Durham News: Opinion

Gaspo: Legislators on gay marriage, legal marijuana

One of the suspects in a recent Durham County marijuana, cash and weapons bust wore fancy glasses in his mug shot. For some reason, you almost never see spectacles in those photos.

Speaking of spectacles, the General Assembly has been considering a divisive bill to slow down gay marriage here by allowing magistrates and registers of deeds to opt out over religious convictions.

Last fall, a federal judge said gay marriage is legal in North Carolina, even though 2012’s Amendment One tried mightily to banish it.

To see more clearly where Durham area state legislators stand on two fast-moving social issues, I did a survey. Two in the group, State Rep. Mickey Michaux and Sen. Mike Woodard, submitted no answers.

The replies I received are edited for brevity, and were obtained in writing question by question or from a statement, or in conversation. In a few cases, not every question was addressed.

Marijuana Legalization in NC?

Q: Would you as an elected official support fully legal and recognized same-sex marriage for adults in North Carolina as of right now, if a vote were before you?

Rep. Larry Hall: “I would support medical use.”

Rep. Paul Luebke: “For recreational use, I would say no.”

Sen. Floyd McKissick: “I am open to the idea, as long as there were reasonable guidelines and regulations. I worry about unintended consequences.”

Rep. Graig Meyer: “I do not have a definite position on the recreational use of marijuana. I’m just not ready to start making simple yes or no statements.”

Q: In one or two simple sentences, please, why are you in favor of this?

McKissick: “Well, I said I am not opposed to it. We need to take the profits out of the illegal industry and find a way to be in the best interests of the public welfare.”

Q: If no, in one or two simple sentences, please, why are you not?

Luebke: “There has to be a cultural readiness for…before we can have a reasonable debate. We’re not there yet in North Carolina.”

Q: Do you think America’s “War on Drugs” has worked well for this country in terms of its connection to crime, violence and death?

Hall: “No.”

Luebke: “No. The war on drugs has put a lot of people in prison for minor offenses for a very long time.”

McKissick: “I think it’s had little or no effect. Is it working for the thousands of young people who are in prison who shouldn’t be? No.”

Meyer: “I do have serious concerns about the U.S. war on drugs. We have gone way too far on…mandatory sentencing, particularly for first-time non-violent offenses such as drug possession.”

Q: Do you think the evidence shows that people in N.C. who want to use mind-altering drugs, including alcohol, are going to find a way to do so, even if illegal? Yes or no, if you can.

Hall: “Yes.”

Luebke: “It’s clear there are people who will be successful at finding a way to use these substances.”

McKissick: “If people want to use anything, really, they’ll find a way.”

Same-sex marriage

Q: Would you as an elected official support fully legal and recognized same-sex marriage for adults in North Carolina as of right now, if a vote were before you?

Hall: “Yes.”

Luebke: “Yes.”

McKissick: “I am not opposed to same sex-marriage.”

Meyer: “I absolutely support the right of same-sex couples to marry.”

Q: If yes, how long have been supportive of such a move?

Hall: “Several years.”

Luebke: “For a long time. I became involved in LBGT rights in the late 80s.”

McKissick: “I think it’s been a transformational enlightening for people. That includes me.”

Meyer: “I have supported that right for my entire adult life.”

Q: Why do you feel the way you do?

Hall: “Marriage is a civil law institution that provides certain legal rights and responsibilities that are essential to the conduct of personal affairs.”

Luebke: “People have a right to a full and free relationship with their partner, regardless of gender.”

McKissick: “All people deserve equal protection of the law.”

Q: Do you think homosexuality is a learned behavior, and a clear choice, or do you think it is essentially "hard-wired?”

Hall: “I think in most instances it is an inherited disposition.”

Luebke: “Most of the literature suggests it is inborn.”

McKissick: “I don’t think that particularly matters. It’s a matter that people have a right to live their lives.”

Meyer: “I’ve never met a heterosexual person who didn’t feel that their orientation was hard-wired, and I haven’t met a gay person who didn’t believe that their orientation was either.”

Q: Do you think the tenets of an elected official’s faith should determine how he or she would vote on this issue?

Hall: “No.”

Luebke: “Each legislator must make decisions based on a range of factors, and for some, that includes religion.”

McKissick: “People are entitled to their faiths and personal opinions. But our job is to uphold the laws. If we do not enforce people’s equal rights, history will not look well on us.”

You can reach Tom Gasparoli at 919-219-0042 or tgaspo@gmail.com.