Midtown: Community

On Tuesday, vote with unconditional love

“Love one another.” – Jesus of Nazareth

No need to delve deep into the Bible to find out What Would Jesus Do to speak his piece on Amendment One.

In the first chapter of Genesis, we learn “God created human kind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

It’s the first lesson we all learn – or should learn – as children, raised Christian or not: You’re no greater, no lesser than the person standing beside you wherever you are and whoever they are. We’re all equally created and should love our neighbors as we love God: unconditionally.

It’s why we don’t – or shouldn’t – judge people with mental or physical incapacities, be they genetic or the result of some life event or illness; those whose bank accounts don’t match ours; those whose physiques or intellects are different from ours; or those whose families aren’t built like our own. It’s why we pray for each other, enemies included.

It’s also why we ought to be sure we know what Amendment One is asking us to do on Tuesday.

I suspect confusion. Let’s pull ourselves out of that number.

Amendment One wants us to decide in the May 8 primary whether our state constitution – which since 1996 bans same-sex marriage – should change “to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in the state.”

In a nutshell, Amendment One asks us to accept as just that a majority – heterosexuals – determine the rights of a minority – same-sex couples – without really telling us our vote could mostly affect the majority.

No, if passed, Amendment One might affect not only law-abiding gay and lesbian citizens, but also other men, women and children in our state. Really. Here’s how:

Amendment One could strip legal protection in health care, retirement and social security benefits, and hospital visitation and inheritance rights from 90 percent of the state’s nearly 225,000 unmarried heterosexual couples. Ditto for employees in nine municipalities that offer family benefits to all.

Along with their unmarried, heterosexual parents, nearly 90,000 children could be affected by the loss of rights and benefits, including parental custody and visitation rights. Also, qualifying as “family” could become difficult for unmarried couples who adopt and grandparents of children of unmarried parents.

Advocates for victims of domestic violence fear Amendment One also could take away legal protections from unmarried victims. When a similar amendment passed in Ohio, dozens of domestic violence convictions were overturned or dismissed.

It’s a hot-button issue with man-in-the-mirror ugliness. Consider a Fayetteville preacher who suggests fathers crack the wrists of effeminate sons and rein in “butch” daughters, and a claim a lawmaker authored the proposed amendment to preserve the Caucasian race. Or, Huffington Post reports that a “secret” document by National Organization for Marriage, a supporter of pro-amendment organizations here, reveals the “strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and black – two key Democratic constituencies.”

But perhaps we’ve finally figured out how to adapt in our own skin, how to get in front of issues that appear, and often prove, tricky. We’ve been down this road before with attempts to use ballots to change the way we vote, work, attend public school and punish wrongdoers.

Early voting numbers are up this year. President Barack Obama, physicians, politicians, civil rights leaders and preachers – including my leader, the Rt. Rev. Michael B. Curry, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina – have publicly denounced the amendment as discriminatory and harmful to our state, families and children. North Carolina is subject of nationwide talk on news channels and social media sites alike as we stand in the spotlight to determine the rights of unmarried couples, same-sex or otherwise.

I’ve had gay and lesbian friends and family query in welcomed discussions: Who would choose to be gay or lesbian, a life destined for discrimination? Why, they answer, “It would be like choosing to be black in the 1860s!”

Who among us would? Then, or now?

I’d guess that was a pin I heard drop.

And I don’t suspect trying to seal an already closed door in our constitution will eliminate homosexuality or same-sex partnerships in our state, or anywhere else.

There, I believe, but for the grace of God, or genes perhaps, go any one of us. Or our children, since we really have no idea whom they will love and protect any more than we know for certain how they will look or who they will become. We’re even more clueless about our grandchildren and the great-grands.

Here and now, though, we can choose to mold our now and later; a legacy of respect, dignity and love granted to ourselves and all of our neighbors.

As Exodus 23:2 warns, “You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing,” I wonder: How do we know whether what we will do about Amendment One is one of those proverbial tests; a pass-code for passage into heaven?

With irony noted in this season of Easter when we’re commanded to “Love one another:” One man, one woman – and one vote!