Following judicial decisions ordering Pennsylvania and Oregon to recognize “gay marriage,” critics said that such decisions damage society and ignore the rights of children.
“Every child has a basic right to a mother and a father united in marriage as a family. Today’s decision does not change that,” the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference said May 20, voicing hope for a prompt appeal.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, in a separate message, said that the judicial decision is “a mistake with long-term consequences.” He said the Pennsylvania law protecting marriage had been based on “sound reasons” like defending the rights of children and contributing to the well-being of the community.
Marriage is not only about companionship but about “creating and rearing new life,” the archbishop explained.
He said that attempts to redefine marriage “damage a cornerstone of our human interaction and ultimately work against human dignity itself.”
In a May 20 decision, U.S. District Court Judge John Jones III, a George W. Bush appointee, denounced Pennsylvania laws defining marriage as one man and one woman.
“We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history,” he said.
Brian S. Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said the Pennsylvania ruling “unilaterally makes an end-run around the democratic process and places the capricious will of one man above the desires of millions of citizens.”
While media reports have characterized the marriage laws as a “ban,” they do not bar private ceremonies. Rather, both Oregon and Pennsylvania laws recognize marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The two states’ attorneys general, both Democrats, refused to defend the laws in court.
U.S. District Judge Michael McShane, a President Obama appointee, on May 19 ruled that Oregon’s law unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex couples. Objectors to the Oregon decision lacked legal standing to ask that it be overturned.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett announced May 21 that he would not appeal the decision affecting his state because “the case is extremely unlikely to succeed on appeal.”
Same-sex couples in both states may now request marriage licenses.
Federal or state judges in Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Utah and Arkansas have recently ruled unconstitutional state marriage laws that recognize marriage as a man-woman union. Other judges have ordered Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee to recognize “gay marriages” from other states.
Many of these court decisions redefining marriage have cited the Supreme Court case U.S. v. Windsor as justification. That ruling, issued in 2013, struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage for federal purposes as the union of one man and one woman.
However, in issuing that ruling, the Supreme Court allowed each state to define marriage as it saw fit, saying that federal law was to reflect the law of each state. The ruling did not require any individual state to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples.
In his dissent in the Windsor case, Justice Anthony Scalia warned that the court was declaring those who oppose a redefinition of marriage to be “enemies of the human race.” The recent state marriage rulings have sparked increasing concerns of an erosion of religious freedom and even persecution for those who disagree with changing the definition of marriage.