Point of View

A telling protest of pastors against same-sex marriage in NC

July 16, 2014 

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond appears poised to uphold a lower court ruling that not only would topple Virginia’s marriage ban but also could provide precedent to overturn bans on the freedom to marry in multiple states, including North Carolina.

In protest, representatives from the anti-gay, state chapter of the American Pastors Network rallied in Raleigh this week to decry what they called a “judicial coup d etat” that threatens their “hard-fought, traditional marriage victory,” better known as the broadly worded 2012 constitutional rewrite, Amendment One.

The purported purpose for the sparsely attended event? To demand that Gov. Pat McCrory “not capitulate to judicial heresy” and defend Amendment One should the federal appeals courts once again rule in favor of equality.

It’s worth pointing out that the news conference – much like the pro-Amendment One effort itself – seemed as much about political pandering and trotting out half-truths than speaking to the most pressing concerns of North Carolinians.

Some of the more specious claims proffered by participants included:

‘(Marriage equality) is not a trend of the people but a trend of the courts.’ – Dr. Mark Harris, former U.S. Senate candidate and Charlotte pastor

Actually, it’s both. Not only have there been 24 consecutive victories for the freedom to marry since June 2013, but support for marriage equality throughout the nation and North Carolina has never been higher. For example, at the time of Amendment One’s passage in May 2012, 53 percent of North Carolinians supported civil unions and marriage. That number had risen to 63 percent eight months later.

“Courts have put themselves above Almighty God.”

– the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.

The judges who have ruled on the cases affecting marriage equality have been at every level – from federal to state courts. They are Republican-appointees, Democrat-appointees, liberal and conservative. Regardless of ideology or past ruling history, each of these judges has upheld that same-sex marriage should be legal. It is a constitutional, American, common-sense issue.

Many people of faith support same-sex marriage. There is no “lock” on what religious North Carolinians believe about same-sex marriage. That is why many faith leaders have joined the United Church of Christ and our friends at Campaign for Southern Equality in a suit to protect their religious right to conduct same-sex marriages.

Marriage inequality will mean fewer “government handouts.” – the Rev. Patrick Wooden, Upper Room Church of God in Christ

Amid these tales told by news conference speakers – who staged their event between where the governor does his business and where the legislative leadership is currently doing theirs – a more disturbing narrative was woven.

Again and again speakers like Creech maligned North Carolina’s sitting Attorney General for not being passionate enough in his defense of what is quickly becoming a constitutionally indefensible law, accused the North Carolina NAACP of having “demagogued the issue” for speaking out against Amendment One alongside faith communities all across the state and even called into question the conservatism of Republicans who opposed the marriage ban in the first place.

The message seemed clear: If you support the freedom to marry, you could never do your job as an elected official, you could never faithfully represent your community and you could certainly never call yourself a Republican.

Unfortunately for them, increasingly more moderate leaders in both parties support marriage equality because it is about freedom.

The speakers appeared a bit lost when posed with the question of the day from reporters: Wouldn’t it be a waste of taxpayer dollars and North Carolina resources to defend Amendment One if the Fourth Circuit overrules the law?

As Harris returned to the podium to respond, lawmakers inside the nearby General Assembly building were struggling to agree on how exactly we should pay our existing bills, presumably unaware that they might soon be asked to pay for a Supreme Court lawsuit.

But all was not lost. Creech seemed to encapsulate what can be considered a historic moment when he turned to his small audience to say, “There is no substitute for marriage.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Chris Sgro is executive director of Equality NC,

an advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender North Carolinians.

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