For many people, their religious faith defines who they are. They base what they do in their lives off of what they learn from their religious practices. On May 8, registered voters in North Carolina will be voting on Amendment One – a controversial amendment that has both passionate supporters and detractors. Proponents of both sides have cited religious arguments for their position.
Section one of the amendment reads as follows: “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.”
“By definition, marriage is between a male and a female,” Father Gerry Waterman said. Waterman is the Elon University Catholic Campus Minister and a strong supporter of the amendment.
Waterman said that the Catholic community believes that heterosexual marriages are not just Christian, God, or faith-based but they are mainly natural law. There are two things that Waterman says are the goal of marriage: the furthering of life and the coming together as one. He believes sexual intercourse is the symbol of that oneness and that unity, and that Catholics believe that only a man and a woman are able to partake in something that sacred.
“I have no problem with people who are homosexual coming together and forming some type of union. I have no offense to that, but I do have an offense when they want to call it marriage because of what the word means to us,” Waterman said.
Waterman explains that in scripture, Jesus refers to a man and a woman as a reflection of God’s love for his bride, the church. This means that God loves the church so much that His love is reflected through marriage.
“[Marriage] is not just a word, it is also one of our sacraments,” Waterman said. This is where conflicting arguments arise.
“This particular amendment isn’t about marriage,” Phil Hardy, pastor at Life’s Journey United Church of Christ in Burlington, N.C., said.
While in college, Hardy began to wrestle with the idea of becoming a pastor. He enjoyed public speaking and when something needed to be proclaimed, he wanted to be the one who proclaimed it.
Hardy is against the amendment because he said that he comes from a camp that believes we, as humans, are born with our sexual inclinations. He figures that if enough people are born as lesbians, gays or bisexuals, we are going to have to start accepting them.
“God’s all grown up and doesn’t need to be defended, but people do,” said Hardy.
He believes that the LGBTQ community is the group of people that need to be protected.
“Our oppression on this group of people is a black eye on the church,” Hardy said.
The church, Hardy believes, has managed to create a negative reputation for itself. He feels that people should be able to feel safe in a religious community.
“Religious intolerance won’t be tolerated in the life of our church,” Hardy said about his congregation. “There can be safe religious communities.”
“Religion is one of the reasons I claim to be against Amendment One,” O’Keefe, who is Presbyterian, said.
O’Keefe recognizes that religion factors in to why people support the amendment but he says that the Coalition has hundreds and hundreds of ministers and people of faith who have signed on to their campaign to vote against it.
“[They] have claimed that this amendment does not harm their faith, it does not harm their relationships and it is not justified by their religion,” O’Keefe said.
Because of his passion for the fight against Amendment One, O’Keefe, a freshman at Appalachian State University, took his spring semester off to be able to focus solely on the campaign.
“I think is it putting discrimination into the constitution of the state,” Ellie Ketcham, co-founder of Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Alamance, said.
Ketcham, an 83-year-old fighter against the amendment from Elon, N.C., has a son, Clifton, who came out to her as gay in 1989. She found out about a chapter of PFLAG in Winston-Salem and went there for monthly meetings until one started up in Greensboro. That was still too far for Ketcham to travel so she decided, with the help of her husband and another couple, to started a chapter here in Alamance County.
It is important to Ketcham, who proudly displays a Vote Against sign on her lawn, that the word gets out to North Carolina citizens about what the amendment truly means. She participates in phone banks run by members of the Elon Community Church, which she belongs to.
On Tuesday, April 3, the church had a phone bank and Emmett Floyd was among those who dialed up households asking if people knew about the amendment and what it means.
Floyd, a retired navy admiral, was just concerned about the issue and wanted to help spread the word.
“I am aware of the way that many gay people are treated,” Floyd said. “I saw it in the service and in too many other places.”
Waterman said that his thoughts on the amendment are not discriminatory at all.
“We believe in loving every human being whether their orientation is heterosexual or homosexual; there’s no distinction when it comes to loving those people and respecting them,” Waterman said.
Like Waterman, the group behind Vote for Marriage NC is supportive of the amendment and they see a threat that would be imposed on the state if the amendment wasn’t passed.
No one from the group would comment on the issue but according to their website, they believe, “marriage is a special relationship reserved exclusively for heterosexual unions, because only the intimate relationship between men and women has the ability to produce children as a result of that sexual union.”
This worries Vote for Marriage NC because they think that, “While many people would like to believe that proposals to allow same-sex marriage are simply about allowing a different form of marriage to coexist alongside traditional man/woman marriage, they are wrong. The impact that same-sex marriage will have on society is much deeper and far-reaching then a modest change in the word’s definition.”
The members of Vote for Marriage NC believe that voting for the amendment will do two things: protect the definition of marriage in North Carolina and strengthen democracy by allowing people to vote for the protection of marriage.
Ketcham believes that some of the things that Vote for Marriage NC says are untrue.
“I think they’re trying to scare people,” Ketcham said.
On the website for Vote for Marriage NC, they talk about how it’s a possibility that children will be taught in school that marriage is between any two adults – either heterosexual or homosexual – and the group thinks that this can be very detrimental to the children of North Carolina.
Ketcham believes that this is one of the scariest statements that this group could make. She says that teachers will never be authorized to teach something like that in the classroom.
“If you’ve been taught in your church that homosexuality is a sin, you don’t want your children to be taught something different in school, I totally understand that, but that is not going to happen,” Kethcam said.
Ketcham believes that whether this amendment is passed or not, gay marriage is still going to be illegal.
“Some people have the feeling that if this amendment is defeated, (homosexual) marriage will then become legal in North Carolina and that, of course, is not true,” Ketcham said.
O’Keefe believes that this amendment is going to hurt all kinds of people.
“It hurts pretty much everybody I come into contact with on a daily basis,” O’Keefe said.
He hopes that people understand the amendment before they go to the ballot box on May 8 with a skewed perception of it.
“I don’t want people I know to be harmed by this and I can only imagine that anybody else who understands the outcome of this legislation would feel the same way and would want to tell their friends, would want to tell their family, to get active against this,” O’Keefe said.
Contradicting this statement, Waterman believes, “every Catholic in their right mind is for the amendment.”
All O’Keefe asks is that “people should do their research before they get to the ballot box that day and they should understand what the true implications of the amendment should be.”