Proposition 8 upheld, but bishops worried

04 Jun 2009

By The Record

Bishops praise court for affirming voters’ right to define marriage.

Justices of the California Supreme Court in San Francisco are shown during March 5 oral arguments on a case challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage. Top: Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George. First row left to right: Associate Justices Joyce Kennard, Carlos Moreno and Marvin Baxter. Bottom row left to right: Associate Justices Ming Chin, Carol Corrigan and Kathryn Werdegar. CNS.

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The California Supreme Court “respected the eminently reasonable decision of the California electorate” in its May 26 ruling affirming marriage as the union of a man and a woman, said the chairman of the US bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for the Defence of Marriage.
Archbishop Joseph E Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, speaking on behalf of the full US Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed disappointment and concern that the court failed to apply this definition to the estimated 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place between May and November 2008 in California.
The high court’s decision upheld the constitutionality of the state’s Proposition 8 declaring that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognised in California.” But it said the voters’ decision could not be applied retroactively to those who married before the initiative was passed. He said the ruling “respects the uniqueness of the marital relationship and its service to the common good by respecting the value of procreation and the good of children as well as the unique complementarity of man and woman.”
But he said “attempts to change the legal definition of marriage or to create simulations of marriage, often under the guise of ‘equality,’ ‘civil rights’ and ‘anti-discrimination’… undermine the very nature of marriage and overlook the essential place of marriage and family life in society.”
“The state has a responsibility to protect and promote marriage as the union of one man and one woman as well as to protect and promote the intrinsic dignity of every human person, including homosexual persons,” Archbishop Kurtz said. There are ways to do that but “sacrificing marriage is not one of them,” he added.
In a May 26 statement on behalf of the California Catholic bishops, Bishop Stephen E Blaire of Stockton had a similar mixed reaction to the decision, saying he and his fellow bishops “are strongly committed to protecting the dignity and worth of every human person” and supported “the intent of law to provide equal protection for all. However, such purpose does not have to trump the natural and traditional definition of marriage between a man and a woman,” he added in the statement.
“The law has found other ways to regulate civil unions without destroying the traditional understanding of marriage. We believe – as do the majority of Californians – that marriage between a man and a woman is foundational to our culture and crucial for human perpetuity,” Bishop Blaire said.
In a November 4, 2008, vote, 52 per cent of the state’s electorate approved Proposition 8.