Editorial: Gay marriage: No issue for referendum
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners’ foray into the controversial subject of gay marriage Monday night was pure theater ó full of sound and fury.
Chairman Carl Ford played the lead role, claiming to have made a rookie mistake by putting a resolution concerning this controversial issue on the commission’s consent agenda. Thus he set the stage for the evening’s drama.
His supporting cast included the Rev. Garland Faw, the pastor of Truth Temple Baptist Church who happens to be Ford’s father-in-law. Faw called same-sex marriage “the prime agenda of the homosexual movement.” He was accompanied by a chorus of speakers who searched for words to convey just how despicable they find homosexuality. Someone came up with “rotting corpse.”
This all came about because state Sens. James Forrester of Stanley and Jim Jacumin of Connelly Springs are asking county boards across the state to express support for their “Defense of Marriage” bill, which defines marriage as “the union of one man and one woman at one time.” North Carolina law already denies equal marriage rights. That’s nothing new. This bill would take the issue to the constitutional level ó requiring a public referendum ó and also prohibit recognition of civil unions, domestic partnerships or other such relationships.
The bill has been filed every year since 2004 and died in committee ó it’s that popular.
Ford’s fellow county commissioners were quick to roll over and cite the public’s right to vote as they cast their “yea” votes to the resolution of support. But citizens in the audience were not afraid to speak up. They objected to putting the state bill on the county agenda and to subjecting the rights of a minority to a vote of the majority. Bill Stanback directly addressed the issue of homosexuality, citing his daughter’s longterm lesbian relationship, and warned that the issue would incite and divide the community.
A voter referendum on gay marriage would indeed divide the community, and some say the damage might be done for nothing, since the U.S. Supreme Court would have the final say. To date, courts have been inclined to strike down bans on gay marriage. Let’s hope the U.S. Supreme Court accepts a case that will settle this matter sooner rather than later. Countless gay and lesbian couples already have committed, longterm relationships. If there is a constitutional reason why states should not grant legal status to those relationships, the court should say so.
Until then, skirmishes like the one that played out in Rowan County this week will continue all across the land. County boards have no power over this area of the law, but their chairmen get to set their own agendas ó and consent agendas. The public has its eye on Chairman Ford and his agendas now.