Marriage Amendment Fight Crucial for Genuine Conservatives

With a controversial ballot question looming, some on the right have raised the plaintive cry that conservatives should shun “social issues.” But those issues aren’t distractions; they are instead an integral part of the  bedrock on which the whole conservative movement rests.

The social-issue debate within the North Carolina conservative movement and the Republican Party has been heated up by an amendment to the state constitution that would add the following language:

Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.  This Section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.

What has happened during the campaign leading up to the May 8 election is a number of self-avowed conservatives have come out against the Marriage Amendment. They have done so for various reasons but they have allowed the opposition to say that even “conservatives” are against the amendment.

If we take a step back and look at what conservatives seek to protect in our society and conversely what those seeking to “fundamentally transform” our way of life attack, we narrow it down to three basic pillars: faith, family and free markets.

Protecting free markets finds virtual  universal support from conservatives ranging from libertarians to hard-right conservatives, even when there may be disagreements over what constitutes “free markets.” But what a lot of libertarians and even “fiscal” conservatives miss is the importance of the other two pillars – faith and family – to the proper functioning of a free society.

Why a problem with protecting faith and family? There are a lot of people uncomfortable talking about these topics. Remember the old taboo that you don’t discuss sex, religion or politics in polite company. When you bring up social issues you are usually talking about all three!

But there is another type of conservative politician who doesn’t want to talk about them — the figure who really does not support the commonly held conservative position on these issues. To talk about them and possibly vote on them means that they have to go on record, and some politicos want to avoid that at all costs.

And this is where we find ourselves with the Marriage Amendment. A number of public figures are revealing their feelings on the Marriage Amendment — and possibly giving an indication of how they feel on other social issues. By doing so they show they are out of the mainstream of what not only the majority of their party supports, but also what a majority of the voting population supports.

Why should this be important to fiscal conservatives? Looking at polling data we see a majority of voters generally in support of conservative positions on the big social issues like abortion and gay marriage. If we look at where those same social conservatives stand on fiscal issues, they overwhelmingly fall on what would be considered the conservative side on values such as limited government, low taxes and less spending.

Looking at polling data and the minority that call themselves “liberal” on social issues, we find those voters are overwhelmingly liberal on economic issues, preferring higher taxes, more government and more regulation. While there are exceptions within both groups, the numbers make a good case for saying that most social conservatives are economic conservatives and most social liberals are economic liberals in the meaning of those words in today’s political debates.

By making cause with social liberals, economic conservatives are also weakening the case for social conservatives to partner with them on economic issues. It is not a one-way street.

It is also important in light of recent attacks on faith and family to ensure that those institutions are protected from attack by government. And attack from the government is what we are talking about with the Marriage Amendment. By putting this in the state constitution we are ensuring that no state judges will try to redefine marriage in North Carolina, just as they have in almost every other state where the issue first was brought up.

Looking at what has happened in other states where the constitutional protection does not exist is instructive. The government quickly goes from being neutral in the discussion to being an advocate for something that is hostile to most mainstream religions and most families. While faith and family may have teachings and opinions on these issues, it is hard for them to compete with state-mandated education in public schools when gay marriage or other divisive social issues are imposed on a state.

A final word for those who think by opposing the amendment they are helping to end this “divisive” social battle: Do not deceive yourself. If this amendment is defeated it is not the end, it will be merely the opening round in a much more divisive and bitter struggle that will envelop North Carolina.

Francis De Luca is president of the Civitas Institute

This article was posted in Life & Family Issues by Francis De Luca on May 1, 2012 at 3:52 PM.

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Comments on this article

  • 1

    George May 02, 2012 at 7:48

    Social issues may be the, so called “bedrock” for some (perhaps many) conservatives who no doubt form a philosophically strong base of the party in some regions of the country. From my perspective, those issues are more the “stumbling block” issues for Republicans gaining in voter strength and for acquiring the cross-over and independent votes we need to elect Republicans to office. I strongly believe that our fate will be linked to the message often heard; “It’s the economy…stupid” and not on pushing issues that turn supporters (and potential supporters) toward the opposition. We are a much better party when we use our logical arguments for growing the economy, reducing the debt and decreasing the size of government, than when we use emotional, in-your-face social arguments that often do not have broad appeal and will not help us gain strength for the future. We shot ourselves in the foot in ’08 because McCain wasn’t “conservative enough” for some Republicans and look what we got. Have we learned anything?

