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The Right's Response to Prop 8's Rejection

Thomas Whitley

Yesterday in California, Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that California's Proposition 8, which had been voted into law by a majority vote previously, was unconstitutional and that it did "nothing more than enshrine in the California constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples." In the spirit of full disclosure, I will say up front that I agree with Walker's ruling. This does not, however, stop me from reading dissenting perspectives. One of these perspectives that I read often is that of Albert Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In Mohler's commentary on the ruling he recognizes the importance of the decision handed down yesterday, even though he greatly disagrees with the decision. You should certainly go read all of Mohler's commentary, but I am only going to respond to a few parts of it here.

Mohler lays the foundation of his critique of Walker early on saying,

In one brazen act of judicial energy, California’s voters were told that they had no right to define marriage, and thousands of years of human wisdom were discarded as irrational.

It certainly was a bold move by Walker, as he must have known the negative response that he would get from his decision. The problem with Mohler's statement here, though, is not just that California's voters were trying to define marriage, they were putting the rights of a minority group to a majority vote. The case was not about human wisdom, the case was about whether Proposition 8 was consitutional or not. Judge Walker ruled that it was not because it violated both the equal protection and due process rights of homosexual citizens.

Furthermore, our country has realized time and time again that you simply cannot put the rights of a minority to a majority vote. The wrong thing will be done almost every single time. We saw this with American slavery and we have seen it with the initial approval of Proposition 8.

Mohler goes on to say,

Judge Walker claimed to read the minds of California’s voters, arguing that the majority voted for Proposition 8 based on religious opposition to homosexuality, which he then rejected as an illegitimate state interest.

I do not know that Judge Walker claimed to read the minds of California's voters, but I do know that the only arguments I have heard in opposition to same-sex marriage have been from religious perspectives. This certainly does not mean that the arguments are necessarily invalid, but it does mean that they are invalid as far as a courtroom is concerned. There is a little something called the "separation of church and state." Upholding Proposition 8 with only religious arguments to support it, no matter how much public support it had, is unconstitutional. It would violate the both the establishment and free exercise clauses of the Constitution.

No matter our religion or our position within our religion (or lack of religion), we cannot expect the government to legislate doctrine and that is exactly what Albert Mohler would like to see happen. I believe it is his right to vehemently disagree with same-sex marriage and to not support it as a person or in the institutions he is involved with, but he does not have the right to assert that the government should deny rights to a group of people just because his particular expression of Christianity finds who they are as human beings deplorable.