Why the Proposition 8 Decision Matters
Anyone who reads Judge Walker's decision will see that the normalization of homosexuality was one of his major concerns. Any belief that heterosexual relations are morally superior to homosexual relations "is not a proper basis on which to legislate," he asserted. Proposition 8, he insisted, "was premised on the belief that same-sex couples simply are not as good as opposite-sex couples." The judge claimed to have "uncloaked" the real reason California's voters adopted Proposition 8—"a desire to advance the belief that opposite-sex couples are morally superior to same-sex couples."
The judge released enumerated "findings" within his decision. Among the most important—and startling—of these are the following:
"Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians."
"Children do not need to be raised by a male parent and a female parent to be well-adjusted, and having both a male and a female parent does not increase the likelihood that a child will be well-adjusted."
"The gender of a child's parent is not a factor in the child's adjustment. The sexual orientation of an individual does not determine whether that individual can be a good parent."
"Same-sex couples are identical to opposite-sex couples in the characteristics relevant to the ability to form successful marital unions."
In a breathtaking and brief sentence, Judge Walker asserted: "Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals."
Until this verdict, such language had never appeared in a decision of a Federal court. If gender is no longer "an essential part of marriage," then marriage has been essentially redefined right before our eyes.
The religious liberty dimensions of the decision are momentous and deeply troubling. While Judge Walker declared that the religious freedoms of citizens and religious bodies were not violated because no such body is required to recognize or perform same-sex marriage, the very structure of his argument condemned religious and theological objections to homosexuality and same-sex marriage as both harmful and irrational.
Beyond this, Judge Walker claimed to read the minds of California's voters, arguing that the majority voted for Proposition 8 based on religious opposition to homosexuality, which he then rejected as an illegitimate state interest. In essence, this establishes secularism as the only acceptable basis for moral judgment on the part of voters. The judge's statements condemning religious opposition to homosexuality speak for themselves in terms of animus.
Judge Walker's decision will be appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, also located in San Francisco—the most notoriously liberal appeals court in the nation. Inevitably, the case will be then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision handed down by Judge Walker, especially as expressed in his findings, was clearly constructed with such appeals in mind.
Thousands of cases make their way through the Federal courts each year. Some are important, but only a few have lasting legal significance. Whatever happens on appeal, the decision handed down yesterday by Judge Vaughn R. Walker will reverberate for decades to come. Yesterday, a very important gavel fell on marriage. The central institution of human civilization suffered a direct hit, and its future hangs in the balance.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This commentary also appears on his blog. "Speaking Out" is Christianity Today's guest opinion column and (unlike an editorial) does not necessarily represent the opinion of the publication.
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