Amendment One: A Push For Inequality

By Don Granese

On May 8th, Amendment 1 will apear on the ballot in the state of North Carolina. It’s being called the ‘same-sex marriage’ amendment. If passed, it would prohibit gay marriage in the state as an amendment to the North Carolina state constitution.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan has stated that she is against the proposed amendment. She believes that it would portray the state in a negative light and defer a large population of people from wanting to come to North Carolina to either become residents or to start businesses. This would harm the state’s overall economy.

I agree with Sen. Hagan. If this amendment is passed it will alienate not only a population of Americans from investing in the state, but it will alienate many North Carolinians who have been born and raised here…North Carolinians who are openly LGBTQ and children who are raised in LGBTQ families.

According to an Elon University Poll from last September, 56 precent of North Carolinians oppose a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Hopefully this is the same turn out we might see from the results of the Spring ballot.

Even though it appears the public will reject the amendment, these elections don’t always reflect the public opinion. They reflect the opinion of the voters.

In 2008 it was a shock to the nation when California passed Proposition 8 which would essentially do the same thing that amendment one is trying to push. The reason proposition 8 passed is because it had a large pool of funding backing it from various churches and corporations. A large public outcry called for the proposition to be overturned. In February a federal appeals court found it to be unconstitutional.

If the amendment in North Carolina were to pass it would paint North Carolina to be a backwards state frozen in a conservative political state never moving forward. It would draw an invisible border around the state that says ‘we don’t believe in equality’.

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Gay marriage is a ‘must’

On May 8, 2012, North Carolinians will vote on Amendment One, the North Carolina Same-Sex Marriage Amendment.  Amendment One will appear on the ballot as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, which means it was initiated by the state legislature but will be rejected or approved by voters.

The House gave voters the power to decide whether a ban on same-sex marriage should be written into the state constitution in a 74-42 vote on Sept. 12, 2011.  Two days later, the amendment passed though the N.C. Senate in a 30-16 vote.

Proponents of the bill say the amendment needed to be passed so the people, not the courts, can define marriage. But opponents argue that the majority should not vote on the rights of the minority.

Marvin Ellison, a gay ordained Presbyterian minister and a Willard S. Bass professor of Christian Ethics, recognizes that the controversy surrounding the amendment was inevitable.

“It seems that almost whenever two or more are gathered, there will likely be conflict or at least intense conversation about marriage, family rights and same-gender loving people,” he said.

Ellison argued that there are three voices in the public debate concerning same-sex marriage. The first voice is that of marriage traditionalists, who resist marriage equality because they fear it will erase gender differences.  A second voice is that of marriage advocates, who, Ellison said, find marriage exclusion to be a form of discrimination that violates the principal of equal protection under the law.

The third voice is that of marriage critics, who support the right of same sex couples to marry, but are not persuaded that it will automatically lead to greater relational justice.

“For marriage critics, same sex marriage is an ambivalent good,” Ellison said. “If not quite a bust, not entirely a must.”

I myself am a strong advocate for gay marriage. I wholeheartedly believe that if this amendment passes, hundreds of thousands of North Carolina families who fall outside of the “marriage between one man and one woman” definition will be harmed, because a heterosexual marriage will become “the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.” The proposed amendment will interfere with will and trusts, end-of-life arrangements, hospital visitation privileges and would interfere with the state’s ability to recruit businesses and jobs.

But more importantly, why is it the state’s right to choose who can marry whom? Choosing who you want to marry is a basic personal freedom.

“What it means to be human is expressed most fully in this remarkable capacity to love and be loved,” Ellison said. “To enter into intimate connection with others. To deny therefore a group of people…the freedom to marry and the moral right to love and be loved is therefore not a minor inconvenience or merely unpleasant, it is rather an exclusion that is dehumanizing, unjust and wrong.”

Focusing solely on gaining equal access to marriage, however, could be detrimental if other requirements of justice are ignored. So, vote against Amendment One on May 8.  But let’s remember that the larger issue is gaining equality in all aspects of our society.

