A meeting of the minds, Part II – Marriage Equality

Pam Spaulding, the wonderful, prolific blogger she is, took great notes (yeah, something I didn’t do). She says this about our short marriage equality discussion at the NCDP Progressive Bloggers Conference (see my thoughts on it in the previous post):

The NC marriage amendment — alarming news

[Stephen Gheen of ThePoliticalJunkies.net] raised an important issue regarding committee reform in the House. Progressive forces have taken issue with bills that have been bottled up in committee and now, with a strong Dem majority, it’s possible that reform on that front will ensure that a constitutional amendment bill will make it out of committee and to a vote — and it will most certainly pass if that is the case.

In essence, progressive forces will inadvertently ensure that our civil rights will be determined at the ballot box — gays will have be tossed under the bus in the Tar Heel state by the Democratic Party.

I asked Harrell if he would vote for a state amendment to ban gays and lesbians from marrying — he said no.

Participating in this conversation and thinking about the prospect of a marriage amendment bill coming to a vote (and most certainly passing). Appalling. What a tragedy it would be that reform under Dem control would result in gay Tarheels’ civil rights tossed aside, particularly because of the amount of time, effort and money that gay and lesbian North Carolinians have given to elect Democrats in this state.

An education campaign (for our legislators and voters) is necessary, and addressing the religion issue head-on is absolutely part of it — there are progressive people of faith who can speak out on this issue. Also, we live in a state with a massive number of employers with progressive policies that include anti-discrimination measures and partner benefits for their gay employees. Discrimination is bad for recruitment, bad for retention and bad for business. A marriage amendment in NC will drive business away.

I noted on DKos that those with little exposure to a sane discussion about marriage equality are behind the times, and clearly unaware of how to begin an honest debate; I mentioned in the thread what I’ve said here — it boils down to a lawmaker’s ability to answer the question:

Is it appropriate for the people of North Carolina to determine the civil rights of their fellow citizens by direct vote at the ballot box?

Appeals to voters based on “fairness” to gays and lesbians has proven to be unsuccessful, as we saw in Wisconsin, so it will be a hard slog to stop an amendment here if it proceeds. You best believe I’ll stay on top of this development.

You’d best believe I’ll be right there with Pam, staying on top of this threat. Stephen is right, I believe. A reform in the way the House currently works WILL, without a doubt, lead to a higher, more dangerous chance of that amendment getting out of control. Jerry Meek relayed to me after the meeting that he doesn’t share the same concerns about the amendment getting out of control. He noted that the North Carolina Senate isn’t planning on changing its rules or set up. In short: Jerry Meek doesn’t think the amendment, even if it does get past the House, will succeed in the Senate.

All of this, however, hangs on the Senate’s ability to keep the amendment right where it belongs: A dead-end committee. If the Senate fails to keep the amendment from passing, we all know that it will pass because “His Excellency,” Governor Mike Easley has already noted he’d support such an amendment and everyone already knows that it would probably pass, by large margins, when voted on by all North Carolinians.

On this note, Pam makes a great point: Is it appropriate for the people of North Carolina to determine the civil rights of their fellow citizens by direct vote at the ballot box?

This answer is simple: NO! Civil and human rights mustn’t be allowed to be determined by the whim of public opinion. That is not how our country works and that is not how our Founding Fathers designed our nation. Just look at the way the U.S. Congress gets elected and put into their positions on a rotating election schedule. House and Senate elections vary and there will never be a time when the entire Congress, including both the Senate and House, are replaced. The reason behind it is simple: The whim of public opinion isn’t always right. Sometimes it is based on nothing more than fear or lack of knowledge on any given issue. Making drastic changes to government or its policies based simply upon how the mass of people feel on any given day would have huge effects for us down the road.

All of this reasoning is the same for why the civil rights of entire communities of people should not be something placed on a ballot. Given that the People of North Carolina may feel as though gay marriage is wrong now, what promise do we have that people will take the time to change the Constitution if their minds should change later? And, why should how the majority feels dictate what a minority has access to? Didn’t we learn this lesson with slavery, suffrage and Jim Crow?

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