Massachusetts' Catholic bishops are calling for the reversal of a ruling made by the Supreme Judicial Court yesterday, which overturns a ban on same-sex marriage.
The 4-3 decision in the case of Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health "defies reason" and rejects "an understanding of marriage tested over thousands of years and accepted nearly everywhere as the key to a stable society," said the bishops in a statement issued yesterday.
Despite the decision, the debate is still on, said the bishops, who urged the state legislature to send the Marriage Affirmation and Protection Amendment Act to the 2006 ballot. This way, "the people of Massachusetts can reaffirm marriage as the union between one man and one woman, overriding the court's misguided decision in furtherance of sound public policy," they said.
Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley of Boston also reacted to the ruling, expressing his hopes that the state's legislators "will have the courage and common sense to
redress this situation for the good of society" in the upcoming months. The court stayed the decision for 180 days.
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who disagrees with the court decision, said he would support an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that will maintain
marriage as the union between a man and a woman and try to prevent marriage licenses from going out to same-sex couples.
The court decided that "barring an individual from the protections, benefits and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts Constitution."
The majority opinion by Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall said the state "failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason for denying civil marriage to same-sex couples" and that the Massachusetts Constitution "forbids the creation of second-class citizens."
The court also described the Massachusetts Constitution as "more protective of individual liberty and equality than the federal Constitution."
One of the dissenting judges, Justice Francis X. Spina, wrote that the issue at stake is not the unequal treatment of individuals or individual rights, "but the power of the Legislature to effectuate social change without interference from the courts.
"Today, the court has transformed its role as protector of individual rights into the role of creator of rights," he said. The other two dissenting judges were Justices Martha B. Sosman and Robert J. Cordy.
The National Clergy Council, representing church leaders from Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox and Protestant traditions, also condemned the ruling. Council president Rev. Rob Schenck said the court erred in its decision and warned that there would be a "severe response to this on the part of clergy and churches that hold to strong moral and biblical dictates guarding the sanctity of sexuality and the family."