NC Amendment One

In United States history, there is nothing new about controversies surrounding marriage. Debates over the validity of slave marriages 200 years ago to the concern over interracial couples marriages just 45 years ago has shown the rocky road for the cultural practice of marriage and all that it entails.

In the upcoming months, North Carolina will be taking part in the same sex marriage struggle amidst the proposal of NC Amendment One, a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as solely between a man and a woman. Same sex marriage is already illegal in the state, and adding an amendment would make the existing law nearly impossible to overturn.

NC Amendment One will pass if a simple majority of North Carolina residents vote in favor of the movement. Lots of support for the amendment leads up to the May 8 voting, while organizations like Race tot he Ballot are campaigning around the state to raise awareness about the harms of the proposal.

Other dissenters of the amendment, like U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, say that passing NC Amendment One into legislation would harm the economic situation of the state, scaring away potential business with the harsh anti-gay marriage policies. Other arguments on the opposing side are speaking against the apparent discrimination that would be a result of the amendment, printing into the law blatant restrictions of freedom.

Gaining equal access of marriage is a good goal, but obtaining a right does not always result in justice. Not passing NC Amendment One is a big step in the right direction for the state as a whole, but more strides need to be taken in order to implement a gay-friendly atmosphere.

Elon speaker Rev. Dr. Marvin Ellison, an advocate for gay marriage, says that justice is the call.  Justice is about showing respect for persons and honoring their humanity. Part of respecting a person is protecting their rights and the right to marry whomever a person pleases is important in this case.

Even incarcerated inmates on death row have the freedom to marry. The court has called it their “fundamental human right.” Has the court followed its own logic expanding into the realm of gay marriage? Not yet.

Weighing (gay) marriage, opposing Amendment One

Amendment One has caused a stir among both same-sex supporters and opposers alike. The amendment proposes to apply a legal ban on gay marriage in the NC state constitution, an already illegal institution. It would further bar all legal recognition of any union other than those between a man and a woman, including civil unions and domestic partnerships, even if acquired from another state. Those who have joined the battle for equality, fighting fervently for the legalization of gay marriage, are urging those who can vote to oppose the amendment on the May 8 ballot.

“We need to put the decision to the people so that they can define what marriage is, and not us,” said Speaker Pro Temporate Dale Folwell at a news conference. He believes that the people pf North Carolina should have the right to vote on such an important issue.

   

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who is against the amendment, says it will hurt business and dent the job market, and negatively affect families and children. The NC House Republican leaders have dismissed these notions, who put this issue at the very top of the list for proposed changes, above numerous other stateside issues. An Equality North Carolina group member, Alex Miller, says that it’s shameful for lawmakers to design the ballot with the intent to damage the rights of a group of people just to have their way and score a win for Republicans to sway the upcoming presidential and governor elections.The amendment would make traditional marriage the only legally recognized domestic union within the state, where state law already defines “marriage” as being between only a man and a woman.

Although Folwell states that a strong portion of the state supports the amendment, an Elon University poll indicates that more than half of North Carolina supports the recognition of same-sex couples. The university’s LGBTQ awareness organization, Spectrum, with the leading forces of Ross Wade, Assistant Director Career Services for the School of Communications, and Dr. Kirstin Ringelberg, coordinator of the new LGBTQ Office and Associate Professor of Art and Art History, recently coordinated a “Vote Against: Race to the Ballot” event on campus to urge students to register to vote, and to educate them about why they should vote against Amendment One.

Marvin M. Ellison, an ordained Presbyterian minister who is widely published on the topics of same-sex marriage and heterosexism, the current co-chair of Maine’s Religious Coalition Against Discrimination, a member of the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and on the advisory board for the Religious Institute on Sexuality, Morality, Justice and Healing, spoke at Elon on Friday. His lecture, “Is Same-Sex Marriage a ‘Must’ or ‘Bust’? Rethinking the Marriage Agenda,” presented by the Elon Center for the Study of Religion, brought thought-provoking angles to the Elon community. He spoke about the faults of the institution of marriage in general, and offered advice and possible solutions to more tactfully and effectively approaching it. From heterosexual to homosexual couples, he stressed that the emphasis should not be placed on the materialistic, “pageant-style” weddings commercialized in today’s society, or on marriage at all, but rather on human relationships that strive for justice and equality. His personal sexuality made his perspective all the more interesting – the gay minister articulated the core roots of the issues that surround the marriage battle.

