The U.S. bishops condemned a federal court ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, saying the move defies the will of California voters and reflects “basic confusion” about the nature of marriage.
“The people of California deserve better. Our nation deserves better. Marriage deserves better,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan of New York City, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference.
In a Feb. 7 statement, he called marriage “one of the cornerstones of society” and stressed that the U.S. Constitution “does not forbid” its protection.
The cardinal-designate said that Wednesday's ruling was a “grave injustice” that ignores “the reality that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”
Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, who chairs the bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, added that the court ignored the “correctly-informed judgment” of California voters, who supported the 2008 ballot measure that defined marriage as between one man and one woman.
The people of California, he said, “justly upheld the truth of marriage.”
On Feb. 7, a panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision against Proposition 8. It said the measure “served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.”
Supporters of the measure – which received 52 percent of the vote – plan to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Bishop Cordileone said that society does not exist in “an amoral or value-less vacuum” but must be “infused with moral direction that is grounded in the truth.”
The California Catholic Conference also weighed in after the ruling, noting that marriage “between one man and one woman has been – and always will be – the most basic building block of the family and of our society.”
Conference leaders said they were “disappointed” by the most recent ruling but noted that it has “always been clear” that the U.S. Supreme Court would likely decide the issue.
“In the end, through sound legal reasoning, we believe the court will see this as well and uphold the will of the voters as expressed in Proposition 8. We continue to pray for that positive outcome.”
Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles also criticized the Ninth Circuit's opposition to the measure.
“Marriage, in every culture and every age, has been recognized as the lifelong union of a man and woman for their own well-being and for the creation and nurturing of children,” he said on Feb. 7.
The government has a “vital interest” in promoting marriage because it is the “foundation of society” and because the government has a duty towards the well-being of children, he said. Children “have the right to be born and raised in a family with both their mother and their father.”
Government officials also have “no competence and no authority” to redefine or “expand” the definition of marriage to include other kinds of relationships, he continued. To do so is “to say that marriage no longer exists” and this would have “grave consequences” for children and for the common good.
Archbishop Gomez pledged continued prayer for an outcome that “supports and strengthens the true meaning of marriage.”