Americans United for Separation of Church and State today applauded a federal district court decision striking down California’s Proposition 8, a measure that withdrew the civil marriage rights of same-sex couples in the state.
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the state constitutional amendment imposes a private moral viewpoint without a legitimate governmental interest and tramples on the equal rights of gay and lesbian couples.
Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, “This is a tremendous step forward for individual freedom and church-state separation. Aggressive and well-funded religious groups conspired to take away the civil marriage rights of same-sex couples in California. That was wrong, and I am delighted that the court has ruled the way it has.”
In a November 2008 referendum, voters narrowly approved Proposition 8, a ballot measure that removed the right of same-sex couples to obtain civil marriages. The referendum was dominated by lavishly funded political front groups representing the Roman Catholic bishops, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) and fundamentalist Protestant churches.
Lynn said powerful religious interest groups should never have been allowed to change civil marriage laws to reflect their doctrinal teachings.
Said Lynn, “A growing number of American denominations and faith groups perform same-sex marriages. Why should the state refuse to recognize those ceremonies while approving of ceremonies by other clergy? A decent respect for church-state separation means the government should not play favorites when it comes to religion.”
Today’s ruling in Perry v. Schwarzenegger is certain to be taken to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and many expect the case to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.