It hasn’t yet attracted headlines or much discussion over here, but last week a federal judge in California overturned a piece of legislation called Proposition 8 which defended marriage as between a man and a woman. Apparently a same-sex couple had challenged this ruling as “unconstitutional” and Judge Vaughn Walker proceeded to strike it down, even though a huge number of Californians – seven million at the last count – had voted for it. There is to be an appeal and the question is likely to end up in the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court were to uphold Judge Vaughn Walker the reverberations for the whole of American society would be grave indeed.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that one small organisation in the US is putting up a fight. Dr Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute which supports natural marriage against those who would redefine it, states: “Judge Walker’s reasoning in overturning Proposition 8 illustrates that he does not understand the essential public purpose of marriage, which is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to one another. He replaces this public purpose with private purposes of adults’ feelings and desires.”
The core values of the Ruth Institute, by the way, include the belief that marriage is a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman, that marriage is the proper context for sex and child rearing and that the contributions of men to the family are essential and to be respected.
Dr Morse, a former economics professor at Yale and George Mason Universities, is clear that Judge Walker’s overruling of Proposition 8 has enormous implications. She argues that redefining marriage as the union of any two persons will undermine the biological basis for parenthood, which amounts to a redefinition of parenthood. It will also marginalise men from the family and increase the power of the state over civil society, including religious bodies.
“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” says the White Queen in Through the Looking Glass. Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling is one of them. For my mother’s generation (she is 86) and indeed, every generation preceding hers, this debate would have been unthinkable. I would like to emphasise that this is not a Catholic, or a Christian or indeed a religious issue at all; it is a human one. Either we defend marriage as it has always been defined until the present age – or we have given up understanding what civilisation is about.
The work of the Ruth Institute seems at present like David confronting Goliath. But David won. Is there a similar organisation over here? If so I haven’t heard of it.