Today, Mike Collins led a lively discussion on WFAE Charlotte Talks with three individuals who support the NC marriage amendment.
Paul Stam, state representative from NC District 37, was up first. He was the avid “political” supporter of the amendment. He was followed on the program by David Hains, Director of Communication for the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, and Rev. Dr. Mark Harris, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Charlotte. They were the strong “biblical” supporters of the amendment.
Paul Stam said at least three times that NC has had the same definition of marriage – one man and one woman – for “340 years”. He quipped that no bill has ever been put forth to change it, so there. What he fears though is the judiciary. 340 years may not enough staying power to withstand judicial scrutiny. The amendment, he admitted, will make it more difficult for change to occur in the definition of marriage. At least he was honest on that point.
Where I lost Mr. Stam was with these comments. He said that this debate is not really an Equal Protection issue. He said that if we allow gays to marry, then they will want polygamy and group marriage next. He said that the whole gay marriage movement is really about trying to delegitimize marriage. When asked whether the amendment was a form of discrimination against homosexuals, he said no. When asked why, he said it is “because they can still marry someone of the opposite sex”. I had to sit up in my chair when I heard that one.
Another theme started by Stam and carried on by Hains and Harris is that the main reason for protecting marriage between one man and one woman is the need to protect children. The message was garbled at times, but they seemed to ground their argument on the premise that only man and woman can produce children. Fair enough, but they didn’t explain how denying people who are gay the right to marry will make more babies. I assume they have a plan to convert all gays to heterosexuals after the vote on May 8th.
Paul Stam said hospital visitation will not be affected for gays, and neither will powers of attorney, and that there is nothing to worry about with respect to the domestic violence laws. Oh, and he said that if you happen to lose your same-sex couple benefits with a local municipality, you can blame it on a drafting error on the part of the municipality rather than the amendment.
In his final seconds on the show, Stam was asked what he would say to his gay constituents about the amendment. His response was that the law treats everyone equally. And just as I was thinking, “did he really say that”, Mike Collins said: “Really?”
In the biblical portion of the show, we heard that marriage comes from the bible. We heard that God made man and woman for a reason. We heard that marriage is about the love of two people and the children they produce and that gay couples cannot create life, so they cannot marry. We also heard that heterosexual marriages that can’t produce or don’t want to produce children are simply exceptions that don’t matter, like heterosexual divorces. Apparently, they aren’t as harmful to the production or caring for children as gay marriage.
But the opinions didn’t stop at “marriage”. They had opinions about civil unions. Polling suggests that there is a large percentage of people in NC who support civil unions short of marriage, in order to give civil and government rights to gay couples. Not these two. For them, civil unions are just a “substitute for the institution of marriage”. So the gay community can’t even have that little nugget.
And then they opened the door for a question they couldn’t handle. They explained that the marriage amendment was not about stopping same-sex marriage and civil unions (which it is to anyone who can read the amendment), saying instead that it is really about protecting traditional marriage. This led to the question that stumped them: How was gay marriage going to threaten marriages between men and women?
The answers given to the threat question sounded like the answers our parents used to give when there was no answer but their own authority. You know, the ones where they say something like, “because I told you so”.
The first answer we heard to the threat question was: “because it doesn’t fit the definition of marriage”. Then we heard: “because it doesn’t let them have children”. Then we heard: “because it is not marriage”. Oh, that certainly clears it up. The threat to my traditional marriage is because their marriage is not really a marriage, they can’t have children and they really shouldn’t be getting married. It makes me want to run out and get a divorce just thinking about it.
On the issue of separation of church and state, there was some dodge ball being played. There was never a good explanation given as to why the religious beliefs of the Catholic Church and First Baptist Church should become the force of law. It was said, that “by faith, I believe what is in the Bible”. It was not explained by what right that faithful belief should be imposed on all taxpaying citizens, irrespective of their faithful beliefs. Except to say, that homosexual behavior doesn’t fit in the natural scheme, “according to God”.
So how did the biblical portion of the discussion end? It ended with a strenuous denial by the biblical proponents that amendment one has anything to do with discrimination. Like Mr. Stam before them, Mr. Hains and Dr. Harris said that they respect the dignity of all gay people and they are willing to welcome them into their church. After what we heard, I am sure there will be a waiting list to get in.