Critics found the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ Feb. 7 ruling against the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 to be “absurd” but not surprising.
“This decision was completely expected,” said William B. May, head of Catholics for the Common Good. “You have to remember, this is the most liberal, most-overturned appeals court and most-overturned judge in the country.”
Backers of Prop. 8 never expected to prevail at the appellate level, but saw it as a step to the U.S. Supreme Court. They will now appeal directly to the Supreme Court rather than ask for a full hearing from the Ninth Circuit, May told CNA on Feb. 7.
The California ballot measure Prop. 8 defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. It passed in 2008 with 52 percent of the vote. In 2010, U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker overturned the decision as unconstitutional.
On Tuesday the federal appellate court ruled that Prop. 8 “served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.” It rejected claims that the ballot measure protected religious freedom and parents’ rights to educate their children as they see fit.
May countered that it is “absurd” to say there is no rational reason or public interest in “protecting the only institution in society that unites kids with their moms and dads.”
“They’re looking at marriage as merely something for the benefit of adults, not as the foundation of the family.”
Redefining marriage will tend to isolate religious groups, including Catholic parishes, from the wider community, he predicted, adding that it will change what children are taught.
“If marriage is redefined, that’s what will be taught in the schools. That’s a fact,” May said.
“It’s not prejudiced for the people of California to want their kids to learn the reality of what marriage is, in a way that supports them and influences positive decisions they make about marriage and family in their lives.”
Other supporters of Proposition 8 criticized the ruling.
“No court should presume to redefine marriage,” Alliance Defense Fund senior counsel Brian Raum said Feb. 7. “No court should undercut the democratic process by taking the power to preserve marriage out of the hands of the people.”
He said Americans “overwhelmingly” reject changing the definition of marriage, noting the millions of people who voted in 31 states to preserve marriage as the “timeless, universal, unique union between husband and wife.”
“We are not surprised that this Hollywood-orchestrated attack on marriage – tried in San Francisco – turned out this way. But we are confident that the expressed will of the American people in favor of marriage will be upheld at the Supreme Court,” Raum stated.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the decision was “disappointing but not surprising.”
“This is not about constitutional governance but the insistence of a group of activists to force their will on their fellow citizens,” he charged.
“This ruling substitutes judicial tyranny for the will of the people, who in the majority of states have amended their constitutions, as California did, to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
Perkins expressed confidence that the Supreme Court will reject “the absurd argument that the authors of our Constitution created or even implied a 'right' to homosexual 'marriage,' and will instead uphold the right of the people to govern themselves.”
May told CNA he thought the prospect of success in the Supreme Court is “good” because the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision is “really out of line with every other court and the Supreme Court in cases similar to this.”
“This will ultimately be decided in the Supreme Court and we think that is the place to get a sober review of the arguments based on law, not on emotional rhetoric.”
He asked supporters of Prop. 8 to pray and to voice their opinions in letters to the editor and in calls to television and radio talk shows.
“It’s really important for supporters of Prop. 8 to realize that this debate about marriage is going on continuously. It’s going on in families. It’s going on in public forums. It’s going on in legislatures.
“It’s critical that people become informed about how to talk about the reality of marriage in secular terms, and to be able to engage in a positive way, related not only to protecting but promoting the only institution that unites kids with their moms and dads.”