NC gay marriage ban supporters launch effort
Posted January 23, 2012
RALEIGH, N.C. — Supporters of a constitutional amendment on May's ballot to ban gay marriage in North Carolina began their campaign in earnest Monday, saying the measure would protect marriage from those who want to expand what's lawful in the state.
The "Vote FOR Marriage NC" coalition is made up largely of conservative-leaning groups, ministers and Southern Baptists who want voters to approve a constitutional amendment to make clear marriage is only between a man and a woman.
State law already makes that distinction, but coalition chairwoman Tami Fitzgerald said an amendment would protect marriage from activist judges and lawmakers who want to allow gay marriage.
Amendment supporters have cited as proof a Guilford County lawsuit filed last month challenging the state's involvement in licensing traditional marriages and, in turn, denying licenses for same-sex couples.
The amendment also would prevent the state from sanctioning civil unions or domestic partnerships.
North Carolina is the only Southeastern state without a limit on marriage in its constitution. The Legislature had bottled up proposed amendments for years under Democratic rule. Last September, the new Republican majority passed a bill to take the issue to the voters in the May 8 primary.
Jeremy Kennedy, campaign manager for the Coalition to Protect NC Families, which kicked off its campaing last week in opposition of the amendment, said in an interview that backers ignore potential damage that the amendment could bring to child custody, visitation and domestic violence laws.
Amendment supporters also discount the value of North Carolina families who don't fit what some consider the traditional mold, he said.
"This constitutional amendment says only one kind of family is recognized by the government," Kennedy said.
Amendment opponents also say it would imprint discrimination into the constitution while likely eroding rights for all types of family units led by couples of the same or opposite sex.
"It's not a rights issue. It's a special rights issue," said Patrick Wooden, president and chief executive officer of The Upper Room Church of God in Christ. "What we're talking about is a special right to redefine marriage as we know it."
Marriage has always been defined legally and biblically as a union between a man and woman.
"We're dealing with an issue that is not even an issue of gray," Wooden said. "The Bible could not be clearer."
There's a divide among churches, however, and opponents of the amendment are also targeting churches across the state for support.
"(The) Bible can be read in different ways. You can use Scripture to argue just about anything on opposite sides," Miriam Saxon, an Episcopal priest at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Raleigh, said.
She believes the proposed amendment is discriminatory, calling it "another form of deeply engraining inequities and taking away civil liberties."
"Jesus was not recorded as having said anything on (same-sex marriage)," she said. "He did talk about divorce, but he did not talk about loving relationships among homosexuals."
Both sides are also receiving financial support from out-of-state groups on the amendment, which is being closely watched nationally. Six states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage.
Fitzgerald said the pro-amendment National Organization for Marriage has given funds to her group. She declined last week to say how much had been received. The group is expected to file its campaign finance report by the end of this week.
The Coalition to Protect NC Families reported receiving more than $226,000 in money and in-kind contributions during the last two months of 2011. The Washington-based Human Rights Campaign has provided more than $50,000 in donations and payments to employ coalition staff, its report with the State Board of Elections said.
Vote FOR Marriage NC said its campaign would target individuals and churches. The group also unveiled its website.
Over the weekend, Episcopalians in central North Carolina at their annual meeting approved a resolution reaffirming their opposition to proposed constitutional amendments that prohibit same-sex civil marriage or civil unions.
But meeting participants rejected a resolution to support the Guilford County lawsuit, according to unofficial results posted on the Episcopal diocese website. The central North Carolina diocese covers about 120 congregations that include 49,000 people.