Yesterday, federal district court Judge Vaughn Walker, a Reagan appointee, overturned California’s Proposition 8, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
While the immediate impact is limited to the state of California, the consequences of this egregious bit of judicial overreach threatens to be nationwide.
Two years ago, the California Supreme Court ruled that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violated the state constitution. In response, supporters of traditional marriage followed California’s legal and democratic process: They collected enough signatures to put a proposed amendment to the state constitution on the ballot.
After a hard-fought campaign in which they were outspent by the other side, Proposition 8 supporters, including many African American pastors, enacted the referendum. Having lost the democratic battle, the losers again returned to the courts, this time the federal courts.
They argued that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Throughout the 13-day trial, Judge Walker’s sympathies were clear to observers.
He ruled yesterday that “moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians.” Warming to the task, he added that “the evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason”—note that, “without reason”—“a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite sex couples.”
Even though his ruling isn’t surprising, his dismissal of the opinions of the people of California and five thousand-plus years of human tradition is breath-taking. Then again, inasmuch as Walker is one of the few openly gay federal judges, maybe his dismissal shouldn’t shock us, either.
Let’s be clear. What’s at stake here goes beyond California and even beyond marriage itself. The reasoning that overturned California’s law, that said that the right of gays to marry is a fundamental constitutional right, would, if applied nationally, overturn similar laws throughout the country.
As Pastor Jim Garlow, who led the Proposition 8 campaign, points out, it would be a mistake to think that the battle about the definition of marriage is only over marriage—disastrous as that is. A loss on this issue will have devastating consequences for our personal freedoms.
Garlow points to the weakening of parental rights, of course the attack on religious freedom and individuals practicing their faith in public. People who oppose same-sex marriage will be forced to choose between full participation in public life and fidelity to their convictions.
So what comes next? An appeal to Ninth Circuit, the most liberal circuit court in America, and an expedited appeal to Supreme Court.
But my hopes are instead in the groundswell of public outrage and resistance. This is re-writing the Constitution of the United States and undermining the most basic institutions of civilized society.
This is why we’ve signed the Manhattan Declaration. You should come to www.manhattandeclaration.org, and sign on and get your friends to sign on. It’s time we took a stand. Millions of us have got to speak up and say, “No, we’ll give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, never to Caesar what belongs to God.”