Martinez

I voted yes for my faith

May 16, 2012 

I voted for the Marriage Amendment because my bishop urged me to do so.

That does not make me a backward-thinking, bigoted, hateful, homophobic boob. Frankly, I’ve had it up to here with the intolerance demonstrated toward people of faith by the so called champions of tolerance.

To be clear, it’s not the gay folks I’ve encountered since last week’s vote who are spewing the venom. It’s the straight political opponents of the Marriage Amendment – including our governor – who have chosen insults over intellect.

The most egregious and baseless complaint I’ve confronted since the primary is that my vote was an imposition of religious values on others. Baloney. In fact, it’s the other way around.

Heterosexual marriage is both the secular and religious norm on the planet. Gay marriage is not simply the expansion of the institution; it’s a redefinition, a serious redefinition that deserves thoughtful debate beyond a citation from the TV show “Will and Grace.”

Marriage Amendment opponents often cited long-lasting and caring relationships, as well as exceptional parenting by gay couples, as a basis for justifying same-sex marriage. That may tug at the heart, but it’s more talking point than argument. Otherwise, that same line of reasoning can be applied not only to the gender of marriage partners but to the number. If two people of the same sex can have a committed relationship worthy of marriage, then why can’t three people, regardless of gender?

Instead of reasoned discussion, marriage amendment opponents, including law professors who should have known better, resorted to scare tactics about hypothetical raids on employer benefits and loss of domestic violence protections. Conveniently left out of the domestic violence argument was the fact that assault (except in self-defense) is punishable under the law regardless of the relationship. Marriage, and the basis for its redefinition, was the last thing opponents wanted to discuss leading up to the vote.

Like President Barack Obama, my position on gay marriage has evolved. A few years ago I wrote a column stating that I couldn’t understand why same-sex marriage is outlawed, particularly by my church. Since then, I’ve rediscovered my Catholic faith. Catholicism does not endorse homosexual behavior, and my agreement with that teaching is immaterial. As a practicing Catholic, I cannot knowingly act against the precepts of my faith.

My vote, and I suspect the overwhelming majority of votes for the Marriage Amendment, was an act of devotion to faith.

It was not an act of hatred or discrimination. The Catholic Church believes and teaches, as the state’s two bishops wrote, “… that the source of our human dignity and the respect we owe to all people, flows not from the expression of our sexual orientation nor any of our actions, but rather from the dignity given to each of us by God.”

Unfortunately, the religious reasons for support of the Marriage Amendment have been disparaged or dismissed by the straight opponents I’ve encountered. Yet, gay opponents seem to understand that my faith is a fundamental part of who I am, a part that I can’t, and won’t, deny.

I don’t know if there is a reasonable compromise to the marriage divide. But the best advice I’ve heard on moving forward came from Jennifer Rudinger, executive director of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, a champion of gay rights. At a news conference after the primary, she characterized the vote as a temporary setback and wouldn’t commit to any legal strategy the state ACLU may pursue.

Instead, Rudinger urged continued dialogue, one person at a time. I’m under no illusion that conversation alone will heal all the wounds opened by the Marriage Amendment fight. But I do know that thoughtful, individual engagement will lead to more understanding and respect, two attributes that, today, are woefully in short supply.

Contributing columnist Rick Martinez (rickjmartinez2@gmail.com) is news director at WPTF, NC News Network and SGRToday.com

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