By Joel Davidson, Catholic News Service
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CNS) — Alaska will appeal a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess that invalidates the state’s constitutional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
“As Alaska’s governor, I have a duty to defend and uphold the law and the Alaska Constitution,” Gov. Sean Parnell said in a statement released Oct. 12, the day of the ruling. Parnell noted that the status of marriage law “is in flux.”
The state argued that the definition of marriage should be left to the democratic process, not court rulings.
In 1998, 68 percent of Alaskans voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It was the first of its kind.
On Oct. 14, two days after he struck down the law as unconstitutional, Burgess denied the state’s request for a stay on his ruling while until an appeal is heard.
The ruling against Alaska’s marriage law is the latest blow to state marriage amendments. Like previous courts, Burgess claimed that Alaska’s marriage amendment violated same-sex couples’ right to equal protection and due process under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“By singling out homosexual couples and banning their ability to marry an individual of their choosing, it is impossible to assert that all Alaskans are equal under the state’s laws,” Judge Burgess wrote.
With his ruling, Alaska has become the 30th state to allow same-sex couples to get married.
The failure to uphold marriage as the union of one man and one woman throws the entire institution of marriage into confusion, said Jim Minnery, president Alaska Family Action, a group that has publicly defended Alaska’s marriage amendment.
In a statement released shortly after the ruling, Minnery questioned the court’s logic that marriage is a “changing institution.”
“Under what logical rationale would the courts now deny other ‘evolving’ forms of marriage?” he wrote. “Three wives for one husband? Marrying your aunt or niece or brother? Group marriage involving any number of couples and individuals with various sexual orientations?”
He added: “Once you eliminate sexual complementarity from the marriage equation, is there any reason to keep other cornerstones we’ve all taken for granted for generations including exclusivity, permanence and monogamy?”
Ultimately, marriage laws are not about validating romantic relationships, Minnery continued.
“The purpose of marriage is to ensure the right of children to a relationship with their mother and father,” he said. “That, in turn, encourages stability and responsibility between mom, dad, and children so that the family endures through time.
“The government has been in the marriage business because the sexual act that unites a man and a woman also creates new life, and the government needs to make sure that that new life is reared to maturity responsibly and in the best possible environment.”
The Catholic Church teaches that any sexual activity outside of marriage — which is between one man and one woman — is sinful.
The church also teaches that homosexual attraction itself is not sinful and that homosexual people “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”
“The social value of marriage is great and is apparent even to those who do not share the Catholic understanding of its religious meaning,” the U.S. bishops state on the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
It notes that the “lifelong, faithful and fruitful union between husband and wife serves the good of all — it serves the good of the spouses, the good of the children who may issue from their marital union, and the good of society in assuring that reproduction happens in a socially responsible way.”
Church teaching upholding traditional marriage is not based on any religious premise but is based “on the nature of the human person,” the website says. “The government has the responsibility of promoting the common good and the best interests of all people, especially the most vulnerable, and upholding authentic marriage does precisely that.”
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Davidson is editor of the Catholic Anchor, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Anchorage.