Marriage and the family were dealt a blow today by a 4-3 California Supreme Court decision striking down the state’s law preventing homosexuals from being recognized as married. Advocates of marriage pledged to fight back with a ballot initiative aimed at amending the state’s constitution to define marriage as between a man and woman.
Chief Justice Ron George wrote in the majority opinion that domestic partnerships are not an adequate substitute for marriage.
"Our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation," the court wrote.
Reaction to the ruling by homosexual marriage supporters took place in front of the courthouse with some crying and others cheering, according to the Associated Press.
The case which the Supreme Court ruled on today originated from a lawsuit filed by the City of San Francisco in protest of a previous injunction issued by the Supreme Court that halted the city’s March 2004 granting of same-sex marriage licenses.
However, the battle over the meaning and definition of marriage cannot be presumed a done deal.
A coalition of religious and social conservative groups is attempting to put a measure on the November ballot that would secure California's current laws banning gay marriage in the state constitution.
The Secretary of State is expected to rule by the end of June on whether the 1.1 million signatures gathered by the coalition qualify the constitutional amendment to be placed on the November 2008 ballot.
Upon hearing the news of the California Supreme Court decision, the Alliance for Marriage (AFM) issued a call to Californians to lend their support to their state’s marriage amendment and called on the U.S. Congress to pass an AFM-drafted federal Marriage Protection Amendment.
AFM president Matt Daniels reacted to the California ruling by saying he believes it will “galvanize” the efforts to defend marriage. Within the Catholic community, Daniels explained that Latino support will be “critical” to defending marriage in California.
Nevertheless, Daniels was quick to point out that “the national battle continues to rage, and I guarantee you that the outcome in California has national significance.”
According to Daniels, “If the court decision in California stands, then marriage in every state in the country is going to be in peril because California is going to become a launching pad for challenges from other states.”
Bill May, the chairman of Catholics for the Common Good, added that this ruling will have “an impact on children, and their interests in having a married mother and father.”
He asserted that, “The court just considered the interests of and benefits for adults. And it was surprising that they found no compelling reason to restrict marriage to people who engage in reproductive acts, i.e. men and women.”
Maggie Gallagher, the president of Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, went a step further by commenting, "California's supreme court has just ruled that the 62 percent of Californians who voted for marriage as the union of husband and wife are just bigots. But thanks to the 1.1 million Californians who signed petitions to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November, activist judges will not have the last word in California, California voters will."
She added that, "Most Americans understand that marriage is not bigotry. It is common sense -- unions of husband and wife have a unique status in law and culture because they really are different from other kinds of unions including in this way: they are uniquely necessary because they are the unions that both make new life and connect those children to their own mother and father."
The Catholic bishops of California also emphasized the need to defend the family, writing, “Catholic teaching maintains that marriage is a faithful, exclusive and lifelong union between one man and one woman joined in an intimate partnership of life and love — a union instituted by God for the mutual fulfillment of the husband and wife as well as for the procreation and education of children."
California’s bishops expressed their “disappointment in the California Supreme Court decision.”
“That statute reflected the wisdom of the voters of California in retaining the traditional definition of marriage as a biological reality and a societal good. Unfortunately, today, the Court saw fit to disregard the will of the majority of people of California,” the bishops said.
Noting that domestic partnerships are already legal in California, the bishops said that, “Today’s decision of California’s high court opens the door for policymakers to deconstruct traditional marriage and create another institution under the guise of equal protection.”