NC bishops oppose "Amendment One"

Three Episcopal bishops in North Carolina have released a joint letter in opposition to a state constitutional amendment that would define marriage as existing only "between one man and one woman" and would effectively outlaw other forms of domestic partnership within the state.

"Bishop Michael B. Curry, Diocese of North Carolina,  Bishop Clifton Daniel, III, Diocese of East Carolina, and Bishop G. Porter Taylor, Diocese of Western North Carolina, co-authored the joint letter to provide context for their stance against the amendment and to encourage clergy to study what they see as likely impacts should the amendment pass.

‘We oppose Amendment One because the love of God and the way of love that has been revealed in Jesus of Nazareth compels us to do so. We oppose Amendment One because every time we baptize someone in the Episcopal Church, the entire congregation vows to ‘strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.’ We oppose Amendment One because it is unjust and it does not respect the dignity of every human being in the state of North Carolina. If passed, it will harm not only law-abiding gay and lesbian citizens but other men, women and innocent children in our state,’ reads one excerpt from the letter."

More coverage from Episcopal News Service here.

Individual statements regarding Amendment One by the bishops, audio interviews and other resources are linked from this page on the Diocese of North Carolina's website.

The text of the letter by the bishop's follows

Dear People of God:

We write to you today as the Bishops Diocesan of the three Dioceses of The Episcopal Church in North Carolina to share our opposition to the state's proposed constitutional amendment, Senate Bill 514, also known as Amendment One. We do so as followers of Jesus Christ, as Bishops in The Episcopal Church, and as citizens of our state and nation.

We oppose Amendment One because the love of God and the way of love that has been revealed in Jesus of Nazareth compels us to do so. We oppose Amendment One because every time we baptize someone in The Episcopal Church, the entire congregation vows to "strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being."* We oppose Amendment One because it is unjust and it does not respect the dignity of every human being in the State of North Carolina. If passed, it will harm not only law-abiding gay and lesbian citizens but other men, women and innocent children in our state. We bid you to hear our plea and, with prayerful consideration, to study the amendment and its potential impact on people. Any and all of the potential outcomes listed below may occur as a result of the passage of this amendment.

Amendment One states, "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State." While it is commonly thought that Amendment One is meant only to prevent homosexual marriage, almost 90 percent of the 222,832 North Carolina couples who would be immediately affected by this legislation are heterosexual couples who, for whatever reason, are not legally married.** If it passes, Amendment One would likely outlaw legal protection for all unmar­ried couples. They could lose health care, retirement benefits, hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights and Social Security benefits. Nine municipalities in our state currently offer family benefits for unmarried employees, and these protections would almost certainly disappear under the amendment.
The amendment would also directly impact the children of these couples. It's estimated that 89,537 of the aforementioned families include at least one child.** Unmarried couples who seek to adopt children might no longer qualify as a family. The grandparents of children whose parents are unmarried may no longer legally qualify as part of the family. Parental visitation and custody rights for unmarried couples, which were put in place solely for the benefit of children, may end.

In addition, parents who are victims of domestic violence and their children may lose the legal protections they currently have under domestic violence laws because the parents are not legally married. This has al­ ready happened in Ohio where domestic violence convictions have been overturned or dismissed because of similar legislation.

These are just some examples of the potential consequences and impacts of Amendment One. There is much more that is uncertain and unknown. It is highly irresponsible to amend the Constitution of the State of North Carolina when the extent of negative impact on the lives of law-abiding citizens is unknown.

We have included online educational resources for you as you give this your prayerful and careful consider­ation.
Whether we agree or disagree with same-sex marriage, civil unions or unmarried couples cohabitating, we can agree as people of faith that, as the book of Genesis says, all human beings are created in the "image of God." That means that all persons are to be treated with the love, respect and dignity that befit a child of God. Therefore, we do not believe that the Bible or the Constitutions of our state and nation should be used to oppress, harm or restrict the human rights and dignity of any human being. On the contrary, Jesus has taught us that the greatest and most important of all the commandments of God are to love God and to love our neighbor.

"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40)

Amendment One falls dangerously short of that standard.

Comments (11)

Like the bishops in my state of residence, I oppose the "marriage amendment" being forced down our throats by the religious right in the Bible Belt. However, I was riding to a baseball game last week and saw a sign on the marquee of a fundamentalist church along the way: "Vote for Amendment One." I remarked to my companion that I am offended when churches make politics so openly their business. Thus, I am also offended that our bishops have been so public in their advocacy.

