SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The California Supreme Court upheld a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday, but it also decided that the estimated 18,000 gay couples who tied the knot before the law took effect will stay wed.
Demonstrators outside the court yelled "shame on you!"
The 6-1 decision written by Chief Justice Ron George rejected an argument by gay rights activists that the ban revised the California Constitution's equal protection clause to such a dramatic degree that it first needed the Legislature's approval.
The court said the Californians have a right, through the ballot box, to change their constitution.
"In a sense, petitioners' and the attorney general's complaint is that it is just too easy to amend the California Constitution through the initiative process. But it is not a proper function of this court to curtail that process; we are constitutionally bound to uphold it," the ruling said.
The justices said the 136-page majority ruling does not speak to whether they agree with Proposition 8 or "believe it should be a part of the California Constitution."
They said they were "limited to interpreting and applying the principles and rules embodied in the California Constitution, setting aside our own personal beliefs and values."
The announcement of the decision set off an outcry among a sea of demonstrators who had gathered in front of the San Francisco courthouse awaiting the ruling. Holding signs and many waving rainbow flags, they yelled "shame on you." Many people also held hands in a chain around an intersection in an act of protest.
Gay rights activists immediately promised to resume their fight, saying they would go back to voters as early as next year in a bid to repeal Proposition 8.
Of course, the problem of "civil unions" continues in California and in other states in the nation. Catholics need to remember that our Church does not support civil unions for homosexual couples (or indeed, for heterosexual unmarried couples) and that we ought not support them either in any way which denies Church teaching. For example, in the document Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, we read:
Faced with the fact of homosexual unions, civil authorities adopt different positions. At times they simply tolerate the phenomenon; at other times they advocate legal recognition of such unions, under the pretext of avoiding, with regard to certain rights, discrimination against persons who live with someone of the same sex. In other cases, they favour giving homosexual unions legal equivalence to marriage properly so-called, along with the legal possibility of adopting children.
Where the government's policy is de facto tolerance and there is no explicit legal recognition of homosexual unions, it is necessary to distinguish carefully the various aspects of the problem. Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons. Therefore, discreet and prudent actions can be effective; these might involve: unmasking the way in which such tolerance might be exploited or used in the service of ideology; stating clearly the immoral nature of these unions; reminding the government of the need to contain the phenomenon within certain limits so as to safeguard public morality and, above all, to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage that would deprive them of their necessary defences and contribute to the spread of the phenomenon. Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil.
In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.
Any Catholic who has not yet read this important document, issued in 2003, ought really to set aside the time to do so (it isn't especially long). It explains in clear, easily understood language why the Church opposes the "civil union" solution and why such arrangements are not in the best interest of the homosexual persons themselves, of society at large, and especially for the safeguarding of the young, who more and more are faced with the prospect of growing up in a society that blurs the lines between men and women and that wishes to promote and celebrate homosexual relationships as the equivalent of marriage, something they are not and never can be.
So although I'm glad that California's court has not used this opportunity to nullify the will of the people and re-impose state sodomy marriage on unwilling Californians, I must regret the push for civil unions as the "solution" to the SSM problem. Setting up a parallel institution to marriage will not only weaken the efforts to protect marriage, it will also lead to an existence in grave sin for many same-sex attracted people, and will foster the notion that it is the proper role of the government to create policies, codify, and support what is gravely morally wrong. Perhaps it's already too late for America to avoid that notion, as it seems that our government's major role in recent years has been to do exactly that in many arenas; but just because our culture is already significantly and perhaps irrevocably biased in favor of evil does not absolve us of our duty to fight it.