This post is courtesy of Sarah Brady, a family law attorney in Charlotte, NC. As part of her practice, Sarah advises both straight and gay individuals on family law legal issues. Sarah helped me understand some of the nuances of NC family law, which were unknown to me because I don’t practice in that area. She and I also were part of a presentation today to local lawyers on the legal issues being debated concerning Amendment One.
Sarah did an excellent job of presenting the legal issues of Amendment One in a neutral fashion. You would not know by her presentation on the legal issues that she is a lesbian, that she has a very personal stake in this vote.
In this post, she speaks not about the legal issues but about how Amendment One affects her personally, as a lesbian and mother of three children, living in a committed same-sex relationship. I salute her for her willingness to share her story, because it is sometimes necessary to hear such stories for the walls of discrimination to come tumbling down.
As an attorney licensed to practice law in North Carolina, I can quickly list the legal reasons I believe one should be opposed to Amendment 1: (1) It is unnecessary, as we already have a statute limiting marriage to one man and one woman; (2) It was drafted in an intentionally broad and vague manner, such that it is certain to result in years of litigation; and (3) The purpose of our State’s Constitution is to give rights to the people, not to embody discrimination against a minority.
However, these are not the fundamental reasons I am opposed to the Amendment.
As a lesbian, this Amendment is about me and about my family. My opposition is profoundly personal.
When Jordan Lawrence appears in a televised debate (link: http://www.wtvi.org/debates/) and analogizes gay and lesbian relationships to that of a sister being unable to marry the brother with Down syndrome she cares for, it is the commitment my partner and I have made to one another that he is belittling. When a minister of a 6,000 person congregation makes jokes during a Sunday sermon about gay people (link: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/04/21/3189909/black-churchgoers-break-with-leading.html#storylink=misearch), it is my family that they are laughing at. When proponents of this Amendment speak of protecting “traditional family values,” it is my family they are suggesting does not have value.
My partner and I have been in a committed, monogamous relationship for 13 years. Eight years ago we were legally married in St. Catharines, Ontario. We own a home together. We pay taxes. We are members of a church. We support local businesses and are involved in our community. We give generously of our time and money to charitable causes we believe in.
We are the parents of three beautiful, happy, well-adjusted children. Our kids were desperately wanted and are deeply loved. They have two devoted, doting parents, including a stay-at-home mother who ensures their childhoods are full of enriching and educational experiences. Contrary to what proponents of Amendment One have been saying, the scientific studies show that we are not the exception: children raised by lesbian parents are just as well-adjusted, and in some cases more so, than children raised by heterosexual parents (link: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1994480,00.html.)
So, when proponents of this Amendment advocate passage of the Amendment on the basis of protecting traditional marriage, I ask: how does my family threaten your marriage? Is your marriage so weak that the existence of a committed gay couple may cause it to crumble? As a family law attorney, I have guided hundreds of clients through the divorce process. I can tell you that not one has cited as the reason for their separation the fact that a gay couple has moved in next door.
The proposed Amendment does not strengthen heterosexual marriage: It does not require all citizens of North Carolina to enter into a heterosexual marriage; It does not bar divorce; It does not provide for mandatory state resources to assist heterosexual marriages that are shaky. It does nothing to actually protect marriage.
This Amendment won’t stop gay couples from existing, from being committed to each other, from loving each other just as fiercely as straight couples do, and from raising children together.
What the Amendment does do is send a message to all LGBT citizens in North Carolina that we are less-than, that we are not wanted as citizens of this State.
A vote for Amendment One is not a vote for marriage; It is a vote against love. For my family and for yours, I urge you to vote against the Amendment on May 8.