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OPINION: A Telling Protest of Pastors Against Marriage Equality

By Chris Sgro on 07/17/2014 @ 09:00 AM

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This op-ed was originally printed in the July 17, 2014, edition of the Raleigh News & Observer.

Any day now the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond appears poised to uphold a lower court ruling that would not only topple Virginia’s marriage ban, but could provide precedent to overturn bans on the freedom to marry in multiple states, including North Carolina.

In protest, representatives from the anti-gay, state chapter of the American Pastors Network rallied in Raleigh this week to decry what they called a “judicial coup d etat” that threatens their “hard-fought, traditional marriage victory,” better known as the broadly worded 2012 constitutional rewrite, Amendment One.

The purported purpose for the sparsely attended event? To demand that Gov. Pat McCrory “not capitulate to judicial heresy” and defend Amendment One should the federal appeals courts once again rule in favor of equality.

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CLICK HERE for audio from the NC Pastors Network press conference.

It’s worth pointing out though that the press conference – much like the pro-Amendment One effort itself – seemed as much about political pandering and trotting out half truths than speaking to the most pressing concerns of North Carolinians.

Some of the more specious claims proffered by the presser’s participants, included:

“(Marriage equality) is not a trend of the people but a trend of the courts.” - Former candidate for U.S. Senate and Charlotte reverand, Dr. Mark Harris

Actually, it’s both. Not only have there been 24 consecutive victories for the freedom to marry since June 2013, but support for marriage equality throughout the nation and North Carolina has never been higher. For example, at the time of Amendment One’s passage (May 2012), 53% of North Carolinians supported civil unions and marriage. That number had risen to 63% eight months later in February 2013.

“Courts have put themselves above Almighty God.” – Rev. Mark Creech, Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.

The judges who have ruled on the cases impacting marriage equality have been at every level - from federal to state courts. They are Republican-appointees, Democrat-appointees, liberal and conservative. Regardless of idealogy or past ruling history, each of these judges has upheld that same-sex marriage should be legal. It is a constitutional, American, common-sense issue.

Many people of faith are also supportive of same-sex marriage. There is no "lock" on what religious North Carolinians believe about same-sex marriage. That is why many faith leaders have joined the United Church of Christ and our friends at Campaign for Southern Equality in a suit to protect their religious right to conduct same-sex marriages.

Marriage inequality will mean fewer “government handouts.” – Rev. Patrick Wooden, Upper Room Church of God in Christ

Amid these tales told by press conference speakers — who juxtaposed their event in between where the governor does his business, and where the legislative leadership is currently doing theirs — a more disturbing, narrative was woven.

Again and again speakers like Rev. Creech maligned North Carolina’s sitting Attorney General for not being passionate enough in his defense of what is quickly becoming a Constitutionally indefensible law; they accused the North Carolina NAACP of having “demagogued the issue” for speaking out against Amendment One side-by-side with faith communities all across the state; and they even called into question the conservatism of Republicans who opposed the broadly-worded marriage ban in the first place.

The message seemed clear: if you support the freedom to marry, you could never do your job as an elected official, you could never faithfully represent your community, and you could certainly never call yourself a Republican. Unfortunately for them, more and more moderate leaders in both parties support marriage equality because it is about freedom.

The speakers appeared a bit lost, though, when posed with the question of the day from reporters: Wouldn’t it be a waste of taxpayer dollars and North Carolina resources to defend Amendment One if the 4th Circuit overrules the law?

As Harris returned to the podium to respond, lawmakers inside the nearby General Assembly building were struggling to agree on how exactly we should pay our existing bills, presumably unaware that they might soon be asked to pay for a Supreme Court lawsuit.

But all was not lost. Rev. Creech seemed to encapsulate what can be considered a historic moment when he turned to his small audience to say, “there is no substitute for marriage.”

We couldn’t agree more.

SIGN ON: North Carolina Faith Leaders for the Freedom to Marry

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