However, that effort was overturned by a California federal judge in August 2010, claiming that there is a "fundamental right to marry." His decision was upheld in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in February 2012.
That decision is now being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The bishops' brief for the case observed that the ballot measure "encourages and supports the union of one man and one woman."
This is a legitimate state interest because these unions are the only ones capable of creating new life, the document argued, adding that it is reasonable to believe that a home with a mother and a father is "the optimal environment for raising children."
The brief said the Ninth Circuit's definition of marriage as simply "a committed lifelong relationship" is "incoherent," "wildly over-inclusive," and "leads to absurd results" because it would not exclude parent-child relationships, unions between two lifelong friends or relationships between more than two people.
In addition, the bishops' conference warned, the redefinition of marriage would adversely affect constitutional rights like the freedoms of religion, conscience, speech and association.
It pointed to instances where businesses were forced to host "gay weddings" or close, as well as cases where public officials such as town clerks were forced to give up their positions over their objections to same-sex relationships. It also referenced religiously affiliated nonprofits that are facing the prospect of lawsuits for following their beliefs and declining to recognize same-sex "spouses" in benefits policies.