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5 questions & answers about the Prop 8 ruling
Michael Foust, Baptist Press
August 09, 2010

5 questions & answers about the Prop 8 ruling

5 questions & answers about the Prop 8 ruling
Michael Foust, Baptist Press
August 09, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO — A landmark

federal ruling on California Proposition 8 has thrust the issue of “gay

marriage” back into the national spotlight. Following are five questions and

answers about the ruling’s significance:

Q: What did the judge rule?

A: U.S. District Judge

Vaughn Walker overturned California’s constitutional marriage amendment known

as Proposition 8, ruling it violates the due process and equal protection

rights of same-sex couples under the U.S. Constitution. Prop 8, he wrote, “does

nothing more than” discriminate and “enshrine in the California Constitution

the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples.” It

marks the first time a federal judge has ruled there is a federal

constitutional right to “gay marriage.” Prop 8, passed in 2008 by a margin of

52-48 percent, reads: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or

recognized in California.”

Q: What happens next?

A: ProtectMarriage.com, the

group that sponsored the amendment, is appealing the decision to the U.S. Ninth

Circuit Court of Appeals, where a randomly selected three-judge panel will hear

it. From there, the case could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. All

total, the appeals process could last several years. Some conservative leaders,

including Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty

Commission, say the only solution for their side may be to pass a federal

marriage amendment.

Q: Why is this case more

significant than other “gay marriage” cases?

A: Most other cases have

involved state courts, so their impact was limited. The current case, Perry v.

Schwarzenegger, is a federal case and could impact all 50 states — and in

essence become the Roe v. Wade of “gay marriage.” If Walker’s legal reasoning

and ruling is upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, then marriage would be

redefined not only in California but also nationwide, reversing statutes and

constitutional amendments in all 45 states that define marriage as between one

man and one woman. That’s been the goal of “gay marriage” supporters for years.

In 2004, after 11 states passed marriage amendments on Election Day, Matt

Foreman, then-executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force,

told the Associated Press: “This issue is going to be resolved by the U.S.

Supreme Court, and it’s not going to give a (expletive) what these state

constitutions say.”

Q: Why are some people saying

the ruling could mark a cultural shift?

A: Because Walker made

sweeping arguments about homosexuality that, collectively, have never been made

in a federal ruling. Regarding marriage, he wrote: “Gender no longer forms an

essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals.” On

childrearing, he wrote, “The gender of a child’s parent is not a factor in a

child’s adjustment,” and, “Having both a male and a female parent does not

increase the likelihood that a child will be well-adjusted.”

Regarding

religion, he wrote, “Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are

sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians.” He

included in his decision Southern Baptist resolutions on “gay marriage” (2003)

and homosexuality (1999), as well as statements on homosexuality from the Roman

Catholic Church, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Free Methodist Church,

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and the Orthodox Church of America. All of the

denominations point to Scripture in calling homosexuality sinful.

Q: What legal arguments will

Prop 8 supporters make during their appeal?

A: Attorneys for

ProtectMarriage.com and the Alliance Defense Fund argued at the lower court

that children need mothers and fathers and the state has an interest in

fostering that relationship. ProtectMarriage.com attorney Andy Pugno said in a

statement after Walker’s ruling that the government “has a strong interest in

channeling natural procreation into stable and enduring relationships between

men and women and increase the likelihood that those children will be raised by

both a mother and a father.” Opponents of “gay marriage” warn that religious

freedom will suffer if the ruling is upheld, impacting everything from what is

taught in public schools to the tax exempt status of religious organizations

and perhaps even churches. In New Jersey, a Methodist-owned beachfront property

lost part of its tax-exempt status because its leaders denied use of the

property to a lesbian couple for a commitment ceremony. Said Brian Brown,

president of the National Organization for Marriage, “The goal of this movement

is to use the law to reshape the culture so that disagreement with their views

on sex and marriage gets stigmatized and repressed like bigotry. Children will

be taught, whether parents like it or not, that traditional faith communities’

views on marriage are based on hatred and bigotry.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Foust is an

assistant editor of Baptist Press.)