Yesterday, a federal judge overturned California’s ban on gay marriageâ€”a measure that was added to the state’s constitution through a 2008 ballot effort called Proposition 8. Federal district judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that Proposition 8 was a violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment (p. 109). The judge immediately stayed his own decision pending appeals, so gay marriages will not be performed until the issue is resolved in the higher courts. Read the decision here.
The next stop for this case is the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appealsâ€”a court well-known for leaning left on social issues and which will almost certainly rubber-stamp the lower court’s decision. The next stop will then be the Supreme Court. That is where the showdown will be and where there won’t be any rubber-stamps. In fact, I think the Supreme Court could overturn this. But if Justice Anthony Kennedy is the tie-breaking vote (as many expect him to be), who knows how this will end up?
I think the court’s decision today sets a horrible precedent. The court didn’t merely strike down a law enacted by the state’s legislature. Proposition 8 is an amendment to California’s constitution that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The court ruled that this part of the state’s constitution was a violation of the U.S. constitution.
Just so you understand the implications of this. If the Supreme Court were to uphold this ruling, it would immediately overturn constitutional amendments and laws in 45 states that define marriage as between one man and one woman. If you are reading this in America, chances are you live in a state that has enacted a ban on gay marriage. The law in your state is now on the line. In short if the Supreme Court would uphold this decision, it would be the most egregious overreach of the high court since Roe v. Wade. It would also polarize the nation just as much if not more than the Roe v. Wade decision did.
Another disappointing aspect of this decision is that the judge sided with plaintiffs who brought in witnesses to show how evangelical Christianity in particular leads to abuse of gay people (read about it here). Throughout the trial, the plaintiff’s subtext has been that Christianity promotes bigotry. This idea is gaining traction not just in this court, but in the culture at large. Christians who prize the Bible’s teaching on marriage will likely find themselves in very uncomfortable territory in the not too distant future. Faithfulness to Christ on this point will earn us the status of a pariah and bigot. And now with the legal situation changing, Christians will also have to deal with a host of unforeseen consequences that will likely result in diminishing religious liberty.
Among the most troubling aspects of this decision are these:
â€œThe gender of a childâ€™s parent is not a factor in a childâ€™s adjustment. The sexual orientation of an individual does not determine whether the individual can be a good parentâ€¦ Children do not need to be raised by a male parent and a female parent to be well-adjustedâ€ (p. 95).
â€œReligious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbiansâ€ (p. 101).
â€œGender is not relevant to the state in determining spousesâ€™ obligations to each other and to their dependentsâ€ (p. 113).
â€œThat the majority of California voters supported Proposition 8 is irrelevantâ€ (p. 116).
â€œSexual orientation discrimination is thus a phenomenon distinct from, but related to, sex discriminationâ€ (p. 120).
â€œThe court determines that plaintiffâ€™s equal protection claim is based on sexual orientation, but this claim is equivalent to a claim of discrimination based on sexâ€ (p. 121).
â€œThe tradition of restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples does not further any state interest. Rather, the evidence shows that Proposition 8 harms the stateâ€™s interest in equality, because it mandates that men and women be treated differently based only on antiquated and discredited notions of genderâ€ (p. 124).
â€œThe evidence shows conclusively that moral and religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex couples are different from opposite-sex couplesâ€¦ These interests do not provide a rational basis supporting Proposition 8â€ (pp. 130-31).
â€œMoral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbiansâ€ (p. 135).
Anyone who thinks they don’t have a stake in this case is burying their head in the sand. Massive social change is afoot, and the ground is moving beneath our feet. This judge declares that “religious beliefs” are no rational basis for law, that fathers or mothers are expendable in child-rearing, that the elected will of the majority of voters is irrelevant, and that homosexuals are a protected class. These statements represent nothing less than a legal and societal revolution. The implications of this decisionâ€”if upheld by the Supreme Courtâ€”are far-reaching, and I am concerned that many Americans are not paying attention to what could become the most significant legal decision of their lifetimes.
In the years to come, the issue of homosexuality and marriage will be a touchstone issue for evangelicals. It will be an issue that divides the men from the boys. It will test who will be willing to take a hit for the truth and who will shrink back. In other words, it will ferret out for us who is willing to take their lumps for the Bible and who will not.