(Photo: REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach)
Tuesday's 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that California's voter-approved Proposition 8 is unconstitutional has left pro-traditional marriage groups shaking their heads over what they view as judicial activism.
"Of course we are disappointed," Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America told The Christian Post. "Californians voted overwhelmingly to affirm marriage between a man and a woman and this is a new judicial low. But given the narrow context of the ruling, we fully expect this will be appealed and will go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court."
The 2-1 ruling upheld the decision of a federal judge who said Proposition 8 – which defines marriage as between a man and a woman – violated the equal protection of same-sex couples. The panel said there was no evidence that former Chief U.S. Judge Vaughn Walker, who handed down the ruling in August 2010, was biased in his decision.
Critics said Walker, who has a same-sex partner, should have recused himself and declared his sexual preference beforehand since he personally benefited from his own ruling.
Groups such as the Human Rights Campaign that are promoting same-sex marriage as a "civil rights" issue praised Tuesday's decision.
"Today's decision affirms what we all know to be true – our Constitution protects the basic civil rights of all Americans, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people," said HRC President Joe Solmonese.
In the majority opinion, Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote that Proposition 8 had only one effect: "it stripped same-sex couples of … the right to obtain and use the designation of 'marriage' to describe their relationships. Nothing more, nothing less.
"Proposition 8 therefore could not have been enacted to advance California's interests in childrearing or responsible procreation, for it had no effect on the rights of same-sex couples to raise children or on the procreative practices of other couples. Nor did Proposition 8 have any effect on religious freedom or on parents' rights to control their children's education; it could not have been enacted to safeguard these liberties."
The only purpose the constitutional amendment served, the judge wrote, was to "lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California."
Conservative family groups were not surprised by the ruling handed down by the 9th Circuit Court, labeled by Family Research Council Presdient Tony Perkins as the "most liberal Circuit Court in the country."
"This Hollywood-funded lawsuit, which seeks to impose San Francisco values on the entire country, may eventually reach the Supreme Court. This is not about constitutional governance but the insistence of a group of activists to force their will on their fellow citizens," he commented.
Traditional Values Coalition President the Rev. Lou Sheldon similarly denounced the ruling, saying "homosexuals are forcing their agenda through the courts – a tried and true ally of radical liberals."
"What the liberals could not do through the voice of the people, they are forcing through judicial activism," Sheldon charged.
Proposition 8 was passed in 2008 by 52 percent of California voters. Proponents of the amendment have argued for the people's vote and the democratic process to be respected. There was more at stake in the court battle than marriage, they said. Democracy was at stake as gay advocates sought to "impose their will" on the state through the courts.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was one of many who took to Twitter to express their views.
"Court of Appeals overturning CA's Prop 8 another example of an out of control judiciary. Let's end judicial supremacy bit.ly," tweeted Gingrich.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) took an opposing stance with her tweet.
"V plsd the 9th Circuit has upheld ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional! We shld all be able to marry the person we love#marriageequality."
Legal scholars are saying the ruling will have little or no effect outside of California due to the narrow decision handed down by the court.
"If there is any good news that comes out of this opinion, it is that it's limited to California and does not apply to the other 49 states and territories," Liberty Counsel founder Mathew Staver stated. "This ruling will not open the floodgates to same-sex marriage, as some advancing that cause had hoped."
"Even though the ruling is narrow in scope," he added, "it is rulings like these that undermine the legitimacy of the judicial system."
The ProtectMarriage.com legal defense team, the official proponents of Prop. 8, said it will appeal the ruling.
The case is Perry v. Brown.