Wednesday, August 11, 2010

USCCB article by Sister Mary Ann Walsh

*The law is a ass.*
By Sister Mary Ann Walsh

So spoke Mr. Bumble in Charles Dickens* Oliver Twist. The
sometimes humorous jab at lawyers hit home August 4, when Federal Judge Vaughn Walker overturned California*s Proposition 8 that had defined
marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

The decision called California citizens* decision to define
marriage as *irrational,* which suggests that their decision was
absurd and beyond the pale. What*s really irrational is the judge*s
dismissal of marriage between a man and a woman * the basic bedrock of
our society * as if it were some kookie idea. What*s irrational is
his ignoring the will of the people with real life experience of
marriage, who have voted down gay marriage not only in California, but
throughout the United States whenever legalization of gay marriage has
been put to a vote. These votes did not take place in pockets of
conservatism. Fourteen years ago, the U.S. House of Representatives
voted 342-67, and the Senate voted 85-14, to accept the traditional
definition of marriage in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

What is even more irrational is the judge*s dismissal of the
U.S. Constitution*s First Amendment and Freedom of Religion with these
damning words: *Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships
are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and

The judge*s placing religion and government at odds amounts to
Constitutional irrationality. It is no small irony that his
anti-religious position is enshrined in a ruling deemed to oppose
bigotry. The U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens freedom for religion.
That precludes government from weighing in on the *acceptability* of
religious beliefs.

Judge Walker, in his decision, backed his bigotry with errors,
including the misstatement that the *Catholic Church views
homosexuality as sinful.* The fact is, the Catholic Church sees
homosexuality as a condition, an inclination in a person, something not
intrinsically sinful. The church calls for pastoral support, not
condemnation, for people with this inclination. The Catholic Church
makes clear that it is homosexual activities it deems sinful, because it
holds that all sexual activity belongs within marriage between a man and
a woman. At the same time the Catholic Church opposes all unjust
discrimination against gays and lesbians and abhors violence against

The Catholic Church also holds that marriage is a unique institution
with a privileged place because it is foundational to the good of
society. The church is not alone in holding that a family headed by a
mother and a father is the optimal place in which to raise a child.
Judge Walker begs to differ, however, and says with grand aplomb that
research that supports the contrary view *is accepted beyond serious
debate in the field of developmental psychology.* If there*s ever
been a statement open to debate it*s that one.

Judge Walker devoted three pages of his decision to make his
case for the bigotry of religion, an insult to the tens of millions of
religious people in the nation. This is not to deny that some people act
despicably and portray their bigotry against gays as religious
expression. So too do those who spew anti-immigrant, anti-woman, and
anti-whatever sentiments. They*re an unfortunate result of our human
condition that lets the morally weak, even morally decrepit, walk among
us. Bigoted people are an unfortunate result but not a reason to upend
the U.S. Constitution.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, chairman of the U.S. bishops* Ad Hoc
Committee for the Defense of Marriage, was spot on when he declared that
*marriage is more fundamental and essential to the well being of
society than perhaps any other institution. It is simply unimaginable
that the court could claim a conflict between marriage and the

On August 4, 2010, Judge Walker proved Dickens was right. The law is a

Sister Mary Ann Walsh is director of media relations for the United
States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh
Director of Media Relations
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 4th St., NE
Washington, DC 20017-1194
Ph 202-541-3201
Fx 202-541-3173

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