Bishops Weigh in on California Gay Marriage Ban

Affirm State’s Responsibility to Protect Family Structure

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WASHINGTON, D.C., MAY 28, 2009 ( The U.S. bishops’ conference lauded the California Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the voter-enacted ban on same-sex marriage.

In a statement released Wednesday, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, reported the bishops’ satisfaction with the decision.

He stated, «The court has thus respected the eminently reasonable decision of the California electorate to retain the perennial definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.»

The archbishop explained: «This 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.

«Advancing the truth and beauty of marriage enhances, rather than diminishes, the intrinsic dignity of every human person.»

In 2000, Californians voted to keep marriage between a man and a woman. But last May, the state’s high court overturned that vote and approved same-sex marriage. Some 18,000 gay couples were quick to take advantage of the new prerogative.

California’s citizens rallied to put the issue to vote again in November. With slightly more than a 52% majority, same-sex marriage was again made illegal in California, this time with a constitutional amendment.

That measure was known as Proposition 8 and it added to the California Constitution the following clause: «Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.»

However, activists succeeded in taking the issue back to the California Supreme Court, contending that the ban needed legislature approval before being added to the constitution.

The court’s decision Tuesday upholds the ban, but does not «un-marry» the 18,000 gay couples who wed between May and November.

The bishops’ statement expressed concern that the court failed to apply the marriage definition to these same-sex unions.


Archbishop Kurtz affirmed, «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,’ do not serve the truth.»

«Such attempts,» he said, «undermine the very nature of marriage and overlook the essential place of marriage and family life in society.»

The prelate continued, «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.»

He added that there are many ways to accomplish this, but «sacrificing marriage is not one of them.»

The California bishops’ conference released an additional statement in which Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton echoed the words of Archbishop Kurtz.

Quoting the natural law scholar and Princeton professor, Robert George, the prelate affirmed: «No matter what, the law will teach. It will either teach that marriage exists as a natural institution with public purposes and meanings, centered around bridging the gender divide, and bringing together one man and one woman to share their lives as husband and wife and to become father and mother to their children, or it will teach that marriage is a mere creation of the state, recognizing and condoning the private sexual choices of adults.»


«As Catholic bishops,» the statement continued, «we are strongly committed to protecting the dignity and worth of every human person.»

It affirmed: «We endorse 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.

«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.»

Ron Prentice, executive committee chairman of the coalition, explained that although this court decision is a victory for all supporters of Proposition 8, the work is not done.

He stated, «We will now turn our attention to public education and outreach so that citizens come to better understand and appreciate the many benefits that traditional marriage provides for society and our families.»

«The institution of marriage as we have always understood it has served California and our broader society since the nation was founded,» Prentice affirmed.

He added, «We look forward to working with young people, churches, ethnic communities and all of California with an ongoing discussion about the benefits of traditional marriage.»

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