The federal ruling which overturned California’s Proposition 8 cites a document by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, as evidence for the claim that religious beliefs about the sinfulness of homosexual relationships “harm gays and lesbians.” The claim is listed under a legal “finding of fact” and could win deference from higher courts.
Also cited as evidence of “harm” are other religions’ documents on the sinfulness of homosexuality and the wrongness of recognizing same-sex relationships.
The ruling, issued Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, overturned Prop. 8, the California measure which passed in November 2008 to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.
The legal decision listed as its 77th “finding of fact”: “Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians.”
In a list of supporting citations, the ruling quoted a 2003 document issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), “Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons.”
“Sacred Scripture condemns homosexual acts as ‘a serious depravity’,” is the first CDF phrase quoted in Judge Walker's decision.
The document was signed in 2003 by the CDF’s prefect Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who was elected to the papacy in 2005.
The Prop. 8 ruling cited other passages from the same CDF document, apparently attributing it to the group Catholics for the Common Good. Quoted passages rejected the argument that homosexual unions are “in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan” and described the homosexual inclination as “objectively disordered.” The passages also describe homosexual acts as contrary to the moral law and “gravely contrary” to chastity.
The ruling of Judge Walker, who is reported to be homosexual, also cited the document’s statement that “legal recognition of homosexual unions … would mean … the approval of deviant behavior.”
In full, the passage reads: “Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior, 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 full CDF document cited Scripture verses and taught that Scripture does not permit the conclusion that all those who suffer from “this anomaly” are personally responsible for it. The document reiterated that men and women with homosexual tendencies are called to live “the virtue of chastity” and must be accepted with “respect, compassion and sensitivity.”
Other religious groups’ statements condemning homosexual acts and the legal recognition of homosexual unions were cited in the same section of the Prop. 8 decision. Among these groups were the Southern Baptist Convention, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Orthodox Church of America, the Free Methodist Church, and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
The ruling also cited testimony from opponents of Prop. 8 such as Stanford University Professor Gary Segura, who called religion “the chief obstacle for gay and lesbian political progress.” Segura also said that a supporter of Prop. 8 admitted that “religious hostility” to homosexuals plays “an important role in creating a social climate that’s conducive to hateful acts.”
Declared “findings of fact” play an important role in the appeals process.
CBS News’ chief political consultant Marc Armbinder, writing at the CBSNews.com blog “The Political Broadsheet,” said the ruling itself matters “less than the facts Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker finds.”
“The appeals court can consider the law de novo - from scratch. But it owes significant deference to Judge Walker's findings of facts -- which are, from the perspective of proponents of Prop. 8, pretty devastating.”
Princeton University law professor Robert P. George, writing in a Friday opinion essay at The Washington Examiner, said some of the ruling’s “findings of fact” were “dubiously labeled.”
Finding no. 77 in particular, George claimed, “takes aim at religious ideas per se.” He criticized Judge Walker for citing “the moral teachings of various religions” and not examples of religious speakers who incite harsh treatment of homosexuals.