Marriage amendment debate

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
County commissioners voted unanimously Monday to support legislation seeking a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment declaring marriage between a man and woman the only legally recognized union.
Commissioners stayed away from the debate over homosexuality that fueled some of the debate among those attending the meeting and picketing outside.
Instead, commissioners said the citizens of North Carolina have a right to vote on amending the State Constitution just as as voters in 30 other states have done thus far.
The controversial topic initially had been part of the commissioners’ consent agenda ó items typically approved without discussion. With abundant interest in debating the matter clear, Chairman Carl Ford apologized for putting it on the consent agenda, calling it a rookie mistake.
But commissioners moved the resolution from the consent agenda at the outset of the meeting and discussed it following nearly and hour of public debate.
More than a hundred people jammed into the meeting room and an adjacent overflow area. Outside the County Administrative Office Building, supporters carried large signs. Some exchanged quotes of Biblical verses with those opposing the resolution.
On the inside, speakers were almost equally divided among those urging the county to avoid getting involved and those attacking homosexuality.
Adam Tennant, of Kannapolis, equated homosexuality with a rotting corpse, calling it “a sin against almighty God.”
Garland Faw was among several speakers from Kannapolis supporting the resolution. Faw, the longtime pastor of Truth Temple Baptist Church, said same-sex marriage is “the prime agenda of the homosexual movement.”
Ante Parkovic, of Davidson, drew loud applause criticizing other speakers for comparing the struggle of homosexuals to gain civil rights with those of women and blacks. “These are wolves in sheep’s clothing – (let’s) not call evil good – don’t listen to it.”
Others called on commissioners to take no action on the resolution.
Rod Goins, of Salisbury, said the civil rights of a minority should never be decided by a majority vote.
Retired minister Robert Freeman, also of Salisbury, called the resolution unnecessary. He said the state already defines marriage as the union of man and a woman. He added that homosexuals are being vilified and discriminated against.
“This is an inappropriate topic for county commissioners,” Lina Drinkard, of Salisbury, told the board. She added the board is “dividing the citizens of Rowan County. This is not good leadership.”
“This is not the thing to do,” William “Bill” Stanback said. “We elected you to run Rowan County. … This is not within your appointed duties.”
Stanback pointed out that if integration had been put to a vote in the 1960s, it would never have passed.
He talked about his daughter, a lesbian who has a divinity degree and married her companion of 25 years on Valentine’s Day.
Stanback expressed his pride in his daughter and told commissioners the resolution will incite and divide the community.
One by one, commissioners said the resolution is about giving citizens a chance to vote.
Ford noted the bill has never been able to get out of a committee in the General Assembly.
Commissioner Raymond Coltrain said it is his sworn duty as a commissioner to give the public a right to vote.
Vice Chairman Jon Barber and Commissioner Tina Hall sounded similar themes.
Commissioner Chad Mitchell said ultimately, it’s likely the U.S. Supreme Court will decide the issue.
“It’s not a religious issue, it’s public policy,” he said. “Not state or local, it’s a national issue.”
Mitchell added the push by states to adopt constitutional amendments defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman may speed up a Supreme Court ruling.
Commissioners approved a two-page resolution calling on the General Assembly to approve legislation setting a statewide referendum.
State Sens. James Forrester and Jim Jacumin are seeking endorsements from county boards across the state and plan to file a “Defense of Marriage” bill in the General Assembly later this month.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.