Religious Right Reacts With Fury to Prop 8 Knockdown

In the hours since a federal judge struck down California’s ban on same-sex marriage yesterday, religious-right organizations have sent up an angry howl of protest, accusing the judge of doing everything from overruling the Constitution to laying the groundwork for a contemporary version of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Tim Wildmon, leader of the American Family Association, called the decision “tyrannical, abusive and utterly unconstitutional” and said it “cavalierly trashed” the votes of some 7 million Californians who voted to approve Proposition 8 in 2008. “It’s also extremely problematic that Judge [Vaughn] Walker is a practicing homosexual himself. … His situation is no different than a judge who owns a porn studio being asked to rule on an anti-pornography statute.” Wildmon went on to demand that the U.S. House of Representatives impeach Walker.

Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, which worked to support the proposition during the 2008 campaign, sounded a similar theme, saying that the ruling dealt a “terrible blow” to the country and that the “biased, homosexual judge” had “imposed his own homosexual agenda.” Bishop Harry Jackson, leader of Stand4MarriageDC, called the judge’s ruling a “slur” against those who had voted for Prop 8. And former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the judge’s “notorious decision” showed “outrageous disrespect for the Constitution.”

In fact, Walker found that Proposition 8 merely asserted “the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples” without any rational basis. “The Constitution cannot control private biases, but neither can it tolerate them.”

But that’s not the way most religious-right organizations and activists saw the decision. On the contrary, they seemed to believe that it was them who were being discriminated against. Maggie Gallagher, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, for example, said that the decision would lead the government, “almost Soviet-style,” to reeducate American children. Andy Pugno, general counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund that represented supporters of the proposition, said the judge had “literally accused the majority of California voters of having ill and discriminatory intent” in voting for it. Robert George of the American Principles Project said his decision was a “usurpation of democratic authority” and described same-sex marriage supporters as having a “revolutionary sexual ideology.” Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council blamed “the far Left” for pushing judges to such decisions, and said that “this dangerous decision” had to be appealed. And David E. Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, said that “radical forces” and “tyrants who threaten to destroy this country” were to blame.

Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, put it even more starkly. “This is a grievously serious crisis in how the American people will choose to be governed,” he said. “If and when the Supreme Court agrees with the lower court, then the American people will have to decide whether they will insist on continuing to have a government of the people, by the people and for the people, or whether they’re going to live under the serfdom of government by the judges, of the judges and for the judges.”

Actually, the decision supported the very American idea that people have “rights” that cannot be legislated away via the “tyranny of the majority.” There was a time in this country when a majority of eligible Americans would most certainly have voted to keep from giving the vote to black men and women. But the courts, as is their assigned role according to the Constitution, finally ruled that African Americans had basic rights that could not voted away. Similarly, many civil rights attorneys believe that in the end, the Supreme Court will rule, as Walker did yesterday, that society has no right to discriminate against homosexuals in marriage.

James Edwards is no official of a religious right organization — far from it. But the racist and anti-Semitic host of the Memphis-based radio show “The Political Cesspool” seemed to understand that last point better than most of the ruling’s more “mainstream” opponents. “You can thank Martin Luther King and his crusade to make it illegal to recognize important distinctions between human beings for this,” Edwards wrote on his blog yesterday. “Had the courts never thrown out laws against interracial marriage, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.”

Larry Keller, Leah Nelson and Evelyn Schlatter contributed to this post.