Ellison emphasized a message that was “bent towards inclusion,” and that allowing same-sex marriage would be a huge human accomplishment. He pointed out the fight for specifically marriage rights and equality is setting us back, creating a vast body of new anti-gay laws and supporters. Focusing on marriage is to traditional to evoke change, he says, and problems arise from the “over-valuation” of it. Marriage becomes used a mark of social status. He quotes a fellow colleague who suggests “justice rather than legal remedies.”

There has always been a marriage debate on the political agenda. It has transitioned from the validation of women not as property but as their own person, to the acceptance of interracial couples, to acknowledging inner-marriage rape as a legitimate issue. Today we find ourselves in the fight over permitting same-sex marriages. He further illuminated that in each of these debates, Christians have been on the wrong side of the argument.

Taking the words right from the lawmakers who have been putting a foot down against gay marriage since it has been on the table, Ellison cited the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that even incarcerated prisoners on death row had the right to marry because “no right is more precious than the right to enter into intimate relationships with the person of one’s choosing.” They were granted this freedom because, as it was ruled, “marriage is a fundamental human right.” So not only is there inequality in today’s opposition to gay marriage, but also hypocrisy.

Ellison said, “No right is more precious than the right to enter into intimate relationships with the person of one’s choosing.” He suggests that the church stop promoting marriage, and instead promote just, love relationships – what he cites as the cruz of Christianity anyways. His five main solutions for our current predicament are:

  1. to offer value-based sexual education concerned with relational integrity,
  2. to publicly and persistently advocate for a broader agenda, wealth redistribution, social justice and more power for women,
  3. to reinforce the idea that sin is far less about sex and far more about the misuse of power, the exploitation of vulnerability and the denial individuals’ rights, keeping the focus on what truly matters – human character and conduct,
  4. to resist the commercial wedding industry, and
  5. to become actively engaged in the discussions surrounding LGBTQ topics.

Ellison was clearly very well-educated, and he spoke with great clarity and conviction. His articulated many of my personal thoughts, and I found great resonation with his words, which have still loudly stuck with me. As a strong supporter of gay marriage, an opponent to the traditional institution of marriage, and a non-religious identifier, I found his speech exceptionally thought-provoking. He put into better words several of my own sentiments, while also challenging me to further scrutinize my own stance on these issues. I felt enlightened and inspired after I walked out of the lecture hall. I have  realized how it is more important to push the recognition and acceptance of all around equal relationships, and focus less on marriage. It makes so much sense. And in a battle where it is hard to stay grounded, and easy to succumb to emotion and get frustrated with the stereotypical heterosexual Christians who have made the fight so brutal, it is comforting to have the words of an intelligent gay minister to remind me that there still is hope.

Gay marriage in North Carolina, the fight continues on Amendment 1

Marriage is defined as between a man and a woman, according to current North Carolina state law. On top of that, same-sex marriages sanctioned outside of the state are considered invalid in North Carolina. As if these blows to constitutionally given liberty aren’t enough, some want to suffocate personal freedom even further by pushing Amendment 1, an issue on the May 8 ballot that would make “traditional” marriage the the only recognized domestic legal union in the state.

According to the Associated Press, North Carolina is the only Southeastern state that hasn’t already passed a gay marriage ban.

And whether it passes or not will be left in hands of the voters.

“We need to put the decision to the people so that they can define what marriage is, and not us,” Speaker Pro Tempore Dale Folwell, R-Forsyth, said at a news conference, according to the AP.

So what do the people think?

More than half of North Carolina residents supported some form of legal recognition of same-sex couple, according to an Elon University Poll taken in February. But at the same time, gay marriage opponents hold up surveys showing more than 70 percent support the amendment.