  • 2

    D J Register
    D J Register May 02, 2012 at 8:46

    In 2006, a North Carolina Log Cabin Republican, member of a national Republican gay/lesbian rights organization, started the first “Civitas” in NC at Copying the concept, the John William Pope organization later was formed; sadly without giving credit to the homosexual inspiration for the concept.

    It appears that the “bedrock” of which De Luca speaks, actually is grounded in the conservative values of gay Republicans.

    De Luca has accepted contributions from Log Cabin Republicans ever since.

  • 3

    Ben Perry, Jr.
    Ben Perry, Jr. May 02, 2012 at 8:49

    Thank you Francis!

    When you state “Looking at what has happened in other states where the constitutional protection does not exist is instructive”, you expose actions in those states that violate the First Amendment to the United States constitution. As you continue to reveal that “the government quickly goes from being neutral in the discussion to being an advocate for something that is hostile to most mainstream religions and most families” you expose the reality of judicial legislation. Your statement that “While faith and family may have teachings and opinions on these issues, it is hard for them to compete with state-mandated education in public schools when gay marriage or other divisive social issues are imposed on a state” you adequately make the case that this issue is as much about the First Amendment to the United States Constitution as it is to protecting the sanctity of marriage.

    If Congress can be prohibited from the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion or impeding the free exercise of religion, then for North Carolina to have an amendment that provides protection on a highly religious issue, the approval of Amendment 1 is proper and necessary.

  • 4

    Chesley James Gassett
    Chesley James Gassett May 02, 2012 at 8:53


    Really? I have a lot of respect for your tenacious work. But really? This is what you think?


  • 5

    David Bass
    David Bass May 02, 2012 at 10:27

    Great points, Francis. I agree entirely.

  • 6

    Steve Harrison
    Steve Harrison May 02, 2012 at 10:50

    “Why a problem with protecting faith and family?”

    Because those are both personal issues, Francis. True Conservatives (and especially Libertarians) don’t want anybody telling them how they should worship or how they should raise their families, so they don’t need or want “protection” in that area.

    And they definitely don’t want their Constitution to be used as a tool to force or restrict behavior, based on other people’s view of faith and family values, even if that view is held by a majority. Especially if that view is held by a majority. That last part is the antithesis of true Libertarianism.

  • 7

    Johanna Hug
    Johanna Hug May 02, 2012 at 11:22

    I am really tired of being forced to always be policitically correct when it comes to religious and family values. One of the issues – to choose between the word “marriage” and what a gay union really is “civil union”. I sympathize with and have no problem with two people (whatever their sex is) to have the protection that every “married man and woman” enjoy. They should and deserve to be able to make health decisions for each other and receive any other legal benefits. So why can’t we be honest about the situation – designate a “marriage” between a man and a woman and a “civil union” between any other combination. Problem solved!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 8

    Elvishimselvis May 02, 2012 at 12:41

    Seriously? You truly believe this nonsense you just posted?

  • 9

    John May 02, 2012 at 12:43

    Seriously? So what is conservative about passing an amendment that will cost taxpayers untold millions of dollars to defend in court?

  • 10

    gfreeman May 02, 2012 at 12:52

    U mad bro?

  • 11

    LkNmn May 02, 2012 at 13:47

    The United States Constitution establishes the principle of Equal Protection under the Law for all its’ citizens… not just the ones that a few, “man-made” religious types approve of. This is an issue of civil rights. Nothing more. The approval of this amendment will constitute a blatant act of discrimination against a certain class of persons that are entitled to equal protection under the law.

    I for one, do not suppport the amendment and will be voting “No” on May 8th! It’s unfortunate that we are even having this discussion in the 21st century…

  • 12

    KAREN MCDANIEL May 02, 2012 at 13:47

    As for me and my house we will stand for what our Lord has put together. Thank you for making the case that some politicans want to straddle the fence and not take a stand. For all those that don’t see the train coming if this amendment does not pass don’t be too surprised when you get run over by it. Conservatives are being forced to put an amendment in our constitution because others won’t stop until they change everything to fit their agendas. We must stand up to this kind of bulling and make note of those who don’t have the courage to do so. Just be ready to answer why you did not see it fit to vote FOR the marriage amendment when you have to explain yourselves.

