’t accept the facts of the case, or accepts the facts, but relies on faith or belief not supported by reason to attempt to justify their position, then it is really impossible for further debate to occur. It appears as if that is the situation here.

    Regarding your comments directed at David, I look forward to the day when the Catholic church apologizes for its un-Christian prejudice against gay people and its deliberate efforts to force it’s religious dogma on Catholics and non-Catholics alike by force of civil law. As I said earlier, the confusion of faith with truth has been the source of much sorrow in our world.

  22. Mike, I would like to point out that the state made no attempt to claim any basis for supporting Prop 8. In fact, it testified that Prop 8 causes it to expend state monies to set up a lateral institution for civil unions and that it would save money if it could just perform the same marriage function for all. The state claimed no interest in sustaining Prop 8, and as such, the court found no compelling interest (in fact any interest at all) in permitting discrimination which is prohibited by the 14th ammendment without some compelling state interest. Your argument that the state’s interest is in procreation was not made by the state, and in fact the laws of the state which were enumerated in the judges ruling, prove the point to the contrary. So without some compelling state interest, which it at least the state must say it has, Prop 8 was found unconstitutional.

  23. Wow! interesting discussion. Some of it sounds more than a little bit like Joe Biden’s statement about not forcing the Church’s view on abortion on others. It’s very much like the arguement that abortion is a “human right”. I never cease to be amazed by the left’s misapplying 60’s civil rights arguements. Same sex “marriages”= artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization with “disposable, surplus” human embryos to be “donated” in the name of stem cell research. Gosh, I wonder where it’s all going to end? What ever happened to a kid needing a mom and dad- seems that got lost along the way.

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