In fact, my opposition to the amendment is purely on the basis of my understanding of a constitutional form of government: Laws like this one have no place in a constitution. I'm not sure where I stand on the issue of gay marriage. I might support some form of civil union; however, although I won't make the gaffe of suggesting that scripture opposes gay marriage, I know that tradition does, and I am pretty sure that reason would do the same.

Thank you NC bishops!

Eric

Especially pertinent to Episcopalians in North Carolina,but perhaps of interest to other states dealing with this same nation-wide effort, the following is a video of two highly respected Charlotte Episcopalians:Russell and Sally Robinson - Republicans, philanthropists and esteemed attorney. Russell's grandfather was the principal draftsman of the NC Constitution into which Amendment One attempts to inject an exclusionary provision:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrNCGn0fz50

I remarked to my companion that I am offended when churches make politics so openly their business. Thus, I am also offended that our bishops have been so public in their advocacy.

I am proud of my bishops and my church. Standing up for the least among us is a Gospel value. To shy away from that because doing so can be labeled "political" would be the worst form of moral cowardice--and a direct denial of Jesus' injunction to us to love and care for our neighbors.

Would you condemn those bishops who stood/stand against racism? What about the bishops who advocate for legislation to protect the poor, immigrants, the disabled, and children? Or is it just that this issue is somehow "different"?

This amendment is not even about marriage equality--that is prohibited by NC law already. This is about an intentional attempt to inflict harm on an oppressed minority. Given that the amendment's authors have explicitly framed their efforts in a Christian context, it would be reprehensible for Christians--even bishops!--who disagree to remain silent. Doing so would make us all complicit in the harm this amendment will inflict.

Paige Baker
Communicant in the Diocese of North Carolina

I believe it's a different issue entirely, as do many others in this country. I'm not ashamed to say that. I'm not saying no one should stand up for what is right, but allow others' consciences to guide them as well, even if they don't land on the particular side you want them to.

Nicole--I don't see anything in the bishops' statement that requires those on the other side to vote against the amendment. Unlike the RCC, we don't have bishops threatening parishioners with excommunication for failing to vote the way they want us to.

What you do in the voting booth is between you and God. But the bishops are shepherds of the entire flock--and they are right to note that this amendment is harmful and violates our baptismal vows. If that makes you uncomfortable---it should.

Paige, the bishops of course have a right to their opinion. I just happen to disagree with them.

My only objection to the bishops' statement is that implicit in their pronouncement is the idea that their views are those of the Church with a capital C. I am proud to belong to the same church as Gary Gloster, who publicly protested the death penalty, but I wouldn't be so proud had he given a sermon about it. The people in the pews should be given the honor of voting their conscience, especially on topics about which virtuous people can disagree. There are, as I'm sure you know, many bishops who stood (and stand) against the consecration of V. Gene Robinson.

Nicole, you frequently say this: "You're entitled to your opinion."

Can you not see that we're NOT talking about opinions here? We're talking about rights.

If you think someone's going to hell for being gay (in a spousal relationship), THAT is your opinion. As it it theirs, that they are blessed thereby. Blessing/Damning: matter of opinion.

YOU may go to your county courthouse, w/ your opposite-sex fiance, and get a civil marriage license---and all the 1000+ legal benefits that go w/ it. That same-sex couple, by your electoral Power-Over, are turned away, and denied. Different rights: qualitatively different, than mere "opinion".

Don't try to the change-the-subject, and be above-it-all, w/ a conversation-ending "you're entitled to..." YOU have decided that (for example) *I* am NOT "entitled to". That's the cold, hard fact.

JC Fisher

I know I frequently say it, because it's the truth: it does boil down to a matter of opinion. My bishops here in the DioLA have their right to their opinions as well on social issues, as do my own priests, and I frequently go against what they say in the voting booth. I also think it's past time that people bother adhering to the rest of the baptismal covenant rather than just those last sentences.

Communicant in good standing in the Diocese of Western North Carolina. And I will vote "no" on this amendment for all of the reasons expressed in the bishops' letter and because as an American citizen it is way above my pay grade to acquiesce to depriving other citizen to the rights to which they are equally entitled.

Add your comments

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Reminder: At Episcopal Café, we hope to establish an ethic of transparency by requiring all contributors and commentators to make submissions under their real names. For more details see our Feedback Policy.

Advertising Space