In yesterday’s landmark decision, Judge Vaughn Walker of California’s District Court struck down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional. Unsurprisingly, there have been strong reactions from the religious community both in favor of and opposing the decision. State of Belief host and Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Welton Gaddy welcomed the decision as a positive step for California, the nation as a whole, and religious freedom. In his statement, Rev. Gaddy said:
“We are pleased to see that Judge Vaughn Walker was sensitive to the concerns of people of faith who oppose same-gender marriage on religious grounds but that he recognized, as do we, that their religious freedom will not be impacted by the legalization of same-gender marriage. America’s diverse religious landscape leaves room for a variety of theological perspectives on same-gender marriage; indeed, some faiths enthusiastically support it and others vehemently oppose it. Under this ruling, as with any constitutionally-based marriage equality law, no religion would ever be required to condone same-gender marriage, and no member of the clergy would ever be required to perform a wedding ceremony not in accordance with his or her religious beliefs.”
The separation between institutions of religion and government in America was not an accident, it was by design—for the good of both religion AND government. Our First Amendment makes it constitutionally wrong to deny an individual certain rights because of a religion’s theology concerning what is moral, ethical, or correct. Divorce is not recognized by the Catholic Church, but it is still the right of an American citizen to dissolve a marriage legally in the eyes of the state. Judge Walker’s decision takes same-gender marriage out of the religious sphere and into the legal one; his judgment is grounded in law put in place to serve the best interests of this country. His decision articulates that one couple’s same-gender marriage does not pose harm or threat to another person’s existence or religious beliefs, thus does not warrant its banning.
As I write this, Rev. Gaddy is continuing our work on same-gender marriage as he is preparing to speak at the Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on the importance of shifting the conversation on LGBT equality from a place of “problem” to “solution,” from a scriptural argument to a religious freedom agreement.
For other reactions to Judge Walker’s decision, click here.