Locals Pick Sides On Marriage Amendment
Signs for (above) and against (below) the amendment may be seen across the county. (Times photos by Jeremiah Reed)
TRANSYLVANIA COUNTY N.C. As early voting opened on Thursday, the battle has heated up over how marriage will be defined in North Carolina.
On the ballot, voters are being asked to choose for or against Amendment One, which would add a sixth section to Article 14 of the N.C. Constitution stating, “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”
North Carolina has not recognized same-sex marriages since 1996 but remains the only state in the Southeast without a constitutional amendment specifically on the issue.
In Transylvania, the issue has been engaged, with signs for those supporting or opposing the measure scattered across the county.
On Thursday, the Brevard College Diversity Club sponsored a forum, which included a panel of three ministers, a college professor and a community activist who were against the amendment.
On the other side, some locals felt so strongly in favor of the amendment they traveled to Raleigh on Friday to take part in a rally supporting the measure.
Carter Heyward, Episcopal priest and theologian, moderated Thursday’s panel at Brevard College. In her opening remarks, Heyward said if Amendment One passed it would be, “a sad and distressing sign of unwelcoming to the 27,000 lesbian and gay couples living in this state.”
Resa Chandler, associate professor at Brevard College, spoke on a personal level.
Six years ago, Chandler moved to Washington state and had lived there only three months when her wife, Andrea, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Under the domestic partnership policy available by the state, insurance paid for nearly all of Andrea’s medical bills, something that would not be offered under Amendment One.
“Amendment One is a piece of legislation that hurts people,” Chandler told the crowd of roughly 70 people. “It makes you ask, ‘what if?’ There’s no telling where we would be had we not lived in Washington.”
Whitney Franklin, a community activist, said voting against Amendment One was, “not a vote for same sex marriage,” rather it was a vote against, “the discrimination of equal protection under the law.”
“I’ve met many gay and lesbian couples, with and without children, I don’t think I or anybody else has the right to tell these people they are not a family,” she said. “Before you vote, ask yourself how you would feel if these things were happening to you or a member of your family.”
The local religious base constitutes a large portion of those who advocate in support of Amendment One.
The Rev. Bill Vorhees, pastor of Morningside Baptist Church, said he believes in upholding the Christian definition of marriage.
“We are encouraging our members to vote for the marriage amendment, which upholds the Biblical concept that marriage is between one man and one woman,” Vorhees said. “I believe God gives us his word not to punish us but to bless us.”
One argument posed by those against Amendment One is the idea that the majority gets to vote on the rights of a minority.
Vorhees said the democratic process has always relied on majority vote and it should remain that way regardless of the issue at hand.
The Rev. Randy Barton, pastor of Anchor Baptist Church, was one of those who traveled on Friday to Raleigh.
He said he felt there was a “campaign of confusion” created by those opposed to the amendment to try and persuade people to vote against it.
“The anti-amendment group has reworded the proposal,” Barton said. “Nowhere on their literature will you see the word marriage. They won’t use the word ‘marriage’ because then people would be thinking about marriage when they vote, and they don’t want that.”
Outside the early voting site at the old library in Brevard, some proponents of Amendment One said they were in favor of putting the measure into the Constitution to protect traditional marriage from potentially being challenged in court or overturned by a judge.
Amendment One has clearly energized the voting base across the board. A polling official said several unaffiliated voters turned out just to cast their vote on the issue. Historically, those against the proposed amendment are fighting an uphill battle.
All previous 28 states that put similar measures to vote saw them pass. However, win or lose, those affected by Amendment One say they will remain strong in their convictions.
“You can pass whatever law you want but I will get up tomorrow, fix my daughter breakfast, Andrea and I will work with her on her homework, and we’ll go on living the next day and the next and the next,” said Chandler.