Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

This is the conclusion of Judge Vaughn R. Walker in the case he decided today ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional (see page 135 of the decision, available at https://ecf.cand.uscourts.gov/cand/09cv2292/files/09cv2292-ORDER.pdf).

I rejoice in this decision. I rejoice in the interpretation of the constitution – that all of us are equal under the law, regardless of our sexual orientations.  And I rejoice in the fact that we live in a country where the rule of law protects our freedoms enshrined in the constitution.

I am a pastor (in the United Church of Christ), a leader of a local congregation in Fremont, California.  I come from a faith tradition that teaches that we are all equally beloved by God.  For that reason, I have officiated at many services celebrating the covenant of marriage (we usually call these “weddings”), and at most of them, I’ve also officiated at the legal contracting of the two parties.

That’s what the judge was making a judgment about – the legal contact of marriage, not the sacred covenant of marriage.  The two are different.  The legal contract is about rights and responsibilities.  It’s about the laws and constitution of the land.  It is not about the sacred covenant that some people choose to make before God.

So, when I’ve officiated at the celebrations of the sacred covenant marriage and also officiated at the legal contracting, I’ve done the second of these things as a matter courtesy and expediency.  To be honest, I find it strange that my signature on a marriage license or certificate makes it a legally binding contract.  I’m not an officer of the court.  I’m not even a notary.  But I’ve signed them, nonetheless.

Then the citizens of the state of California passed Proposition 8, making it impossible for same-sex couples to enter into the legal contract of marriage.  As I sat with this election result, I realized that I need to refuse to sign the legal documents for anyone until I can sign them for everyone who I agree to bind together in the sacred covenant of marriage.

Today, a federal judge ruled that the state does not have the right to deny same-sex couples the right to enter into the legal contract of marriage.  This decision has been stayed for the time being.  We’ll have to wait to see if same-sex couples will again be issued marriage licenses during the appeals process.  Nonetheless, I celebrate that a judge has said that Californians who seek to love and to legally commit to one another are equally protected by the rights and responsibilities of marriage.

As a person of faith, I respect those whose faith traditions differ from mine on the issue of same-sex couples entering into the sacred covenant of marriage.   also invite them now to stand with me in celebrating that equal rights are being protected in the courts decision that everyone has the right to enter into the legal contract of marriage.

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