UCC leaders continue to lift up last week's decision by a federal judge in California to overturn Proposition 8, passed by state voters in November 2008 to ban same-sex marriage. U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the ban amounts to unconstitutional discrimination and should be immediately struck down.
"Justice is served when we end discrimination and provide equal protection under the law for everyone," says the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, UCC general minister and president. "I join those in our churches and the communities we serve who also praise this decision for what it means to them, their families and our society."
The controversial ballot measure, which passed with 52 percent of the vote in November 2008, had been launched in response to a state Supreme Court ruling that allowed same-sex couples to wed.
In his 136-page ruling, Walker concluded that "Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. . . . Because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional."
The Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, executive for Health and Wholeness Advocacy in UCC Wider Church Ministries, praised the court's rejection of an "irrational basis for discrimination."
"The court appropriately identifies the role of government under the U.S. Constitution to grant due process and equal protection to every citizen, regardless of gender or sexual orientation," says Schuenemeyer. "Because the decision will be appealed and will likely be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, the journey to marriage equality is not over. Nevertheless, we cannot underestimate the significance of Judge Walker's eloquent, well-reasoned and just decision.
The ruling largely supports the UCC's 25th General Synod affirmation in 2005 of "equal marriage rights for couples, regardless of gender." It has also stated that "the government should not interfere with couples, regardless of gender, who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of legally recognized marriage."
The UCC General Synod joined with the both California UCC Conferences and other religious bodies in an amici curiae brief supporting the plaintiffs. The brief concluded that Proposition 8 amounted to "an unconstitutional codification of hostility toward, and sectarian doctrine concerning, homosexuality and homosexuals. It should be stricken."
Says Black, "Equality is a moral value at the core of any just community, and so I continue to pledge my support in the struggle for civil marriage equality until it is a reality for everyone."