Prop 8 NOT Overturned: Condolences for Marriage Premature

Bishops: Stand Steadfastly and Pray
Prop 8 Future Still Unresolved
DOMA Ramifications Are Broad

By William B. May

SAN FRANCISCO, June 26, 2013--The US Bishops issued a statement calling today’s Supreme Court decisions a “profound injustice,” and a “tragic day for marriage and our nation.” The Supreme Court overturned the federal definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, and failed to make a decision on the merits of Prop 8 leaving the will of California voters in jeopardy on a technicality. These are significant challenges, but we must not become discouraged or lose hope. 

US Supreme Court Marriage Decisions DOMA Prop 8

Heed what our bishop told us in their statement today: “Now that the Supreme Court has issued its decisions, with renewed purpose we call upon all of our leaders and the people of this good nation to stand steadfastly together in promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life. We also ask for prayers as the Court’s decisions are reviewed and their implications further clarified.”

Proposition 8 Not Overturned (See update)

It is important to understand that the US Supreme Court did not overturn Prop 8, but avoided making a decision on it. More importantly, they invalidated the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that found Prop 8 broadly unconstitutional for different reasons than offered by Judge Walker in Federal District Court. His decision only applied to four plaintiffs in two California counties. The stay of Judge Walker’s decision issued by the Ninth Circuit is still in effect and will remain so for the next 25 days.

Further, our Prop 8 legal defense team tells us that Prop 8 is still in effect statewide “because only an appellate court can strike down a voter proposition statewide.” This means there will be more litigation. Prop 8 defense general counsel, Andy Pugno said, “we will continue to defend Prop 8 and seek its enforcement until such time as there is a binding statewide order that renders Prop 8 unenforceable.”

It is unfortunate that most people think of marriage only as an adult centric institution and fail to recognize that marriage between a man and a woman creates the only civil institution specifically geared to unite kids with their moms and dads. Because of that, most failed to recognize that Judge Walker created an entirely new definition of marriage in the Prop 8 trial that he used to justify his conclusion that the voters were bigots for passing the constitutional amendment defining marriage. Justice Kennedy seemed to come to the same conclusion in the DOMA case discussed below.

The unwillingness of the Court to rule on the merits of California voters defining marriage is perplexing because the court has been so clear on the states’ rights to do so.


Striking down the provision of DOMA that defines marriage for the purpose of federal programs and policies could have wide ramifications and unintended consequences beyond imagination. Again, the problem is that people have been exclusively focused on benefits for adults rather than whether it is constitutional to have a civil institution that is geared to united kids with their moms and dads. We have too many fatherless homes giving rise to horrendous human and social consequences, yet the Court has just eliminated that institution from the law without, I am sure, even considering the consequences.

While the Court only considered the unfairness of the federal government denying “marriage” benefits to same-sex couples in states that have decided to do so, the current case did not offer an opportunity to explore impacts on other federal policies such as those stemming from the Department of Education. Also, what about a same-sex couple receiving benefits in one state that has redefined marriage who move to a state that has not redefined marriage. Do they lose those benefits? Expect more legal challenges in states that have laws and constitutional amendments protecting marriage.

We are convinced, because marriage is seen as merely the committed relationship for the benefit of adults, it is futile to argue about whether same-sex couples meet qualifications for their relationships to be recognized as marriage. By doing so, people unwittingly accept the false premise that marriage is an adult centric institution as offered by our opponents, and further obscure what is really at stake when marriage is redefined. 

Redefining marriage is not about gay participation in marriage as most believe. Redefining marriage eliminates all authority to promote the unique value of men and women marrying before having children, i.e. it becomes discriminatory to do that. We must ask where do children and young adults learn about the meaning and purpose of marriage and why it is important to seek it as the foundation of their own families? How will we reduce the breakdown of marriage that is touching almost every family, and the increased number of fatherless children if the young are required to be taught that marriage has no relationship to mothers and fathers, children and family? Do we need a civil institution that unites kids with their moms and dads? Yes or no? These are questions that demand answers.

Today’s decisions serve to underscore the need to rethink how we communicate about what marriage is. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

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