  • 13

    Jim Stegall
    Jim Stegall May 02, 2012 at 17:08

    What is “conservative” about government deciding which religious views should be enforced by state action? If support for amendment one is truly a conservative position, why not a law demanding church attendance on Sundays? No, the conservative position is to keep the government out of the business of interpreting scripture and confine its activities to those few (few) things it can actually do with some competence. If government must recognize and promote civil unions between men and women (traditional marriage), let it be because of the benefits such unions bring to society. And let it apply the same standard to civil unions between those of the same sex.

  • 14

    Bill Farrissey
    Bill Farrissey May 02, 2012 at 17:49

    Has anyone addressed the tax issues of this. Without the amendment, would gay couples be eligible to file jointly?

  • 15

    Jim Stegall
    Jim Stegall May 02, 2012 at 20:04

    Well they can’t now. I can’t see how the defeat of this amendment would change any of that.

    On the other hand I suspect that if we were to recognize gay couples via a civil unions statute they would form more stable, long lasting unions, work longer at the same jobs, thus earning more and paying more in taxes, buy rather than rent, have fewer run-ins with the law, and because they do not bring more children into the world would do all this at a lower societal cost than the average mixed-gender couple.

    So why aren’t we conservatives in favor of civil unions?

  • 16

    Anne Whipple
    Anne Whipple May 02, 2012 at 23:24

    My family agrees with Francis De Luca and Karen McDaniel. Well written. Keep the faith.

  • 17

    Jo May 02, 2012 at 23:37

    Thank you, Mr. De Luca, for citing some of the good reasons to support the Marriage Amendment. Instead of conjecture or superficial claims, we can profitably look to the experience of other states, plus excellent scholarship from both science and the humanities to make the case for marriage. It is no secret that the states with marriage protection amendments in their constitutions are attracting business, and states with civil unions and partnerships for samesex couples are not. Maggie Gallagher has made an excellent economic case for marriage as public policy. Let’s hope we will see more substantive reports from Civitas on the matter.

  • 18

    Trish May 03, 2012 at 11:31

    Comment #7 said, “So why can’t we be honest about the situation – designate a “marriage” between a man and a woman and a “civil union” between any other combination?”

    See Spring issue of Family North Carolina on “The Changing Definition of Parenthood”:

    “…civil union and domestic partnerships are ultimately a Trojan Horse for same-sex “marriage.”

    Also see story of Dawn Stefanowicz who grew up with a homosexual father:

  • 19

    Jim Stegall
    Jim Stegall May 03, 2012 at 13:08

    Married gay couples (or those whose domestic partnerships are legally recognized) make better citizens and are more of an asset to their communities than gays who are left by law in a perpetually ‘single’ status. Since there will always be gay people among us, and they cannot be changed (despite what some discredited zealots say), doesn’t it make more sense to adopt rules that encourage gay people to live as normal and productive citizens? This can easily be done without harming marriage as a social or religious institution in the slightest. A civil unions law would give gay people an incentive to settle down, work hard, obey the law, and be productive members of society just like our laws regarding traditional marriage do for everyone else. That is simply good, conservative public policy.

    As for horror stories about growing up with a bad gay parent, surely we conservatives are smarter than that. Bad parents come in every shape, size, color, gender, and sexual orientation.

  • 20

    Andrew May 03, 2012 at 15:13

    Hey Francis,

    If you polled your office, how many people would vote for/against the amendment? Just curious how many Civitas staffers aren’t “genuine” conservatives.

  • 21

    Meredith Eugene Hunt
    Meredith Eugene Hunt May 07, 2012 at 7:28

    Why is it that virtually everything that opponents of the Marriage Protection Amendment say against it is untrue? For example, they claim that it will ban “civil unions.” It doesn’t ban them, rather, it says that marriage between a man and a woman is the only civil union that will be recognized.

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