Franklin Graham, Ricky Woods: Ministers take different view of same-sex rulings

mgordon@charlotteobserver.comJune 27, 2013 

Two prominent North Carolina ministers questioned the Supreme Court rulings in favor of gay marriage, but for far different reasons.

Franklin Graham, who heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association started by his father, says he “sharply disagreed” with the court’s two decisions because they break with God’s blueprint for marriage.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Ricky Woods, pastor of First Baptist Church-West in Charlotte, supported the marriage rulings, but he said they don’t jibe with two earlier court decisions this week that weakened affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act.

“This court has been wildly inconsistent, even schizophrenic in its reasoning,” Woods said. “This (gay marriage) vote comes on the heels of two 5-4 decisions that put at risk the rights and opportunities of other groups. If the issue is protection of individual rights, what are citizens supposed to make of what appears to be such huge inconsistencies?”

On Wednesday and also with separate 5-4 decisions, the justices gutted the federal Defense of Marriage Act and cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California.

In the DOMA ruling, a majority of the court members said banning federal benefits from married gay couples in states that legally recognize their unions is unconstitutional. The decision will also allow the Obama administration to extend some benefits nationwide by executive order.

Experts say the full impact on the Carolinas, which only recognize traditional marriages, is unclear. But Holning Lau, a UNC law professor and president of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the language of the Supreme Court’s DOMA opinion could influence the outcome of future same-sex cases. Others said it could even lay the groundwork for a challenge to North Carolina’s Marriage Amendment, which voters passed in 2012 by more than 60 percent.

Graham, who joined his father, Billy, in endorsing and financing last year’s N.C. marriage amendment campaign, said his view on the court’s opinions is irrelevant.

“It was God who created and defined marriage, and any person or institution that attempts to redefine it is ultimately challenging him,” Graham said in a prepared statement.

Christians, he said, must strive to love those who have different beliefs about marriage.

“But I do not believe any of us is entitled to rearrange God’s divine order for the universe and its inhabitants,” his statement said.

Woods, pastor of one of the state’s oldest African-American congregations, said the marriage amendment, along with tort reforms, voter ID and other issues, are all part of conservative efforts to weaken a new Democratic coalition of blacks, Latinos, and gays and lesbians.

“All we have heard from the far right is ‘less government, less government, less government.’ What we’ve gotten from them is more government – and more government intrusion into the private lives of consenting adults,” Woods said.

The Supreme Court rulings are “a step toward recognizing that people who are different are entitled to the same rights as all Americans. It’s a step. It’s not all there is. But it’s a step.”

Gordon: 704-358-5095

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