Today I read an article regarding Amendment One that I just had to share. Reverend Wilson is such an eloquent writer; I found myself saying “YES YES YES” and nodding in agreement while reading his piece. He beautifully writes what I have always felt, but haven’t found the words to say. I hope those against same-sex marriage can read it with an open mind, there is something to it.
The right to vote is one of the distinctive features of a democracy, and exercising that right is essential for a democratic government to operate as designed. The May 8 primary election affords us the rare opportunity to cast a vote that could amend our state constitution, and any alteration to our defining legal document is to be taken seriously. The ballot will include Amendment One, which defines and limits marriage as being between one woman and one man. I will be voting against the proposed amendment, because of the profound negative effects it would have on citizens of our state. The rationales for my negative vote are listed below.
First, a North Carolina statute already prohibits same-sex marriage, and the proposed amendment is pointless and ill-advised.
Second, while there are various reasons to vote in favor of the proposed amendment, the overwhelming objections to same-sex marriages are framed in religious terms. To be sure, there are those who have clear, sincere religious convictions that define marriage as only being between one man and one woman, and these rights will be preserved even if the proposed amendment is defeated. Faith groups that hold such convictions will continue to practice their religion as they choose. It is not appropriate, however, for those religious convictions to be written into law that applies to all citizens. Religious liberty is guaranteed in both the North Carolina and United States Constitutions. There are also citizens of our state who have clear, sincere religious convictions and believe that marriage is a right and privilege for all citizens regardless of sexual orientation.
A compelling argument could be made that prohibiting same-sex marriage is violating the religious freedom of many of our citizens. Throughout the state there are congregations that would welcome a repeal of the present statute and that would celebrate the right to solemnize marriages of gay and lesbian couples. Are their rights not being violated? Rather than squandering our energy, time and money on Amendment One, we should be using those same resources to repeal the existing law.
Third, passage of Amendment One will simply reinforce the present government-sanctioned discrimination. Discrimination and hatred of minority groups will be with us forever, because harboring prejudicial attitudes seems to be a character trait for some people. Government-sanctioned discrimination, on the other hand, is far more toxic and damaging to the societal structure. Amendment One will further discriminate against citizens of our state.
We know how devastating such discrimination can be, because the history of our country has examples aplenty of how government discrimination became accepted public policy. There was the internment during World War II of people of Japanese ancestry who, as innocent American citizens, were corralled into concentration camps within the borders of our country. None can forget the Jim Crow laws of the South that essentially extended slavery for an additional 100 years. Today, we in North Carolina are struggling with how or whether to compensate victims of the government sterilization program that was deemed necessary to protect our society from those thought to be undesirable. An individual acting on discriminatory attitudes can be harmful and threatening, but government discrimination can relegate an entire classification of citizens to second-class citizenship. Amendment One as government discrimination will embolden hate groups and, by implication, endorse homophobia.
How can we even think of discriminating against our own citizens who pay taxes, contribute to our society, worship in our congregations, serve in the military and represent us as elected officials? We are not talking of some kind of alien creatures; we are talking of our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and our law-abiding neighbors. In the United States, such discrimination is anathema.
The legislators who orchestrated the passage of the proposed amendment have marketed it by reminding us that we are the only Southern state without a constitutional amendment discriminating against our gay and lesbian citizens. The reminder is intended to shame the voters into getting on board and conforming to the norm. These reminders are reminiscent of the adolescent peer pressure we all experienced in our youth. We are not adolescents and are not to be persuaded by such manipulation. In North Carolina it is against the law to discriminate against anyone based on religion, race, national origin, age, gender or handicap. We are allowed, however, to discriminate against a person based on sexual orientation. This is unacceptable in a democracy.
By Reverend Charles Frances Wilson