California Supreme Court Rewrites the Definition of Marriage

May 16, 2008

The California Supreme Court handed down a 4-3 decision yesterday that rewrote the definition of marriage. But California voters may have the last word as this ruling will propel their efforts to amend the state constitution. Liberty Counsel represents the Campaign for California Families (CCF) in the defense of the state’s marriage laws.

Chief Justice George wrote the majority opinion overturning the marriage laws, joined by Justices Kennard, Werdegar, and Moreno. Dissenting opinions were issued by Baxter, Chin, and Corrigan.

Justice Baxter, joined by Justice Chin, wrote: “I cannot join the majority’s holding that the California Constitution gives same-sex couples a right to marry. In reaching this decision, I believe, the majority violates the separation of powers, and thereby commits profound error.” In a concurring and dissenting opinion, Justice Baxter dissented in the conclusion, stating: “I cannot join this exercise in legal jujitsu, by which the Legislature’s own weight is used against it to create a constitutional right from whole cloth, defeat the People’s will, and invalidate a statute otherwise immune from legislative interference.”

Commenting on the ruling, Mathew D. Staver, Dean of Liberty University School of Law and Founder of Liberty Counsel, said: “This ruling defies logic. It is a gross departure from the rule of law. It is outrageous. Traditional marriage is common sense. Yet, this decision is nonsense. No matter how you stretch California’s Constitution, you cannot find anywhere in its text, its history, or tradition that now, after so many years, it magically protects what most societies condemn. Same-sex marriage is not part of our history nor is it woven in the fabric of fundamental freedom. The California Supreme Court has defied logic, undermined the will of the people, and weakened our future. This decision will ignite California voters to amend their state constitution to protect marriage and prevent judges from wrecking marriage.”

California residents have submitted petitions to place a state constitutional marriage amendment on the November ballot. If the requisite number is certified in the next few weeks, California voters will have the opportunity to amend their state constitution so that it expressly defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Such an amendment is necessary to protect marriage from being undermined by a mere majority of four justices of the California Supreme Court.

On March 4, 2008, Dean Staver presented oral argument at the California Supreme Court in defense of the marriage laws. The court hearing lasted more than three hours, as each side debated the issue. Liberty Counsel became involved in February 2004.