From the (Greensboro, NC) News & Record of Sunday, October 16, 2011
For the record, it should be noted that a majority of the Republican-controlled legislature did not vote in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage; rather, the majority voted to allow us—the voters—to decide the question. Yet, since mid-September, the assembly’s action has been denounced in the media as mean-spirited, stupid, bigoted, un-American, benighted, ugly, discriminatory, reprehensible, extreme, and of course, homophobic.
Rhetorical questions arise: Why has there been no outcry from those among us who blather on and on about diplomacy, coalition-building, unity, and consensus? Why have there been so few, if any, condemnations of such “harsh” and “divisive” language? Where are the self-proclaimed champions of “democracy” who, in other contexts, insist on a vote of the people? Alas, the questions are rhetorical because the answers are obvious.
Incidentally, gay marriage is constitutionally banned in thirty states. Are we to believe, as the writers above suggest, that the majority of citizens in the majority of states are stupid, bigoted homophobes?
At least we can rest assured that objective journalists will report the story fairly. On September 15, for example, the headline of an Associated Press article screamed, “GOP gets slammed for the 3-day session.” The first sentence of the article delivered the straight-down-the-middle, objective fact that “the Republican majority took criticism from all fronts for getting a constitutional question on gay marriage on the ballot next spring,” among other things. This is, of course, factually incorrect. Among social conservatives—which are, as far as AP writers are concerned, as alien as extraterrestrial beings–the assembly’s move drew robust applause.
The AP delivered another straight-down-the-middle, objective piece of journalism on Oct. 1. The headline reads, “NC poll: Majority oppose ban on same-sex marriage.” Not until the third paragraph does the AP grudgingly concede that the Elon University poll in question “doesn’t suggest whether the constitutional amendment will pass or fail when voters decide in May because [the poll] doesn’t survey eligible or likely voters.” The headline, then, is misleading, at best.
Equally misleading, and often downright flimsy, have been the arguments of those who oppose the amendment. In a September op-ed, Bob Page of Replacements Ltd. wrote about the amendment, “I do not know what the outcome of a vote might be, but I am sure that the lead-up will be ugly and divisive, a black eye on our state.”
By the same logic, we never should have engaged, a half-century ago, in the debate over civil rights, which was indeed “ugly and divisive, a black eye on our state.” Must we avoid working toward a resolution of all potentially inflammatory issues? If so, we will resolve virtually nothing.
Many writers have pointed out, correctly, that gay marriage is already prohibited in North Carolina. Consequently, they argue, an amendment is unnecessary, and the general assembly is simply being mean-spirited and bigoted, lashing out at the gay and lesbian community. But this argument won’t work, either: A few years ago, gay marriage was prohibited in Iowa, until state judges overturned the law and imposed same-sex marriage on unsuspecting Iowans.
Governor Perdue says she opposes the amendment because it will cause North Carolina to lose jobs, but there is no evidence to support her claim. Quite the contrary: Washington, D.C. allows same-sex marriage, but its unemployment rate is 11.1 percent; North Dakota does not allow gay marriage, but its unemployment rate is only 3.5 percent. Rhode Island allows same sex marriage, and its unemployment rate is 10.6 percent; Louisiana prohibits same-sex marriage, and its unemployment rate is 7.2 percent.
Opponents of gay marriage often buttress their arguments with Biblical passages, which are not only unlikely to persuade gay rights activists, but also certain to draw spittle-sprayed rebuttals from enraged moral anarchists. Equally persuasive, yet less alienating is the concept of natural law, which forbids homosexual acts.
Natural law is the accumulated wisdom of centuries of human experience. It has been defended and championed by the likes of Plato, Cicero, Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, Blackstone, Thomas Jefferson, Edmund Burke, and Russell Kirk. Natural law, Blackstone wrote, “is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, and all countries, and at all times; no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this.”
It may be perceived in some quarters as mean-spirited and extreme to say so, but attempting to overthrow centuries of accumulated wisdom in order to implement a sudden, radical change in society—such as gay marriage—is a breathtaking act of arrogance.
Charles Davenport Jr. (firstname.lastname@example.org) appears in the News & Record the first and third Sundays of every month.