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.”
6. Gay marriage will lead to man-on-dog marriage. Daniel Heimbach, a professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, says voters should approve the amendment because “if marriage is radically redefined as being just a way of affirming private feelings of loving attraction, then equality will require allowing people who love dogs to marry dogs, and people who love ice cream to marry ice cream.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
7. Failure to pass the amendment would be treason against God. At an April 20 rally, David Gibbs, president of the Christian Law Association, told the crowd: “The highest crime that our country has is murder. And the second highest crime is treason. For us not to pass this amendment is treason in God’s court.” Gibbs went on: “If we don’t raise our voice at a moment like this, it is treason in heaven. … We’re betraying the savior who called us.”
8. If we don’t pass the amendment, we’ll lose God’s protection from economic, environmental, and racial disaster. The coalition issues this threat in video featuring a statement from Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz. “I support an amendment to our constitution that would define marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman,” Lotz tells voters. “Because we live in such perilous, unstable times economically, environmentally, politically, globally, racially and even religiously, we need the security that comes from God's protection and blessing. This is not the time to defy Him by flaunting an institution He has clearly ordained, thus provoking His displeasure.”
A homemade video for the amendment delivers a similar message: “People ask me, two gay people getting married, how does it affect me personally? It doesn’t affect me at all. What does affect me as a society [is] losing God’s grace upon this great nation, our state, and our local churches. … I will not take a chance of losing God’s grace upon this great state.”
9. If we don’t pass the amendment, God will strike us down like Sodom. “Several times in the Old Testament, God said to destroy the Sodomites,” Ron Baity, president of Return to America, reminded pastors at a March dinner for the amendment. “I’m not asking us to do that. I’m just telling you what God said.” At the April 20 rally, another minister added: “God told us. If He judged Sodom and Gomorrah, He will judge this nation if we continue on the pathway we are on.”
So get out there and vote, people of North Carolina. Make your decision on fact, not fear. Just don’t undermine our productivity, impoverish our children, sanction bestiality, or risk God’s wrath. You’ll be sorry if you do.
William Saletan's latest short takes on the news, via Twitter: