Yesterday the citizens of North Carolina voted in favor of Amendment One to our North Carolina Constitution. I do not plan to criticize any voter, but I have plenty of criticism of the media. This amendment was referred to as an amendment to ban gay marriage and lumped NC in with 32 other states who have already banned gay marriage. This amendment was far more than that. Many citizens thought this to be an amendment that defines marriage between one man and one woman (at a time). But it was far more than that.
To set the record straight, gay marriage is already banned BY LAW in the State of North Carolina. The amendment goes much further than that by defining a marriage between one man and one woman as the only domestic LEGAL UNION that is recognized by the State. This applies not only to same-sex couples, but to heterosexual couples living together without being married. These civil unions have been recognized by employers to provide health care benefits to the partners and children of such unions. All unions between gay couples (whether married in another state or not) and unions by heterosexual couples who choose not to marry are no longer recognized as legal unions.
The results of this amendment will be far-reaching. The faculty of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Law School published an extensively researched paper when this amendment was presented, outlining the potential legal impact of passage of the amendment as it read in its final form. I read the entire thirty-one page document which is very frightening indeed.
The amendment would remove civil rights now provided to gay partners no matter how long they may have been in a deeply committed and loving relationship.
Did we really want to take away the rights of these two women to determine the disposition of the remains of the other partner in case she died?
(photo from a anti-amendment Web site)
If you tell me there are ways to circumvent the obstacles to civil liberties contained in the amendment I must ask you why certain individuals should be forced to fight harder than others to obtain the same rights given others in the same area? And why some civil rights are now forbidden to them by this amendment?
Did we really want to take the health care insurance from so many children of domestic unions? (Oh, pardon me...these are no longer legal domestic unions.)
From a personal standpoint, why on earth does this matter so much to me? After all, I've been married to the same man for forty years now.
This matters so much to me because we have amended our State Constitution to remove civil rights and not to promote them. It grieves me to think that we are moving backward rather than forward; to limit rather than guarantee the rights of all of our citizens.
As you might imagine, the opinion pages of the newspapers have been filled with comments. It is of interest that every single pro-amendment letter included the words "God" or "The Bible." Honest...I looked at each one. Every single pro-amendment television ad also included those words and many quoted scriptures. It's always useful to find a good sound bite and "Protect the Sanctity of Marriage" was a winner.
I'm not criticizing the Holy Bible. Remember, I was raised Southern Baptist. I know the Bible quite well. I can recite the names of the books of both the old and new testaments. I was frequently a winner in the "sword drills" in church in which the quest was to find a given verse in the bible and quickly step forward. I loved it. I can recite hundreds of verses and can find one to contradict almost any position you might put forth.
My criticism is that religion should not have been the driving force in this vote. And it was. Our own church included "Vote Yes" literature in every Sunday Bulletin for the past two months. Most of the full-page advertisements supporting the amendment were paid for by religious groups.
Tell me that all marriages and all unions must be sanctioned by God (and must be defined based on a single quote from the Bible) and I will ask you how then, can non-Jewish non-Christians have a valid marriage? How can you have a valid marriage if it isn't performed by a member of the clergy? My own son was married by a lawyer in his wife's firm who got a "Judge-For-A-Day" license in order to perform the beautiful non-religious ceremony in her lovely backyard. Neither God nor Jesus were mentioned in this moving and lovely ceremony. If their union is legal then exactly how did the Bible enter into this discussion?
Or should I say how did the Bible DRIVE the vote on the amendment?
If you are still reading, I will leave you with the words of Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ.
"Before you speak to me about your religion, first show it to me in how you treat other people. Before you tell me how much you love your God, show me in how much you love all his children. Before you preach to me of your passion for your faith, teach me about it through your compassion for your neighbors. In the end I'm not as interested in what you have to sell or tell as in how you choose to live and give."
Just how much does the overwhelming approval of Amendment One tell us about our compassion and how much does it tell us about our continued bigotry and intolerance?