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Amicus brief argues Prop. 8 prevents ‘systemic’ church-state conflict

.- A coalition of Jewish, Catholic and Protestant organizations has filed an amicus brief asking that Proposition 8 be upheld. The coalition argues that the successful 2008 ballot measure, which overturned a state Supreme Court decision imposing same-sex “marriage,” prevents widespread church-state conflict.

The parties to the brief include the California Catholic Conference, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church State Council, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Union Of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. Their brief, one of sixty submitted to the court, was drafted by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

The brief warned that overturning the ballot measure would undermine the democratic process.

Proposition 8 “serves the common good of society to allow the interconnected and religiously sensitive issues of marriage, family and children to be discussed and decided within the political process, not silenced by judicial pronouncement,” the brief argued.

The ballot measure also prevents the creation of “a systemic, irresolvable conflict between church and state” in issues such as housing and public accommodations.

“Although no one expects these religious adherents or their ministers to be required actually to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies, we do expect them to be—and have already seen them be—sued and otherwise punished for their refusal to treat same-sex and different-sex couples as moral equivalents in the numerous other contexts where religious institutions operate in society,” the brief continued.

Eric Rassbach, national litigation director at the Becket Fund, in a Jan. 27 statement argued that there are “many fundamental rights and interests at stake in the debate over same-sex marriage.”

“Those rights and interests can best be balanced if the political process is allowed to continue. If the Court instead overturns Proposition 8, it sets the stage to gridlock California courts with hundreds, even thousands, of legal challenges and decades of societal rancor and legal strife,” he said.

"We have an opportunity here to reason, debate and negotiate our way to a place where the civil rights of both gays and lesbians and religious people are recognized and respected. But not if the court steps in and freezes the debate, forcing each side to assume an entrenched position."

The statement adds that the Becket Fund takes no position on the recognition of same-sex marriage. It argues that in states where same-sex marriage is recognized, governments should provide “robust exemptions” for those with conscientious objections.

In November, the Becket Fund released a study titled “Same-Sex Marriage and State Anti-Discrimination Laws” which claimed the legal recognition of same-sex marriage could affect over 350 separate state anti-discrimination laws and could render objectors to same-sex marriage vulnerable to lawsuits.

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