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Californians react to court decision legalizing gay marriage


The California State Supreme Court May 15 decision to legalize same gender marriages continued to spark mixed reaction a day after announcement of the landmark decision.

Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles called the decision an important one "because it reflects our baptismal vow to ’strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being’ and our commitment to justice and mercy for all people.

“The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles has been a leader in working for the rights of all people in the State of California, and that work is honored in today’s ruling. The canons of our church, under ”Rights of the Laity" (Canon 1:17.5), forbid discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disabilities or age. We affirm equal rights for all.

“We will continue to advocate for equality in the future and will do so at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which will meet in Anaheim in 2009.”

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention has not, to date, adopted any rite for the blessing of same-gender relationships.

Bishop Marc Andrus of California enthusiastically welcomed the court’s decision, which effectively declared as unconstitutional Proposition 22, the “Defense of Marriage Act” approved by state voters in 2000.

“All children of God should be afforded the same rights under the law” including the right to marry and establish a family, Andrus said. "This decision recognizes that all Californians, regardless of sexual orientation, have equal access to one of our fundamental human institutions.

Andrus added that the decision offers The Episcopal Church “another opportunity to partner with our state to ensure that all families have the support they need to build relationships that strengthen our communities, state and country.”

Just how the decision will affect local congregations remained immediately unclear.

“Clearly, this momentous decision will have ecclesial implications for the Episcopal Diocese of California,” Andrus said in a statement published on the diocesan website. “I intend to be in prayerful consultation with the people of our diocese to see how we can use this decision to strengthen our support of our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers, and our witness to God’s inclusive love. The Diocese of California will issue an appropriate statement in due course.”

Respect, but not equal
The California Catholic Conference of Bishops, however, “strongly disagreed” with the court’s decision to "disregard the will of the majority of people of California.

“That statute reflected the wisdom of the voters of California in retaining the traditional definition of marriage as a biological reality and a societal good,” the bishops said in a published statement.

Proposition 22 was approved by 61 percent of California voters on March 7, 2000. The proposition provided that “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
“Catholic teaching maintains that marriage is a faithful, exclusive and lifelong union between one man and one woman joined in an intimate partnership of life and love—a union instituted by God for the mutual fulfillment of the husband and wife as well as for the procreation and education of children,” according to the statement.

The bishops acknowledged “every person involved in the family of domestic partners is a child of God and deserves respect in the eyes of the law and their community. But,” they said “those partnerships are not marriage—and can never be marriage—as it has been understood since the founding of the United States.”

The statement accused the court of opening the door “for policymakers to deconstruct traditional marriage and create another institution under the guise of equal protection.”

Final vote tallies indicated Proposition 22 carried 52 of California’s 58 counties, including all of the major metropolitan areas except for San Francisco. The six counties that did not approve Prop. 22 were all in the immediate San Francisco Bay area, including Alameda County, Marin County, San Francisco County, Santa Cruz County, Sonoma County, and Yolo County.

Time for the church to be prophetic
But the Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity, an organization of Episcopalians committed to full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] persons, called the ruling a huge step forward for “marriage and the sanctity and importance of marriage and against bigotry and separation.”

She said it is now time for the church to “be as prophetic as the state of California has been.”

“I am convinced the church should do no less. When we baptize, there are no conditions on those baptisms,” Russell declared.

She recalled a friend whose comments are posted on her blog, who is a “Florida attorney, who happens to be a straight, white, male, libertarian-leaning-conservative Episcopalian” who called the court’s decision conservative.

“There is no judicial innovation here, just the recognition that, under well established law, marriage is a fundamental right and that for a statute abridging that right to pass constitutional muster, the government must demonstrate a compelling state interest served by that restriction,” her unnamed friend is quoted as saying.

Russell, who is associate priest at All Saints Church in Pasadena, said the church is hosting a panel discussion about the ruling at 10:15 am on Sunday, May 18. Panel members will include Russell, attorney Bob Long, activist Dave Frick, and parish Peace & Justice director Lori Kizzia.

Russell said there is a huge backlog of people who have had unions blessed and now want to exercise their civic opportunities for marriage, too.

“It’s very exciting for us to consider what our role in that will be and what our opportunities will be,” she added.


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