Marriage between man and woman: One judge cannot overrule the will of God and the people Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler, editor   
Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010 -- 12:00 AM

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Can one federal judge overturn God’s natural law and the votes of nearly seven million citizens of California regarding the definition of marriage? No, I don’t think so!

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled recently that California’s voter initiative, known as Proposition 8, was unconstitutional. Voters approved this proposition in 2008 by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent. It defines marriage as between a man and a woman, thus banning same-sex marriage.

Judge Walker’s decision is being appealed and it is expected that this issue may go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Federal marriage law

It seems as if Judge Walker has forgotten that the United States now operates under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which is a federal law passed on September 21, 1996. Under the law, the federal government defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman.

This bill was passed by Congress by a vote of 85-14 in the Senate and a vote of 342-67 in the House of Representatives — obviously overwhelming numbers. It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996.

Marriage has been defined as the union of a man and a woman in both church and society.  As Cardinal Francis George said in decrying the Walker decision, “Marriage between a man and a woman is the bedrock of any society. The misuse of law to change the nature of marriage undermines the common good.”

Cardinal George, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, added, “It is tragic that a federal judge would overturn the clear and expressed will of the people in their support for the institution of marriage. No court of civil law has the authority to reach into areas of human experience that nature itself has defined.”

Marriage as building block of society

Most Catholics should be familiar with natural law, which teaches that marriage is a union of one man and one woman. Marriage is so important that the Catholic Church teaches that marriage between two baptized persons is a sacrament.

Marriage is considered not just good for individuals or couples, but good for the community as a whole. People have long valued marriage as a fundamental building block of society. That’s why laws have been established to license and regulate marriages.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, noted that “citizens of this nation have uniformly voted to uphold the understanding of marriage as a union of one man and one woman in every jurisdiction where the issue has been on the ballot,” he said. “Marriage is more fundamental and essential to the well being of society than perhaps any other institution. It is simply unimaginable that the court could now claim a conflict between marriage and the Constitution.”

Don’t change definition of marriage

There have been concerted efforts among a minority of citizens in our country — and throughout the world — to change the long-standing definition of marriage. People who oppose same-sex marriage are charged with being narrow-minded or “unfair” to those seeking same-sex marriage.

However, that is certainly not true. The definition of marriage between one man and one woman is of long standing. It is based on natural law and the way human beings are created. Societies have regulated marriage in many ways, including defining the age of marriage, and prohibiting close relatives marrying and multiple marriages.

The citizens of California, as did the citizens of Wisconsin and other states, have called for upholding the traditional definition of marriage. We must support the Catholic bishops in their National Pastoral Initiative on Marriage (

The bishops have called upon Catholics to join our efforts with those of others who are working in various social sectors to promote, preserve, and protect marriage. We must encourage laws, public policies, and other social strategies that will strengthen marriage in light of its contribution to the common good and its benefit to individuals, families, and communities.