Voters Overruled

In California, Marriage Advocates Pin Hopes on November Ballot
by Sabrina Arena Ferrisi | Source:

SAN FRANCISCO ( -- The Supreme Court of California sent shock waves through the nation May 15 by legalizing same-sex "marriage" in a 4-3 decision.

This is the second state in the country to do so. Massachusetts has been allowing same-sex “marriage” since its Supreme Judicial Court’s Goodridge decision in 2003.

"This is a historic day for the state of California, and a long-awaited day for the plaintiffs in this case and their families," said Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign a homosexual activist group. "The California Supreme Court has made clear that same-sex couples in committed relationships and their families deserve the same level of respect afforded to opposite-sex couples."

Defenders of marriage had a different view.

Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, spoke on behalf of California bishops and said "Proposition 22, which states, 'Only marriage between one man and one woman is valid and recognized in California,' passed eight years ago by a vote of 61.2 to 38.8%. That statute reflected the wisdom of the voters of California in retaining the traditional definition of marriage as a biological reality and a societal good. Unfortunately, today, the Court saw fit to disregard the will of the majority of people of California."

Protestant leaders also opposed the ruling.

"What happened today was a three-tier assault on the constitutional rights of the people of California," said Rev. Sam Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference, which represents 15 million Hispanic Evangelicals. "It was an assault on democracy, on the family and on religion. The Supreme Court of California declared war on all three of these institutions."

California had instituted a ban on same-sex “marriage” in 2000 through a referendum called Proposition 22, which defined civil marriage as between one man and one woman. The measure passed with 61.4% of the state’s population voting for it.

"What do we pass propositions for or have referendums for if, at the end of the day, the court has the final word?" said Rodriguez. "This is a junta, a legislative junta with seven people with supreme authority over the daily lives of millions of people. The court was in an activist modality, and it wanted to usurp the will of the people. It succeeded in doing so."

The legal battle for same-sex “marriage” in California began when San Francisco’s mayor Gavin Newsom began handing out marriage licenses in 2004 to same-sex couples. The Supreme Court of California ruled that Newsom had no authority to do so and nullified all the marriages he had carried out. Soon, various lawsuits were filed by same-sex "marriage" groups, including those who had been “married” in San Francisco.

"It took a few years for these cases to weave their ways through the courts," said Andrew Pugno, an attorney for the Proposition 22 Legal Defense Fund. "Their view was that Proposition 22 and California’s marriage laws were unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause."

Four judges on California’s Supreme Court ruled May 15 that the state had no compelling interest to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples, and that Proposition 22 and the state’s marriage laws were in fact unconstitutional.

"The majority on the court has exceeded its role in interpreting the law," said Pugno. "Instead, they have legislated a new social policy from the bench which should belong to the people and their elected representatives in the legislative process."

The court's decision will take effect in 30 days, unless it accedes to requests to stay the decision until the November election  at which time Californians will be able to vote on a ballot initiative that aims to amend the state constitution. This ballot would define marriage as only between one man and one woman. It need only pass with a simple majority of the population.

"The passage of an amendment to the state constitution in November would overrule the court's decision," said Pugno. "So it would be better for the court to wait three to four months to help avoid needless chaos."

For now, marriage defenders are placing their hopes on the ballot initiative. The state required a collection of 700,000 signatures in order to accept the initiative, and they were able to collect 1,122,000 signatures. The two major coalitions working towards this goal are and the National Organization for Marriage. Most of the organizations within these coalitions are Catholic or Evangelical.

Pope Benedict XVI stressed defense of the family during his April visit to the United States and prayed with President Bush for the family. He reiterated Church teaching about marriage on the day after the California decision.

"The union of love, based on matrimony between a man and a woman, which makes up the family, represents a good for all society that can not be substituted by, confused with, or compared to other types of unions,” he said. The family is “founded on matrimony between a man and a woman, the natural cradle of human life."

No Authority

National marriage defenders are fuming about the court's arrogance and anti-democratic behavior.

"They are thumbing their nose at the people," said Charles Limandri, general counsel for the National Organization for Marriage. "It is not the job of the courts to make laws. The state of California's Supreme Court took on authority it did not possess. One vote can dramatically change the underpinnings of society. But our Founding Fathers have given the people a final say, which is to do ballot initiatives. We fully expect the people to do the right thing."

One group wants to amend the U.S. Constitution to guard against activist judges.

"What the court is trying to do is preempt the referendum and create a social-legal fait accompli," said Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage, which promotes a federal marriage amendment. "But, I think that this will galvanize our supporters and give us greater momentum. It was such an arrogant thing for the court to overturn a referendum which was already passed. It's anti-democratic."

During the next few months, proponents of same-sex "marriage" are expected to pour all of their resources and energy into defeating the ballot initiative.

Pro-family groups are especially concerned about the repercussions for religious liberty if same-sex "marriage" is allowed to stand.

"Everything will pale in comparison to the lawsuits we will see against the Catholic Church. They will try to get us to change our fundamental view on marriage," said Limandri. "Just look at Massachusetts. Any justice of the peace who won't marry same sex couples gets fired."

"I think that the outcome of California will have national significance because it is the most populous state," said Daniels. "And every time a court does this, it emboldens other courts."

Hispanic Community

In the meantime, pro-traditional marriage groups in California are looking towards the Hispanic community to push this issue forward and save marriage.

"In order to win the ballot initiative, we need to reach the Latino community," said Daniels. "They were responsible for the passage of Proposition 22, and victory in California now rests with them."

To this end, the Alliance for Marriage has coordinated an outreach strategy of reaching Hispanic leaders within the Evangelical and Catholic communities of California. Rodriguez is spearheading this movement within the state.

"For us Latinos, the Supreme Court said today, "We don't care about the family, or the Hispanic-American family," said Rodriguez. "We have one political agenda and one political constituency. We would love to have the citizens of California have the final word. People of faith in California are coming together to respond to this egregious assault on our religious liberty and on the institution of the family."

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi is based in New York.

Source: National Catholic Register -- online at

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Post a Comment
Published by: Mary Smith
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00
Great article.

Published by: CN User
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00
Very informative.

Published by: Mary Smith
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00
Great article.

Published by: John Doe
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00

Published by: CN User
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00
Very informative.

Published by: Mary Smith
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00
Great article.

Published by: John Doe
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00

Published by: CN User
Date: 2009-01-01 10:00:00
Very informative.

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