On August 4, U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that California's Proposition 8, a ballot measure passed by voters defining marriage as between one man and one woman, violates the right to equal protection, deeming the 2008 law unconstitutional. Adventists of all persuasions responded to the court's ruling. A sampling of responses is provided below.
Michael D. Peabody - Los Angeles Attorney, Editor of ReligiousLiberty.TV
Judge Walker ruled based on the evidence presented, as any trial judge should, and regardless of his own personal sexual orientation or biases, Prop 8 supporters simply did not make a viable case for themselves. Sloganeering may have won the election but did not win a trial where real evidence was required. Prop 8 supporters may later look at the ruling and claim it was wrongly decided but as this essay points out, the reality is that they did a poor job presenting their evidence and only put two witnesses on the stand, both of whom had previously written statements that contradicted their testimony in favor of Prop 8. When both of these witnesses were neutralized, Prop 8 advocates had nothing left with which to prove their case and any effort by any judge to add in facts to uphold Prop 8 would have been the very definition of judicial activism. [more here]
Nicholas Miller - Director, International Religious Liberty Institute, Andrews University
I believe that the Proposition 8 ruling is a disaster for gay rights, as well as for civil rights generally. The court’s reasoning is, in my view, ill-informed, ahistorical, and violative of basic constitutional norms. (To be fair, the anemic effort by the team defending Prop 8 appears to have contributed significantly to this judicial train wreck.) Such a blatant act of judicial activist legislation has, in my opinion, no meaningful chance of being upheld by the current, conservative U.S. Supreme Court.
In the interim, though, the ruling will provoke a tidal wave of right-wing political activism that could well set the gay-rights movement back a generation. While welcomed by some, the backlash will often, I fear, not distinguish between modern, liberal, judicially-created rights with no basis in either constitutional text or tradition, like gay marriage and abortion, and long established civil rights that are a vital part of ordered liberty, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the separation of church and state. The fervor to reign in libertinism could well threaten liberty itself.
This ruling will be perceived as a direct judicial assault on the deeply felt moral order of society. Consider that gay marriage has never survived a direct vote of the American people, despite attempts in thirty-one states, including very liberal states like California and Maine. Beginning with the upcoming elections in November—and probably for years to come—the gay-rights community will learn deeply the truth of the old proverb, "Be careful what you wish for." [more here]
Dave Ferguson, Church Relations Director, Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International
The ruling by Judge Walker was a landmark decision. As such it will get a lot of scrutiny from all sides. It is important to note both what he accepted and what he rejected from those who presented arguments on both sides of this case. He continued to uphold the decision of the California Supreme Court that same-sex marriage must be allowed not only based on the California Constitution, but also because of the U. S. Constitution. He refused to accept the arguments that gay parents are inferior, that homosexuality is a choice and that fear and prejudice are legitimate reasons for denying fundamental rights. Judge Walker carefully pointed out that the definition of marriage is not static, but dynamic. Throughout the last century the equality rights of women have changed marriage from one in which women were seen as property to a marriage of equals. In the last fifty years the right to marry a person of a different race has dramatically changed. Both of these important changes came not by popular vote, they were in fact opposed by the majority. This did not mean the majority were legally right. Today most Americans agree with these judicial decisions.
Judge Walker also addressed the fact that the destabilization of the institution of marriage is not because same-sex marriage is allowed, but because of the failure of those in heterosexual marriages. In fact, in states and countries where same-sex marriage is allowed, it has resulted in the stabilization of all marriages. For many years, I did not see why same-sex marriage was all that important, but having been married for nearly two years now, I can tell you it makes a lot of difference both psychologically and socially. California has also recently passed a law that prohibits any religious group/church from being forced to perform a marriage that is contrary to that groups beliefs, so no church would be forced to perform a same-sex marriage.
Consider the words of Bayard Rustin, the gay man who assisted Martin Luther King, Jr. and organized the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington: “Every indifference to prejudice is suicide because, if we don't fight all bigotry, bigotry itself will be strengthened and, sooner or later, it will return on me.” I believe that is the historic position of the Adventist church as it has fought for the religious liberty of those who have been marginalized by society.
Official Statement from SDA Kinship International Issued by Jacquie Hegarty, Communications Director
As a 501(c)(3) California nonprofit corporation, Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International cannot officially support (or condemn) any political issues or candidates. However, as a volunteer support organization that champions human rights for all people and believes that no one should be mistreated or discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, SDA Kinship fully supports its LGBTI members who desire legal same-sex marriage and equal human rights within our society. SDA Kinship rejoices today [August 4, 2010] with those Kinship members for whom the overturn of California’s ban on same-sex marriage is a victory.
Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International continues to provide a safe spiritual and social community to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex current and former Seventh-day Adventists. [more here]
Barry Bussey - Director of Legislative Affairs, Seventh-day Adventist World Headquarters
Reaction to this ruling has been swift and hard hitting. Not surprising given the nature of the matter. Both sides in the debate have contacted their supporters for more funding to keep up the fight as the case will now go through the appeals process until finally reaching the US Supreme Court where the matter will be settled – once and for all? Maybe. Who is to say what kind of machinations will come in future congresses?
It is peculiar that Judge Walker felt that Prop 8 did nothing more than state that opposite sex couples are superior to same sex couples and there was no rational basis to deny them a marriage license. Indeed the defendants in this case did put forward a rational argument – the idea that the state has an interest in promoting procreative relations in “enduring, stable unions,” so that children are raised by both their mom and their dad. Obviously the Judge did not accept that view but to say it is not “rational”? It seems such a view itself is not rational. Rationality it seems is not the issue. [more here]
Carrol Grady - Wife of retired minister, mother of a gay son, and surrogate mother to hundreds of gay/lesbian sons and daughters
In the face of our church's previous failure to uphold our traditional belief in religious liberty and our understanding that God does not want forced obedience, I am thankful that California has upheld our individual right to freedom of conscience.
Alan Reinach - President, North American Religious Liberty Association – West
The Church State Council, a religious liberty ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church located in California, advocated in favor of Proposition 8. It is our conviction that marriage reflects something fundamental about human nature and society, and that society ought to do all in its power to strengthen marriage so that all children enjoy the benefits of a father and a mother. The Council took pains to express that it does not take public positions with respect to gay rights, generally, and does not oppose the rights and interests of the gay and lesbian community. However, the conflict between gay rights and religious liberty has become so acute that it is necessary to defend the institution of marriage, not only for its own sake, but for the sake of preserving the freedoms of religious institutions to uphold biblical teachings regarding human sexuality. [more here]
Adventists Against Prop 8
Adventists Against Prop 8 affirm the court’s ruling. We note that in this decision, Judge Walker has ruled that the only basis for objecting to same-sex marriage is religious, and while religious officials are free to either marry or not marry same-sex couples, the state—because we believe in the separation of church and state—has no right to discriminate based solely on religious grounds.
We reiterate our statement made in advance of the November, 2008 vote on Proposition 8:
- Adventists in the United States have historically defended the concerns of minority groups (even when they have disagreed with them on specific positions and practices) and have strongly objected to the use of religious arguments and means for establishing even what they consider to be public good (such the establishment of “blue laws” to fight widespread alcohol consumption on Sundays or the institution of prayer time in public schools). Adventists, as a people of faith and prophecy who have given special attention to apocalyptic events outlined in Revelation 13 and 14, have always advocated the safeguarding of rights of individuals and groups — even when we have disagreed with them — and the non-intrusion of overtly religious language and rationale in the formation or alteration of public policy.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/2572