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Everyone Deserves the Freedom to Marry

By Rep. Grier Martin on 08/26/2014 @ 11:00 AM

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Rep. Grier Martin

Rep. Grier Martin is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and a member of the N.C. General Assembly representing the state's 34th House District. He and his wife Louise live in Raleigh. They believe every North Carolinian deserves the freedom to marry. Here's why.

Experience is the preeminent teacher in life. When you decide to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, a simulator can only tell you so much about the experience, it is the first jump that truly teaches you what to expect. The same is true when you take the jump and have your first child. Your parents and books can provide advice, but it sleepless nights and countless visits to the pediatrician with umpteen questions that help you understand what it is to truly be a parent.

The recent 4th Circuit Court decision in Bostic v. Schaefer stated, “The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual’s life. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance.”

My decision to marry was one of the most personal, and important, decision of my life up to that point, as it was the same for my wife. All other decisions that we have made since — whether joining the military, running for elective office, joining the board of community organizations — were driven by our shared desire to serve and build a more equitable North Carolina that works for all of our citizens.

My decision to marry was based on love.

After my wife, Louise, and I were married, experience taught us much about what makes a committed, faithful union, as well as what that union meant for both of our lives. With that knowledge and understanding, we both understand more deeply than ever that our friends who were gay had unions that were as meaningful and committed as ours. It begged the question — when their love was equal to ours, why were they being denied the same legal rights that we had only because we happened to be born straight?

After 9/11, I volunteered for active duty with the Army and served as a paratrooper out of a sense of duty to our country and our freedom. While in the service I met men and women who were willing to die to protect our freedoms — including the freedom to marry — who were unable to have the full range of freedoms that others held dear. This struck my wife and I as deeply unfair. Rarely has this been more evident than in the case of Tracy Dice Johnson, who lost her partner, Donna, to a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, and then was denied death benefits because she lived in North Carolina. While the case was ultimately decided in favor of Tracy, imagine the trauma of having to add concern over benefits on top of an unimaginable loss.

The birth of our daughter, Sara, was ultimately the pivotal moment in how we considered service to our community and the impact that we are trying to have on the future of our state. As do all parents, we began to ask ourselves what kind of world would we leave for Sara and her friends. We hope to see schools that provide more opportunity for each student, universities that are accessible to students from every walk of life, and drinking water free of hazardous chemicals. But my wife and I also believe that it is important that we foster a society that respects the love and commitment of all couples. After all, our children will be looking back at the decisions that we make with the same skeptical eye that we once cast on our own parents and the decisions that they made during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.

On behalf of my family, friends, and my fellow veterans, and for my daughter and her friends, I applaud the Bostic v. Schaefer decision and Attorney General Cooper’s decision to no longer defend the ruling--and urge the Legislature and Governor to follow the lead of the Attorney General in acknowledging that no reasonable legal defense of the misguided “Amendment One” remains following the ruling.

After all, everyone deserves the right to make the personal decision to love — and have the same freedoms and protections as their neighbors, friends, and family.

--Rep. Grier Martin, Raleigh, N.C.

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