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:
- to offer value-based sexual education concerned with relational integrity,
- to publicly and persistently advocate for a broader agenda, wealth redistribution, social justice and more power for women,
- 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,
- to resist the commercial wedding industry, and
- 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.