Marriage Amendment Deserves Defeat
By Sarah Brown
Special to The Pilot
Terri Phoenix and her wife, Kendra Smith, have shared a life together for many years.
Despite the obstacles they face as residents of a state that doesn't recognize their marriage, they make the best of their situation, working hard to provide a loving and nurturing environment for their young daughter, Duncan.
Phoenix, director of the LGBTQ Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her spouse are legally married in Massachusetts, one of only seven states that consider their union valid.
Currently, Phoenix and her family can receive some benefits as a household unit. But given the looming vote on N.C. Amendment One, a referendum placed on the May 8 primary ballot, Phoenix is worried.
The amendment not only declares that "marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State," but will also take away the benefits equity and protection -currently offered to all households regardless of the legal status of their union.
Duncan is Smith's biological child, and if something were to happen to Smith, Phoenix would have no custody rights under the terms of the amendment. The state would force Duncan into foster care.
Also lost, among other benefits, would be the ability for anyone besides a -married man and woman to add a spouse to state-employee health insurance and to file no-contact orders on an abusive or harassing partner.
"This is treating people differently based on a status that has no government interest in being regulated," Phoenix said last week at an anti-amendment rally at UNC-CH.
She emphasized that these claims are based on an academic legal analysis conducted recently by law professors at UNC-CH.
"It's all factual; these will be the impacts," she said.
Before thoughtlessly casting their vote to amend the N.C. Constitution, people need to realize that there is no rational or ethical reason to enact this broad and harmful legislation.
Those in favor of the amendment say they only want to protect the longstanding traditional institution of marriage. Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, outlined some of these claims in a statement he released to media two weeks ago.
"Legally recognizing only heterosexual marriage isn't discrimination against homosexuals wanting to marry," he said.
Oh, so offering one group a right and preventing another group who might be of a different nature, race or gender from having that same benefit is not discrimination at all. Glad that was cleared up.
"Marriage between a man and a woman ... has provided the best -environment for the rearing of future citizens [in] North Carolina for at least 340 years," he continued.
Who is Rep. Stam to say that only -heterosexual partners can raise children well? Recent studies, such as the American Psychological Association's "Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children," have found no differences among children's happiness, gender-role behavior, or social relationships whether they were raised in a heterosexual or homosexual household.
"Same-sex marriage is an entirely -different relationship with an entirely different purpose," he claimed.
Gay and lesbian couples are in love, share the same living space, work together to support the household, and raise happy and successful children. Where is the "entirely different -purpose" present here?
There is no empirical evidence that gay and lesbian marriage is an unsafe or irrational institution for child-rearing.
In fact, as Dr. John M. Grohol states, "[Gay] parents may actually help raise more gender-neutral children who are open to more possibilities for their careers and lives."
Amendment One is no more than one group's attempt to deny justice indefinitely to these people because they don't embody "traditional" values.
I understand that some people are uncomfortable with homosexual marriage because of their religion or morals. But even voters who don't fully support gay marriage need to recognize that this legislation does not simply state, as California's Proposition 8 does, that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in [this state]."
The N.C. amendment mandates that this restricted marriage will be the only domestic relationship recognized in the state, making illegal not only same-sex marriage but also any form of state-sanctioned domestic partnership. Not to mention the effect the legislation will have on domestic violence laws and custody rights, among other legal entitlements.
Adults with the right to vote have a duty to be informed. North Carolina voters need to realize that this vaguely worded amendment is much broader and more harmful than most people think. They then need to recognize that the arguments amendment supporters have been using - such as saying that gay parents cannot, in Rep. Stam's words, "provide a stable environment for children" - are baseless and unconstitutionally discriminatory.
As Maxine Eichner, a UNC-CH law professor, pointed out, "When people are educated about the amendment, support tends to drop."
If all of us do our research between now and the May 8 primary, here's hoping North Carolina can stop Amendment One in its tracks before it's too late.
Sarah Brown, a graduate of The O'Neal School in Southern Pines, is a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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