Much has been said already about last week’s ruling from Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. district court in San Francisco striking down supporters of California’s Proposition 8, which upheld the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.
The day of the ruling, Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. bishops conference, decried Walker’s decision as a “misuse of the law” meaning to alter the nature of marriage.
“It is tragic that a federal judge would overturn the clear and expressed will of the people in their support for the institution of marriage,” Cardinal George said, referring to the passage of Proposition 8 in the fall of 2008, 52%-48%. “No court of civil law has the authority to reach into areas of human experience that nature itself has defined.”
To supporters of Proposition 8 and the traditional definition of marriage, one of the most egregious points from Walker’s decision was his dismissal of the religious and moral convictions that impel the majority of the country to oppose changing the definition of marriage in order to include same-sex couples.
In a guest post on the Washington Post’s “In Faith” blog, Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the U.S. bishops conference, criticized Walker’s ruling, saying:
The decision called California citizens’ decision to define marriage as “irrational,” which suggests that their decision was absurd and beyond the pale. What’s really irrational is the judge’s dismissal of marriage between a man and a woman – the basic bedrock of our society – as if it were some kookie idea. What’s irrational is his ignoring the will of the people with real life experience of marriage, who have voted down gay marriage not only in California, but throughout the United States whenever legalization of gay marriage has been put to a vote.
Similarly, Matthew Franck wrote for the Witherspoon Institute’s Public Discourse:
Perhaps here, in this nadir of absurdity, we have found the real fundament of the judge’s thinking. Citizens who wish to defend the institution of marriage as they and their families have known it all their lives, and for countless generations, are irrational bigots. Worse still, if they are moved to act because of the union of their faith with their moral opinions, they are crazy religious folk, bent only on harming others whom they merely “dislike” on grounds that cannot possibly be defended before a tribunal of right-thinking people. And those others, the same-sex-couple plaintiffs? They must be rescued from the “harm” to their feelings that results from their exclusion from a historic civil and moral institution that has never hitherto been thought to have been built for them.
That Judge Vaughn Walker evidently cannot grasp what an effrontery his opinion is to the faith, the morals, and yes, the feelings of the vast majority of his fellow Americans is the final irony of his ruling in Perry v. Schwarzenegger.
What now? Prop 8 supporters have already filed an appeal of Walker’s decision, setting the stage for the case’s appearance in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and, likely, the U.S. Supreme Court.
Yet legal measures aside, in the meanwhile, the Church is tasked to do what the Church does best: testifying via its living witness to the truth and beauty of what it has handed down from Christ for the past 2,000 years. In the case of marriage and family, this task will especially lie with the married couples who joyfully embrace their vocation, as well as the priests and religious who pray for and support them every day. The Perry v. Schwarzenegger decision reflects a society that presents faith-based convictions in a negative light; our answer – whether coming from our religious leaders or springing from the laity’s initiative – must be rooted in truth and charity and lived out in our daily lives.
-- Elizabeth Hansen