A panel of 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judges is hearing arguments from Proposition 8 supporters and opponents this week in a landmark case that will most likely reach the Supreme Court.
U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker had ruled on Aug. 4 that Prop. 8 – a traditional marriage initiative which passed in November 2008 with the support of seven million Californians – was unconstitutional and mandated that it be null and void on Aug. 18.
On Aug. 17, however, a panel from the Ninth Circuit issued an emergency stay of Judge Walker's ruling. The court granted a motion filed by the ProtectMarriage.com legal team.
As part of its order, the Ninth Circuit issued an expedited appeal schedule for the case. Oral arguments for the case started Dec. 6 and were broadcast on C-SPAN.
The randomly selected, three member panel consists of Judge Michael Hawkins, Judge Stephen Reinhardt and Judge N. Randy Smith.
Judge Reinhardt – whose wife Ramona Ripston is the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California – denied requests to recuse himself from the hearing. According to the New York Times, he claimed that despite his personal connections, he is able to remain impartial in the case.
As the hearings are underway, a vigorous cultural debate around legalizing same-sex “marriage” is once again being reignited. Yet there are those that hold fast to the idea that redefining marriage poses serious dangers for American society.
Dr. Christopher Kaczor, author and philosophy professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, said that the legalization of same-sex “marriage” would have far-reaching and detrimental affects.
In a Dec. 6 e-mail to CNA, Dr. Kaczor outlined several predictions including that divorce rates will rise, marriage in general will destabilize, and increased numbers of children will the lack the sociological benefit of having one father and one mother.
“Since same-sex couples cannot have children together, one would expect that their relationships would tend to be less stable,” he said. “If same-sex couples are granted a legal right to marry, and if they end up divorcing at a rate even higher than opposite sex couples, then divorce would be come even more widespread than it currently is,” Kaczor said.
Dr. Kaczor noted that increases in rates of legal divorce “further destabilize marriages that are troubled.”
“The more divorce there is in society, the more socially acceptable it becomes, and the more likely it is that opposite sex couples will choose divorce over working harder on their marriages,” he said.
Also, if same-sex marriage is legalized, opponents of it “would be forced to act against their consciences or be penalized.”
The professor outlined the further concern that advocates of traditional marriage with kids in public schools would be taught about marriage in a way that undermines the values that are taught in the home.
Dr. Kaczor also said that “society has an interest in promoting the family as a union of a father and a mother, since this form of the family is sociologically proven to be the most beneficial for children.”
Approval of same-sex “marriage,” then, makes either the father or the mother “dispensable” in a legally recognized family, he warned.
Newly elected president of the U.S. Bishop's Conference, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, also weighed in on the Prop. 8 hearings on Monday.
He pointed to an open letter written by various religious leaders in the U.S who reaffirmed their stance in maintaining marriage as defined between one man and one woman.
“The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment,” was released on Dec. 6 by leaders from Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Lutheran, Mormon, Orthodox, Pentecostal and Sikh communities in the United States.
“The broad consensus reflected in this letter – across great religious divides – is clear: The law of marriage is not about imposing the religion of anyone, but about protecting the common good of everyone,” Archbishop Dolan said.
“People of any faith or no faith at all can recognize that when the law defines marriage as between one man and one woman, it legally binds a mother and a father to each other and their children, reinforcing the foundational cell of human society.”