I imagine it's been obvious, for anyone who's followed me on Facebook or Twitter the past few weeks, that I am opposed to Amendment One - the proposed change to the North Carolina state constitution that would read as follows:
Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be validated or recognized in this State.
This amendment, a staple in pretty much every other Southern state, was put on the ballot by our state legislature and has garnered tremendous attention over the past few months leading up to the May 8 vote.
Yet I realized the other day that, while I've done a pretty good job of expressing my opinion on the matter, I haven't really explained why. And while there are many reasons why I oppose it and voted against it in early voting last week (see picture above), there really is only one true reason why I oppose Amendment One.
Amendment One is poorly worded and, in its attempt to prohibit gay marriage, would create all kinds of legal messiness for those who don't fit the narrowly-defined "only domestic legal union" equation - namely, unmarried couples, domestic partners, children of those partnerships and even domestic violence victims. It's bad that these folks have been unwittingly dragged into the fray, but it is not THE reason I oppose Amendment One.
Amendment One is 100% unnecessary, as there is already a law in North Carolina prohibiting gay marriage. Proponents of the amendment say it will prevent "activist judges" from overturning the law at some point in the future. This kind of flawed logic suggests that we need to create constitutional amendments to back up all "important" state laws, much the same way my Time Capsule backs up my Macbook every hour. The latter is completely necessary (as evidenced by the demise of my computer harddrive last week); Amendment One is not. But that is not THE reason I oppose Amendment One.
Amendment One is discriminatory. Again, defenders balk at the use of this word because, in their mind, they are simply defending "traditional marriage." And yet, the word "discriminate" means: "to make an unjust or prejudicial distinction in the treatment of different categories of people or things, esp. on the grounds of race, sex, or age." This is precisely what Amendment One does for gay and lesbian persons - it deprives them of something everyone else has. Besides, constitutions are about guaranteeing people's rights, not restricting them. And yet this is still not THE reason I oppose Amendment One.
I have a cousin who is gay and currently in a loving and committed relationship (that in no way, I might add, adversely affects my marriage or endangers my two children, as some insist). They've surrounded themselves with friends and family who love and support them, including mine. Still, I know they are subjected to ridicule and scorn by those who can't see the person beyond the orientation. Amendment One has the feel of kicking someone when they're down, heaping more burden on a population that has suffered enough already; almost to the point of cruelty. But that is not THE reason I oppose Amendment One.
No, the primary reason I oppose Amendment One is because of my Christian faith.
I know, that sounds strange, doesn't it? We're used to Christianity being used as a reason (if not the only reason) for supporting the amendment. We are told, for instance, that the Bible says gay people shouldn't get married and marriage is between one man and one woman. Which is some selective reading, I might add, since it never actually says that (as I've pointed out to the Genesis 2 crowd, Adam and Eve weren't married); and since the predominant model of marriage in the Bible is one man and multiple women (try King Solomon's 700 wives and 300 concubines on for size).
So while I can't change the fact that pro-Amendment folks try to claim exclusive rights to the Christian mantle, what I can do is claim some of that mantle back and draw attention to the increasing Christian voice against Amendment One, including myself squarely among its ranks. And make no mistake - it is a strong and legitimate voice, and it is growing.
In a Letter to the Editor I submitted last week to the Winston-Salem Journal, I pointed out that, while there are at best six to eight verses in the entire Bible that are commonly used to denounce homosexuality (with, I might add, questionable interpretation), there are literally thousands of verses calling the faithful to love their neighbor, care for the “least of these,” tend to orphans and widows and most vulnerable, seek justice for all, use governmental power wisely and compassionately, and not mistreat the foreigner in their midst. It's like an NBA All-Star team stacking up against the woeful Charlotte Bobcats' second string - it's not even close. When it comes to the sheer weight of scripture, the message of love triumps in a landslide.
And when we look specifically at Jesus as he's presented in the gospels, what we see is a man who didn't just tolerate the oppressed and outcasts, but actually sought them out. He made a point of hanging out with them, dining with them, immersing himself into their lives no matter who they were or what others thought of them. It drove the religious authorities nuts. And for all his talk about loving neighbor and self, Jesus never said a word about homosexuality or gay marriage. Not one.
So when I look at the scriptures and Jesus' life, I see an overwhelming portrait of Christian tolerance, acceptance, non-judgmentalism, and unconditional love - none of which square with Amendment One. Because make no mistake: there is nothing loving about Amendment One. There is nothing loving about legislation that would have all the negative consequences mentioned above. You could possibly argue that it's "principled" or consistent (in relation to the state law already on the books), but you can't say that it's loving and compassionate in the spirit of Jesus.
I realize there are folks who disagree with me, and I'm okay with that. I will respect their right to believe something different and hope they will return the courtesy. It's the wonderful and sometimes frustrating thing about being adherents of the same faith - we can see things differently and still be brothers and sisters in Christ. I will say this: if I am in error, if I've totally got my signals crossed, then I am fully content with erring on the side of love, rather than on the side of legislation that I feel pretty certain Jesus himself wouldn't be in favor of.
And that is ultimately why I voted against Amendment One - because I believe, with all my heart, that Jesus would have voted against it too.
We'll see what Tuesday brings. If it's defeated, I'll give thanks to God and be proud of the state I've lived in all my life. And if it passes? I'll be disappointed, but I'll move on with even deeper convictions and a better sense of my voice in the matter. I'll be enthused by the wide spectrum of folks - people from different generations, different backgrounds, and even different political parties - who have come together on this issue in the spirit of Christ's love and in defense of all of God's children.
And most of all, I'll keep on loving like Jesus, the best that I can. Thank God that is something that needs no legislation.