Appeals court grants stay on same-sex marriages in California

WASHINGTON – The Aug. 16 decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to prevent the state of California from conducting same-sex marriages while an appeal is under way drew cheers from same-sex marriage opponents.

“California voters spoke clearly on Prop 8, and we’re glad to see their votes will remain valid while the legal challenges work their way up through the courts,” said an Aug. 16 statement by Andy Pugno, general counsel for

Proposition 8, which was championed by, was approved by California voters in November 2008. is a defendant in the current case, known as Perry v. Schwarzenegger.

“Invalidating the people’s vote based on just one judge’s opinion would not have been appropriate and would have shaken the people’s confidence in our elections and the right to vote itself,” Pugno said.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker struck down the same-sex marriage ban Aug. 4, and he ruled Aug. 12 that same-sex marriages in California could resume unless a higher court were to issue a stay within six days.

The arguments will occur in San Francisco the week of Dec. 6.

The legal errors in Walker’s ruling, said in its brief seeking a stay of same-sex marriages, are “palpable and destined for reversal.”

The stay, it added, is needed “to avoid the confusion and irreparable injury that would surely flow from the creation of a class of purported same-sex marriages entered in reliance on the District Court’s decision but in direct contravention of a lawful provision of the California constitution and the manifest will of the people of that state.”

“We feel it would be harmful to the same-sex persons involved,” Carol Hogan, communications director for the California Catholic Conference, public policy arm of the state’s bishops, told Catholic News Service in an Aug. 13 telephone interview from Sacramento, Calif.

“The 9th (Circuit) will give a stay if they are convinced that there is a likelihood that the judge’s decision will be overturned,” she added. “Usually what courts are loath to do is to jerk people around – ‘now you can do it, now you can’t’ – a visible example of what happened in summer of ‘08,” when same-sex marriage in California was legal until the vote on Proposition 8.

“The basis of marriage has never been love, it’s been society’s permission for a couple to have children,” said Raymond Dennehy, a philosophy professor at the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco. “Once contraception was accepted, you had a formal separation of sex from procreation and stripped away the claims that homosexuality was immoral.”

Dennehy told CNS in an Aug. 13 telephone interview from San Francisco that the same-sex marriage issue is “the culmination of the contraceptive mentality.”

“I think a lot of has to do with the fact that there’s nowhere where people of this generation can go to be instructed in sexual morality,” he said, faulting Catholic schools and priests for failing to teach and preach effectively on the issue.

“We have to have places here people get a moral and spiritual compass about sexuality,” Dennehy said. In a past era, he added, “people just couldn’t walk away from marriage – it was hard to get a divorce – and that’s all changed now.”

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.