I am Ashamed to be a North Carolinian Today

North Carolina passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage today. This is the most ashamed I have ever been of my state. Yes, much of what this amendment does was already law, but codifying bigotry more firmly into the law is a step in the wrong direction.

The amendment will add this language to the North Carolina Constitution:

“Sec. 6. Marriage.
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.”

Though it is unclear if and how this amendment will affect heterosexual couples, it is clear that it firmly prohibits same-sex marriages and civil unions. Much campaigning against the amendment has been done on the grounds that it will affect non-gay couples and their rights also. Even if this is true (I’m not qualified to say), I believe this is a weak argument which entirely avoids the main issue. Below I address the popular arguments against same-sex marriage and the reasons I support it.

Separation of Church and State

Does no one care about this any more?

I am Christian, and am getting married in a little over two months. I am a firm believer that marriage is an institution of the church and a holy covenant. However, I am equally sure that the Bible says absolutely nothing about making sure only heterosexual couples can jointly file their taxes or have other legal benefits. We have conflated the religious concept of marriage with the state concept of marriage. Ideally, we might have the two separated – i.e. have a ‘civil union’ which is recognized by the state, and a ‘marriage’, which is recognized by the church.

However, for various cultural, religious, political reasons, this is not going to happen. We might just have to settle for the next best thing: the state allowing marriage between any two adults who wish to become legally married. In this arrangement, individual churches/denominations/religious groups are not forced to marry anyone, but are given the freedom to do as they choose. In fact, this is exactly what would happen if the amendment was repealed and the current law prohibiting same-sex marriage was stricken from the books. Your church doesn’t have to marry gay people if it doesn’t want to, but the state has to recognize such a union as a matter of civil rights.

On the “Sanctity” of Marriage

I have a very hard time accepting the argument against same-sex marriage on the basis that it destroys the sanctity of marriage. The sanctity of marriage is destroyed by those who get married before they are ready, abuse their spouses, divorce without trying reconciliation, and those who get married just for fun on a whim. The gay couples I know are just as committed and loving towards each other as any heterosexual couple (perhaps even more so because of all the hardships they have had to endure).

Furthermore, if you believe the value of your own marriage (past, present, or future) depends on whether or not others’ marriages are recognized, I pity you. Personally, I will value my upcoming marriage based on the love and respect we have for each other.

On Homosexuality Being A Choice

Homosexual teens suffer from a tremendous amount of bullying in today’s schools. The number of homosexual teens who have suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide is much higher than their heterosexual peers. According to the various studies summarized in this brief from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual) youth are between one and a half and seven times more likely to report having attempted suicide than their straight peers. I have witnessed this first-hand – it is real and it hurts. What, then, is the benefit to them of ‘choosing’ to be gay? If they had any sense at all, they would just start being heterosexual in order to avoid that stigma and embarrassment, right? Unless, of course, it isn’t a choice.

It has been shown that the tendency to be homosexual is affected by birth-order in males and furthermore that there are measurable differences in brain activity between people with different sexual orientations (see this article). There is an excellent movie entitled “For The Bible Tells Me So” which tackles the issue of homosexuality and religion together. Here’s a clip from its discussion on whether homosexuality is a choice.

On Marrying Your Toaster

A common argument is that if same-sex marriage is allowed, it might be a “slippery slope” which leads to people marrying their monkey, rhinoceros, tomato, or toaster. This is almost too absurd of an argument for me to comment on. In my experience, slippery slope arguments are usually the product of fear rather than rational consideration. Marriage (the state form, at least) is a legal contract between two people. Unless your monkey or your toaster is capable of consenting to marrying you and signing the marriage application/license at the courthouse, you won’t be able to marry it.

On Fear

This is why Amendment 1 passed. It is fear of something not understood. According to this article, the amendment’s “most visible patron”, Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, notes that he thinks “it will be repealed in 20 years.” This attitude suggests that those voting in favor of the amendment know that equality under the law is surely coming, but they are personally intimidated by something they don’t understand and wish to put it off as long as possible. This attitude is unacceptable.

Shame on you, North Carolina.

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