California Same Sex Marriage Federal Lawsuit Rumbles amidst a Backdrop of Centuries of Catholic Church and State Interference in Marriage Rights
This month, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, California will hear the appeal of Federal District Court Judge Walker's August 2010 ruling that overturned Prop 8 for being unconstitutional. Proposition 8 overturned the California law that allowed same-sex marriages, and was supported by state advocates of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which is a federal law passed in 1996 that forbids same sex marriages. Thirty-nine states have enacted laws similar to DOMA, whereas only five states have laws permitting same sex marriages - Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire.
Judge Walker's decision here in Perry v. Schwarzenegger stated that, although California residents voted in November of 2008 for Prop 8 (by a narrow 52.5% to 47.5% vote spread) in order to make same-sex marriages illegal in this state, Prop 8 violates the US Constitution and the California Constitution because it provides no rational basis to discriminate against same sex couples who want the legal right to marry. As part of his 136-page decision, Judge Walker wrote, "Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license [. . .] Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples." Judge Walker found that Prop 8 violates the Due Process and Equal Protection rights of gays and lesbians who want to marry. Judge Walker noted that "[m]oral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples." Though Judge Walker of the Federal District Court overturned Prop 8, it is still not legal for same-sex couples to marry in California because the Judge issued a stay, or a legal "hold" of sorts, on his own decision pending the appeal of his decision in the Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals, which re-issued the stay. Though the Ninth Circuit will begin to hear the case this month, a decision will likely not be made for several more months. It is likely that the case will be appealed to the US Supreme Court after the Ninth Circuit's decision, thus keeping the status of same sex marriage in California in limbo for at least another year or more.
A leading proponent of Prop 8, Protect Marriage, is outraged by the Walker decision, and is a major force in fighting to ban gay marriage in California. On its website, the group argues the benefits of Prop 8 as follows:
"* It would restore the definition of marriage to what the vast majority of California voters already approved and what Californians agree should be supported, not undermined.
* It would overturn the outrageous decision of four activist Supreme Court judges who ignored the will of the people.
* It would protect our children from being taught in public schools that “same-sex marriage” is the same as traditional marriage, and would prevent other consequences to Californians who will be forced to not just be tolerant of gay lifestyles, but face mandatory compliance regardless of their personal beliefs."
Many religious Christian groups such as Protect Marriage and Republicans for Family Values are fighting hard to ensure that DOMA laws are passed in all 50 states. Meanwhile, Prop 8 has scores of opponents, including Senator Arlen Specter, who published a screed against DOMA in October of 2009 in The Huffington Post, shortly after converting from the Republican Party to the Democrat Party after 44 years of being a member of the GOP.
The role of government and religion in the creation and regulation of the institution of marriage is hundreds of years old, specifically dating back to 1563 when the Council of Trento decreed that marriage is a lifelong sacrament meant only for one man and one woman. The dramatic backdrop to this pivotal decision is filled with anti-Jewish sentiment, xenophobia, political posturing, and military strategies.
The History of Marriage: From Polygamy to Monogamy
Polygamy has existed all over the world as far back as we know, including in Europe until 1563. Outside of Europe and the Americas, polygamy is still common. So what happened in Europe in 1563? There is very little information easily found to answer this question, which itself raises the further question as to why such information is not made readily accessible.
The story is pieced together by an American journalist for the National Catholic Reporter, John Allen, Jr. (who also provides special Vatican coverage for CNN and NPR) in his December 26, 2003 column “The Word from Rome", and from entries in the Jewish Encyclopedia from 1901, written by Joseph Jacobs and Aaron Tänzer.
On March 23, 1475, in Trento, Italia, a Catholic German-Italian boy named Simon went missing and was found dead by a Jewish man in the Jewish ghetto of Trento (a "shtetl," to be precise). The Jewish man who found him disclosed the event to the local police. The police reported that the boy had been murdered. The Jew who found him, and other Jews, were blamed for the murder. They were also blamed for supposedly torturing the boy and using his blood to make matzoh bread. Ancient artistic renderings of this alleged crime are depicted in this German woodcut from 1493 preserved by Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and in this bas relief from the Palazzo Salvadori in Trent, Italy. Obviously, this false and outrageous version of the boy’s alleged torture and murder is another example of anti-Jewish fervor in Europe.
Then, in 1588, Simon is “beatified” by the Roman Catholic Church, that is, he is made into a saint and the false torture/ murder story above is officially recognized by the Church and its obedient followers (i.e., virtually everyone in Europe at the time). Simon's martyrdom day is officially declared to be March 21st, a classic Church move to alienate all nature-based religions, such as Kabbalah Judaism, Celtic, African, and Persian theological systems. March 21st, as you know, is the first day of Spring (think creation-of-life symbolism) and a principal day in such nature-based theologies.
These events exemplify the West's post-Crusades effort to damage the global influence of the Middle East and of Islam through the power of ideas rather than the power of the sword, which ultimately proved futile during the centuries of the bloody European Catholic Crusades. The Crusades were launched by the Roman Catholic Church and the most powerful kings of Europe, nominally to colonize, Christianize, and “civilize” the Middle East and the "heathen" Moslems – the primary competitors of Europe and Christianity for world domination, and a region that current scholars around the world consider to be the birthplace of the modern arts and sciences, history, literature, theology, mathematics, and large-scale government - a region where, among most other parts of the world, polygamy continues to thrive.
Clearly, the collusion between politicians and religious leaders has been an age-old reality of backroom politics focused on expanding the power and control over the many by the few. European leaders, thus, were mindful of the great authority wielded by Kings and Clerics in Asia, including the Middle East, and Africa, not to mention in the New World by Mayans, Apaches, Cherokees, and other huge civilizations. Therefore, European leaders’ focus on expanding their empire first led them to exterminate dissent at home, so that they could more fiercely attack other nations. They knew that the center of human life is love, the family, marriage, and the home. So they created stern laws to regulate marriage, such that they could thereby control not only who gets married, but also who is permitted to conceive and raise children - thus giving the Catholic Church the ultimate power to dictate the very reproduction of our species.
Polygamy is firmly rooted in Christian culture, as it appears in the Bible in stories about the life of King Solomon (I Kgs. 4: 26; Eccl. 1-10; I Kgs. 11: 3) and accounts of the lives of major Biblical personages such as Lemech, Abraham, Esau, Jacob, and Gideon, all of whom were polygamists (Gen. 4:19; Gen. 16; Gen. 26:34, 28:9; Gen. 29:30; Judges 8:30). Polygamy is also permitted in the Qur'an and depicted in the life of the Prophet Mohammad. Remember, however, that most people of the world could not read or analyze these sacred texts since the great majority of the world was utterly illiterate during the centuries prior to the 1800s.
Knowing that polygamy was a common practice among Catholics as well as Jews and Moslems living in Europe, European leaders understood that they had to craft a law that would aggressively outlaw and punish the practice. They knew that the Catholic Church’s influence, when backed by the military strength of Europe’s Catholic nations, would clearly motivate all Catholics in Europe (but not so much elsewhere, absent the threat of enforcement) to follow the anti-polygamy laws. The Catholic Church also knew that non-Catholics would certainly not follow the European anti-polygamy laws. Knowing that they would have the support and obeisance of Catholics, the Catholic Church and the European political leaders together created and enforced the anti-polygamy laws to further their goal of alienating, de-legitimizing, and ultimately converting or killing all non-Catholics so as to form a unified Roman Catholic Europe.
Thus, European cities and regions, nudged by local Roman Catholic Bishops and political leaders, each started to pass their own anti-polygamy laws, similar to how each state in the USA is starting to pass DOMA laws.
One by one, each European nation pushed such new visions of monogamy down the peoples’ throats by using fervent Christian, anti-Jewish, and anti-Moslem rhetoric, depicting such non-Catholics as savages and demons for practicing such barbarous acts as polygamy. European Catholics, pitchforks in hand, ironically fell in line and found even more reason to consolidate behind the Catholic Church and against all outsiders - a xenophobic notion that is alive and well in modern Europe, from Nazi German to Nationalist Italy, from the anti-immigrant fervor spreading through contemporary Belgium and France to the anti-immigration laws and Middle Eastern colonial efforts of the United States and Britain today.
Finally, after creating a strong base of support and obedience to such anti-polygamy laws, in 1563, less than a hundred years after the death of little Simon, and taking place of course in Trento (the dramatic scene of the alleged “crime”), the Roman Catholic Church held a meeting to publish new laws. This meeting was called the “Council of Trento.” Remember, the Church has always and continues to make laws that it believes the Bible meant to create, but somehow did not explicitly do. Of course, an illiterate populace cannot question whether or not such laws are fair interpretations of the Bible, or even whether or not such laws are entirely made up by the leaders to dehumanize and control the people, by for example, making them feel evil or naughty for feeling such innate, essential and healthy feelings as desire, love, passion, sensuality, and sexuality.
Trento, Italy by this time, had become a major anti-Jewish center in Europe and its Catholics maintained a cultish observance of the alleged “martyrdom of Saint Simon,” who had been found allegedly tortured and murdered 90 years earlier in the Jewish ghetto of Trento.
So, the "Council of Trento" of 1563 (basically, the "Convention of Trento") established what may seem to be relatively innocuous laws (at least from a modern European-American perspective, since we have come to accept monogamy between a man and a woman as the “right” way to love). Namely, the Council outlawed polygamy and stated that marriage was legal only if performed by a priest. Following suit, all the Catholic nations put the Council's edicts into their legal codes, and Catholic Europeans, who had been well-trained for decades by this point by local anti-polygamy laws and harsh brimstone and hellfire rhetoric, accepted, if not touted, the new law. European or "Ashkenazi" Jews (but not Sephardic, that is, "Middle Eastern" Jews) also begrudgingly outlawed polygamy, so as to not attract even more scorn from their fellow European neighbors. Ultimately, the economic, political and demographic influence of Ashkenazi (European) Jews on Sephardic (Middle Eastern) Jews ensured that the Sephardic Jewish leadership later also came to accept monogamy as a good way to control the minds of the masses by making them feel holier and more civilized than their Moslem and “tribal” neighbors: hence began Europe's manipulation of the Jews in the Middle East, much as Israel is manipulated and supported today by the West as an ally in Europe's and the USA's hunt for oil in Iraq and Iran. Thus, we can see the ancient roots of the modern political ethic at work in the West's foreign policy towards the Middle East: "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" (ironically, a policy derived from a Middle Eastern proverb from the 4th Century BC).
Finally, in 1965 - twenty years after the end of the Jewish Holocaust, a Nazi death-project which was supported by many racist European leaders, the Roman Catholic Church, and their unquestioning and obedient followers (including the Catholic Pope Ratzinger, who was a member of the Hitler Youth) – the Roman Catholic Church was finally enmeshed by World War II academics and critics who publicly forced it to re-examine its ugly role in the Holocaust, during which time the Church came across its own ugly anti-Jewish fiction about the death of "Saint Simon."
Likely understanding that the story was not only emblematic of the anti-Jewish history of the Catholic Church, but also the smoking gun that uncovers the power-greedy and colonizing role of the Church in expanding its power into the hearts of its constituents by limiting the nature of love and the natural union between lovers, the Church quickly and quietly de-beatified Simon, thereby de-legitimizing Simon as a Saint, and prohibited the celebration of his martyrdom. The story of Simon, and how the Church grew into a moralizing, colonizing, and dehumanizing monolith, was officially buried.
2010 Canadian Lawsuit Considers Constitutionality of Polygamy after Same Sex Marriages are Legalized in Canada in 2005
The continuing influence of the Church and the State in the legislation and enforcement of marriage is felt even today by activists fighting for their right to non-traditional marriages, be they between same-sex couples or polyamorous groups, such as traditional Mormons.
This month, for example, the British Columbia Supreme Court began a trial to determine if its anti-polygamy laws are unconstitutional, a case that was initiated when Canada's Prime Minister, Paul Martin, commissioned a $150,000 study by three noted law professors to debunk any notions that Canada's new laws permitting same sex marriage would lead to polygamy. The case has attracted aggressive opinions about polygamy from legal scholars (Prosecutor Craig Jones) and academic intellectuals (Stanford Classics Department Chairman Walter Scheide) equating it with child abuse, backward societies, and a threat to safe and loving relationships, and touting monogamy as the backbone of Western civilization. Interesting - you don't say? Now, where have we heard that before?
The Protect Marriage website, arguing against gay marriage, states, "Traditional marriage is the foundation of society and has served our state well for centuries. California’s constitutional marriage amendment exists to strengthen society, encourage monogamous and loving marriages and to provide the optimal environment to ensure the well being of children." Well, that's clear enough.