Sodom and Greensboro
Vote for North Carolina’s amendment to ban gay marriage, or God will strike you dead.
Opponents of gay marriage at a 2009 rally in San Francisco.
Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images
North Carolina is voting today on a state constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage. Actually, the amendment goes much further. By establishing that “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State,” it would invalidate all civil unions and domestic partnerships, regardless of orientation. If that’s not enough to worry you, opponents of the amendment are using this recorded phone message from Bill Clinton to turn voters against it:
What it will change is North Carolina’s ability to keep good businesses, attract new jobs, and attract and keep talented entrepreneurs. If it passes, your ability to keep those businesses, get those jobs, and get those talented entrepreneurs will be weakened. … Its passage will also take away health insurance from children and could even take away domestic violence protections from women.
The coalition backing the amendment, Vote FOR Marriage NC, is denouncing this scare campaign. The coalition tells voters: “Make your decision on fact and not fear.” But just in case, the coalition and its allies are delivering a scarier message: Vote for the amendment, or you and your state will go to hell. Here’s a rundown of the campaign’s talking points.
1. Gay marriage will eliminate concern for children. “Every child born into a same-sex relationship is intentionally denied the love and affection of one of her biological parents,” the coalition argues. “Under a definition of marriage that is genderless, the interests of children … [are] eliminated entirely. Only the wishes of the two adults in question matter.”
2. Gay marriage will reduce procreation by heterosexual married couples. At a March 28 forum, coalition chairwoman Tami Fitzgerald alleged, “What gay marriage means is that fewer and fewer children are going to be raised by a married mother and father.” Fitzgerald didn’t explain the math or the mechanism. Perhaps some sort of distraction is involved.
3. Gay marriage will impoverish women and kids. According to the coalition, “When marriage ceases to have its historic meaning and understanding, over time fewer and fewer people will marry. We will have an inevitable increase in children born out of wedlock, an increase in fatherlessness, [and] a resulting increase in female and child poverty …” Apparently this is the causal sequence Fitzgerald has in mind: more marriages, therefore fewer marriages, and therefore, more starving children.
4. Gay marriage will destroy freedom. “Gay marriage means the beginning of the end of religious freedom,” Fitzgerald predicted at the March 28 forum. The coalition elaborates:
Those who do not agree with this new definition of marriage … will be punished for their beliefs. … Wedding professionals have been fined for refusing to participate in a same-sex ceremony. Christian innkeepers in Vermont and Illinois are being sued over their refusal to make their facilities available for same-sex weddings … A counselor, for example, could not refuse “marriage therapy” to a same-sex couple because she doesn’t believe in gay marriage. She’d put her licensure at risk.
The coalition offers no evidence or details for these allegations. The two stories I tracked down—the complaints in Vermont and Illinois—are based on public accommodations law, not on marriage law. So I wouldn’t put much stock in the rest of the coalition’s claims.
5. Gay marriage will weaken the economy. In support of the amendment, Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, says “mountains of social science research” show that “the well-being of children, the emotional and physical health of adults, and even the state of our workforce are all tethered in some way to the existence of stable one-man-and-one-woman marriages.” Somehow, gay marriage would undermine this foundation of productivity. The coalition contends: “If anything, the amendment will help our economy. States with a marriage protection amendment in their state constitution are some of our country’s top performing economic states.”
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.