A panel of Christian leaders shared how the eyes of the nation will be on North Carolina May 8 when its citizens go to the polls to decide whether marriage will be defined as only between a man and a woman. Panelists contend it is an issue that is more about religious freedom than “gay rights.”
The Marriage Amendment Forum was held March 28 in Binkley Chapel at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. Moderator Mark Harris, president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, said the state has an opportunity that they may never get back.
Although the issue could eventually go before the Supreme Court – as did the abortion issue – Harris said right now North Carolinians can take a stand and help keep marriage from being redefined.
“This time it is a little different,” said Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte, recalling decades of failed efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade. “There’s not a court waiting to make a decision.”
“Thank God that He raised up in our state legislature a majority that would put it on the ballot … for the citizens of this state to go to the polls and determine the answer to how marriage will be defined.”
This year, in addition to North Carolina, the issue will be on the ballots of other states around the country. Those states and the justices of the Supreme Court will be watching to see where North Carolina – the first state this year to vote on marriage – falls on this issue, said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
“If the people speak in North Carolina – and in the other states – and affirm marriage being between a man and a woman, I believe that it will tip the balance of the Supreme Court to reject trying to foist by judicial imperialism same-sex marriage on a populace that is clearly opposed to it,” Land said.
“If we lose,” he added. “They will exercise their judicial imperialism. That’s what’s at stake.”
Land and other panelists said the issue is not about “sexual freedom” or “gay rights” or “live and let live.”
It’s about religious freedom, said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, an organization that focuses on promoting faith, family and freedom.
“What people don’t realize is that gay marriage means the beginning of the end of religious freedom,” she said.
“When marriage is redefined in a state to become generalist, there are legal consequences for anyone who disagrees with it,” she explained.
“What happens is there is a sea change of law … everything from property rights, to inheritance laws have to be changed because the assumption that there underlies them is that marriage is between one man and one woman.”
Many Christian ministries in some states – where gay marriage is legal – are already feeling the impact.
In New Jersey, a Methodist church camp had to close three weeks ago after a lesbian couple sued the camp because they were not allowed to be married on the grounds. The couple won their case, which forced the camp to choose their religious convictions over continuing to operate and allow same-sex marriage ceremonies.
“The court said the [state’s] constitution allows some intrusion into religious freedom to balance other important societal goals,” Fitzgerald said.
Some Catholic charities have also chosen to close their doors because they refused to allow gay couples to adopt from their organization.
During the forum, speakers also shared how the opposition to the marriage amendment is trying to take the focus off protecting marriage and put the focus on claims that it will take health care away from children, prevent private companies from offering domestic partner benefits or weaken domestic violence laws. Many of these claims, the panel says, are blatantly false.
Fitzgerald referenced a political ad that features Clay Aiken, a former American Idol contestant.
“He’s in front of a playground, and he says if Amendment One passes, … some of these children behind [him] will lose their healthcare benefits,” Fitzgerald said.
“He never once mentions the word ‘marriage’… ‘heterosexual’ or ‘homosexual family,’” she said.
“They are deliberately calling it Amendment One to divorce it from marriage so that the average person out in the public won’t know this amendment is about marriage. The amendment is about protecting marriage.”
N.C. House Majority Leader Paul “Skip” Stam, a member of Apex Baptist Church in Apex, said many opponents leave out the full text of the amendment which refutes some of their claims that he refers to as “baseless.”
To learn more read a recent column written by Stam that was published in the Biblical Recorder’s March 17 issue.
“What you need to know is that proponents of same-sex marriage are well organized, well funded, and they are relentless,” added Kenyn Cureton, vice president for church ministries at the Family Research Council. “They will not stop until we rise up, speak the truth in love and stop them – and do it together.”
He challenged pastors and church leaders who are for the amendment to work together, to stay focused through prayer, and to preach on what the Bible has to say about this issue.
“Don’t ever think that your influence is insignificant,” he said. “You as pastors, as ministers of the gospel, can make a positive difference … being the salt and the light here in North Carolina.”
For more information on this issue, related guest columns and stories, check out the upcoming issue of the Biblical Recorder or click here to access the Recorder’s Marriage Amendment page.