The San Francisco Chronicle has a helpful article about how religious institutions on both sides have lined up with amicus briefs in this case. This is important as the arguments made by these groups (as well as many others) will inform the battles to come in this area, and may very well serve as helpful briefings for candidates, staff and consultants.
The Chronicle reports:
As the state Supreme Court prepares for a three-hour hearing March 4 on the constitutionality of a state law allowing only opposite-sex couples to marry, the justices have been flooded with written arguments from advocates on both sides – including two large contingents of religious organizations with sharply differing views.
On one side are the Mormon church, the California Catholic Conference, the National Association of Evangelicals and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations. They describe marriage between a man and a woman as “the lifeblood of community, society and the state” and say any attempt by the courts to change that would create “deep tensions between civil and religious understandings of that institution.”
On the other side are the Unitarians, the United Church of Christ, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Soka Gakkai branch of Buddhism, and dissident groups of Mormons, Catholics and Muslims. Saying their faiths and a wide range of historical traditions honor same-sex unions, they argue that the current law puts the state’s stamp of approval on “the religious orthodoxy of some sects concerning who may marry.”
Raoul Kennedy, the attorney for the plaintiffs said, according to the Chronicle:
“… same-sex marriages were recognized by the Christian church in the fifth century, were observed among natives by the first Spanish explorers in the Americas, were common among the Mojave Indians of the Colorado River in southeastern California, and have been documented in more than 230 African tribes.
Besides religious denominations, Kennedy’s clients include about 80 churches and temples in California and more than 250 clergy members, some of whom perform same-sex weddings despite the state’s refusal to recognize them.
“By sanctioning only marriages between a man and a woman, the state relegates the beliefs and practices of (these) religions, denominations and clergy to second-class status,” Kennedy said. He argued that such treatment violates the California Constitution’s guarantee of “free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference,” language that state courts have interpreted as separating church and state more strictly than the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
Further info on the case can be found on the web site of the California Supreme Court.
All of the amicus briefs can be found here.
It is not clear when the court will rule on the case, however, there is the possibility that the ruling will come before the November election, and of course, then be an animating campaign issue, just as it was when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its decision on marriage equality in the run-up to the 2004 elections.
So, let’s not be lulled into complacency. The issues that animate the culture wars are alive and well and are not going away, and neither are the active players. The LGTB civil rights movement will continue to go forward, and the reactionary institutions of the religious right and several generations of trained activists will carry on as well. We can also reasonably expect that the Republican Party and its religoius right allies will skillfully exploit the issue (as they have in the past) if it should come up.
I think that the question that we Democrats at all levels (particularly those beyond the Commonwealth) need to answer for ourselves is — will we be ready if the California Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality?