Bigot! Hate-monger! Homophobe!

Those were just a few of the terms hurled my way in 2003 when I said that the Supreme Court's Texas sodomy decision opened the door to the redefinition of marriage.

When I wasn't ducking the epithets, I was being laughed at, mocked, and given the crazy-uncle-at-the-holidays treatment by the media. Or I was being told I should resign from my leadership post by some Senate colleagues.

Five years later, do I regret sounding the alarm about marriage? No.

I'm just saddened that time has proved right those of us who worried about the future of marriage as the union of husband and wife, deeply rooted not only in our traditions, our faiths, but in the facts of human nature: as Pope Benedict said, "The cradle of life and love," connecting mothers and fathers to their children.

(Cue epithets: Bigot! Hate-monger! Homophobe!)

The latest distressing news came last week in California. The state Supreme Court there ruled, 4-3, that same-sex couples can marry.

In doing so, four judges rejected a statute that passed in a referendum with 61 percent of the vote that defined marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

It's merely the latest in a string of court decisions that have overturned the overwhelming will of the people.

OK, if you're not inclined to hurl epithets, you might ask: Don't we have more to worry about than some court redefining marriage? After all, gas prices are soaring, health-care costs are rising, and our nation is at war. Why should we care what a few activist judges in California say?

Let's put aside the tired argument that the people should have a say in the laws of their government. That is so 18th-century white-male drivel. Thank goodness we have unaccountable judicial elites to make decisions for us bigots.

Look at Norway. It began allowing same-sex marriage in the 1990s. In just the last decade, its heterosexual-marriage rates have nose-dived and its out-of-wedlock birthrate skyrocketed to 80 percent for firstborn children. Too bad for those kids who probably won't have a dad around, but we can't let the welfare of children stand in the way of social affirmation, can we?

But what about love? That's the question a student asked this winter when I spoke at Georgetown University.

Is anyone saying same-sex couples can't love each other? I love my children. I love my friends, my brother. Heck, I even love my mother-in-law. Should we call these relationships marriage, too? Marriage is and always has been more than the acknowledgment of the love between two people.

What about the constitutional right to equal protection under the law? Marriage is not an inalienable right; it is a privilege, a license granted by government conferring certain governmental benefits.

There is a constitutional right that is under threat: the free exercise of religion.

Let me go out on another limb here and make another crazy prediction. Within 10 years, clergy will be sued or indicted for preaching on certain Bible passages dealing with homosexuality and churches, and church-related organizations will lose government contracts and even their tax-exempt status.

The California judges also ruled, for the first time in American legal history, that sexual orientation is just like race.

The California court just declared that those of us who see marriage as the union of husband and wife are the legal equivalent of racists. And openly racist groups and individuals can be denied government benefits because of their views, including professional licenses (attorney, physicians, psychiatrists, marriage counselors), accredited schools, and tax-exempt status for charities.

In Massachusetts, the first same-sex-marriage state, Catholic Charities, one of the state's largest adoption agencies, was forced out of business because it refused to arrange adoptions for same-sex couples. In New Jersey, a Methodist group lost part of its state real estate tax exemption because it refused to permit civil-union ceremonies on church-owned property.

Fortunately California voters will have a chance to overturn this radical decision by voting for a state marriage amendment in November. Shouldn't voters in Pennsylvania have the same right?

According to a recent Precision Marketing survey, two-thirds of Pennsylvanians support a constitutional marriage amendment, and three-fifths say they would be more likely to reelect their legislator if he or she voted for the marriage amendment.

California has just given Pennsylvania legislators a wake-up call. If legislators say they are for marriage and don't vote to protect it, they will contribute to the end of marriage, a decline of the family, more children being raised without dads, and a deep erosion of our freedom of religion. Hey, at least they won't be called bigots.

Contact Rick Santorum

at rsantorum@phillynews.com.