Two days ago U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker handed down a decision that soundly condemned California’s Proposition 8 as unconstitutional. That proposition helped amend and define the language in the state’s constitution to affirm marriage as the union between a man and a woman. According to Judge Walker, the clear majority of California voters who supported the proposition just simply got this one wrong. I found his reasoning to be fascinating, not so much from a legal perspective, but from a spiritually practical perspective.
Judge Walker offers these reasons, among others, as to why he must overturn the desires of voters in California as it pertains to Proposition 8:
“Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians.”
“Children do not need to be raised by a male parent and a female parent to be well-adjusted, and having both a male and a female parent does not increase the likelihood that a child will be well-adjusted.“
“The gender of a child’s parent is not a factor in the child’s adjustment.“
and finally, “Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage”
The connection Judge Walker makes between religious belief and homosexuality is interesting. Walker is equating sin to inferiority. A majority of his writing concerning the religious “angle” of his decision follows an argument against homosexuals being seen as inferior or less equal. The only problem is that I have never met a Christian (I understand that other faiths are included in the idea of religious beliefs) who understands sin to mean inferiority among humans. As Christians, we affirm the understanding that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). Because of that we are all indeed inferior – to God, not to one another. There have been, of course, those extreme groups, usually on the far right, who move homosexuality to the front line of everything evil in the world. But as is true for any issue, extremists can’t be viewed as the majority opinion. So, for a majority of those folks who voted in favor of Proposition 8 based on religious conviction did so for reasons other than seeing homosexuals as inferior.
What are those reasons?
For me, it goes back to a repeated emphasis that theology is practical. God does not just simply make up arbitrary rules that have no ongoing significance in our day to day, practical lives. This is especially true when it comes to families, since the whole of creation culminated in the forming of a family, namely the Creation Mandate of a husband and wife to multiply and fill the Earth. So, any Christian can and should affirm the critical practical outworking of God’s expectations, most if not all of which can be explained in an American democratic society where Separation of Church and State is so crucial without having to say, “well, the Bible says this. . .” Thus, it is an erroneous suggestion that anyone who votes on a practical, legal issue based on the day-to-day application of their faith must be invalidated. To do so would immediately bring our democratic society to a screeching halt because no one, not a single person, votes out of an ethical vacuum. All of us bring presuppositions that have been formed by someone or something to the table. Besides, it just makes no sense at multiple levels. For example, there are myriads of people who hold to the traditional definition of marriage as the union of a man and woman and who believe that a child is best raised by a father and a mother who have zero Christian faith at all. Yet, their practical and ethical conclusions would sound very similar if not identical to what a Christian might say in the American political sphere (they would obviously reach their conclusions very differently). Do we give merit to their vote because their conclusions are not stemmed from faith but deny the vote of the faithful, even though both are near identical? Dr. Mohler is correct when he says, “this establishes secularism as the only acceptable basis for moral judgment on the part of voters.”
We can debate the legitmacy of homosexual marriage all we want. But the argument that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional because religious beliefs force a harmful inferior message on homosexuals falls short.