Catholic News Service photo
Advocates of same-sex marriage cheer during a rally outside Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco Feb. 7.
Catholic News Service photo
Advocates of same-sex marriage cheer during a rally outside Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco Feb. 7.
Oregon's voter-approved law against same-sex marriage will not be effected directly by an appeals court panel ruling that overturned California's ban this week. But as the issue of gay marriage proceeds to the full U.S. Ninth Circuit Court and probably to the U.S. Supreme Court, and as Washington state approves the practice, activists on both sides will be making their opinions known in Oregon and elsewhere.  

Basic Rights Oregon, which supports gay marriage, is urging backers to speak out in public, register to vote and host house parties to lay groundwork for another same-sex marriage push in the coming years. Oregon voters approved their ban in 2004 by a margin of 57 to 43 percent.

In California, the Feb. 7 decision by two members of a three-judge panel overturned Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative that defined marriage in California as between one man and one woman.

The prevailing opinion, written by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, said there is no legitimate reason to regard same-sex couples differently when it comes to marriage because in every other way, gay and straight couples are treated equally.

"Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite sex couples," Reinhardt wrote.

Catholic leaders nationwide spoke up for preserving marriage for heterosexual couples, naming traditional marriage a cornerstone of society.

Calling the panel's ruling a "grave injustice," Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan of New York said the Constitution allows for protection of the "perennial meaning of marriage." Cardinal-designate Dolan is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.   

"The government has no competence and no authority to 'redefine' marriage or 'expand' its definition to include other kinds of relationships," Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said. "To do that is to say that marriage no longer exists. And this would have grave consequences for children and for the common good of our society."

Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, chairman of the bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, called the decision "tragic." Bishop Cordileone said the overturned initiative had been a "correctly-informed judgment."
An estimated 18,000 same-sex marriages had been performed in California before 52 percent of the state's voters approved Proposition 8.

Idaho has its own amendment against gay marriage and in Washington state, lawmakers sent Gov. Chris Gregoire a legislative measure allowing gays and lesbians to wed.

Catholic bishops from Washington last month issued a statement saying same-sex marriage is not in the public interest.

"It has long been recognized that the stability of society depends on the stability of family life in which a man and a woman conceive and nurture new life," said Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain, Spokane Bishop Blase Cupich, Yakima Bishop Joseph Tyson and Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo. "In this way, civil recognition of marriage has sought to bestow on countless generations of children the incomparable benefit of a loving mother and father committed to one another in a lifelong union."