Nevertheless, more than 105,000 signatures have been obtained on a referendum petition to put a same-sex marriage equality issue on the ballot for the Nov. election, according to Marvin M. Ellison, an ordained Presbyterian minister, who spoke at Elon University Friday on the subject “Is Same-Sex Marriage a ‘Must’ or a ‘Bust’? Rethinking the Justice Agenda.”

But with a push, comes a shove, especially on such a hot-topic issue.

Demonstrators in Minnesota for and against legal gay marriage

“Where ever two or more are gathered, there will most likely always be conflict, or at least intense conversation, about same-gendered-loving people,” he said, pointing out that about $72 million was spent to either advocate or oppose Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in Calif. in 2008.

Melvin warned that there’s more to gay rights than the law, reminding us that “obtaining a right does not always result in justice.”

And I couldn’t agree more. Just as overturning anti-segregation laws in the ’60s did not automatically overturn racism, new laws concerning gay rights will not be a quick fix to a society struggling to redefine the “norm” for sexual orientation. We need a paradigm shift, not an issue on a ballot.

But still–the ballot is the only way to start.

A black teenage girl, one of the Little Rock Nine who first integrated Central High School in Arkansas, walks ahead of a screaming mob of whites.

Brown vs. Board of Education certainly didn’t make it any easier for blacks to walk through the doors of a “white-only” school, but it did make it legal. And look where we are half-a-century later: a place where racial equality is not only accepted, but largely advocated. The segregation inherent in the bones of our American past is a segment of history (I can only hope) our country has learned from and looks back on in bafflement, perplexed to think that our nation could have ever stooped to such backwards bigotry.

In regards to gay-rights, I can only hope our great-grandchilren will one day say the same about us.

North Carolina Argues Over The Definition Of Marriage

The argument over same sex marriage has been raging over America. More recently, North Carolina has engaged in the debate. In September 2011 an amendment was proposed that would prohibit gay marriage North Carolina, this has led to a sea of opposition to arise  among locals. Some say that marriage should be redefined to fit people of different sexual orientations. Others, like U.S. Sen Kay Hagan, take a more political approach and believe that the amendment will have negative effects on the economy.

I don’t support the proposed amendment, because I think it is promoting discrimination at a time when equality is on the rise. If North Carolina chooses not to recognize same sex marriage this could have major consequences on the families and businesses planning on locating here. With the current unemployment rate being as high as it is, the state should be welcoming business not discouraging it.

North Carolina law already defines marriage as one “created by the consent of a male and a female person,” voters will be given the opportunity to make this law a permanent on May 8. If the amendment isn’t passed, North Carolina will become the first South Eastern state to support gay marriage.

N.C. Amendment One: Bust, or Must?

Recently in the state of North Carolina, there has been much debate about whether or not to pass the amendment to the state constitution that reads:

AN ACT TO AMEND THE CONSTITUTION TO PROVIDE THAT MARRIAGE
BETWEEN ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN IS THE ONLY DOMESTIC LEGAL
UNION THAT SHALL BE VALID OR RECOGNIZED IN THIS STATE.

What this amendment is doing is giving rights only to a man and a woman who are joined by marriage. It is not only taking away rights from gay and lesbian couples but also from heterosexual couples who are not married.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan is against the amendment because she thinks that it will hinder business growth in North Carolina. She believes that  the amendment will “discourage companies with gay-friendly policies from building or expanding in North Carolina.”

On Friday, February 24, 2012, Rev. Dr. Marvin Ellison came to Elon University to speak at a religion conference about the meaning of marriage. Ellison is a gay, Christian ethicist and pastor who fully supports gay marriage but he is concerned about marriage as an institution in America’s culture.

Ellison discussed a situation in the 1980s where it was ruled that incarcerated people on death row could marry because that courts reasoned that marriage is a fundamental human right. So gay and lesbian people aren’t human?

It frightens me that marriages such as those of these incarcerated criminals as well as those marriages of celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Britney Spears – who’s marriages were radically short – are more widely accepted than the marriage of a gay and lesbian couple.

From everything that I have read about this amendment, I hope it does not pass. Gay and lesbian couples should have legal rights under any constitution and heterosexual couples who are in a strong relationship but happen to not be married should also.