Thursday, February 2, 2012

Miffed about the Media and the Marriage Amendment

I’m miffed at the local media over the way they have framed the upcoming North Carolina vote on Amendment 1. And I’m getting miffeder and miffeder with each day that passes. So much so that, for the first time in my life, I actually wrote a letter to the editor of The Charlotte Observer. Here’s my beef.

Every time they print a news article about Amendment 1, it is called the “Gay Marriage Ban” or the “Amendment to Prohibit Same-gender Marriage.” By continuing to label the amendment as such, the Observer and other so-called news sources are distorting the truth and unduly influencing the way the public views the amendment. The implication is that in May we will be voting on whether or not to approve same-gender marriages. Don’t believe that. It’s a big fat lie.

If you’re interested in learning the facts, and not just the media’s spin on things, here’s how Amendment 1 is worded: "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State." This amendment affects all couples who are not married. Yes, that includes same-gender couples who might like to marry, but are already prohibited to do so by North Carolina law (and don’t need a constitutional amendment to tell them what they already know). But it also affects opposite-gender couples who are unmarried. Although the state may allow them to be married, some choose not to marry for a variety of reasons.

I’ve known older, retired couples who can’t marry because one of them would lose a pension and they couldn’t afford to live on the reduction in income. I’ve also known heterosexual couples who have refused to marry, out of principle, until all couples are allowed to marry. But whatever their reasons, the fact is, they also will be affected by this amendment.

Amendment 1 will affect hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians: both gay and straight couples, both adults and children. It threatens child custody laws, domestic violence laws, domestic partner benefits, and end-of-life directives. The list could go on and on. It says that the only couples who are protected under the law are men and women who are married.

I would call this the “Discrimination Amendment”, but you won’t see that in any of the headlines of the Charlotte Observer. If I sound angry, I am. I’m miffed at the media for distorting the truth, although I realize they didn’t create it.

I can’t understand how those who represent us in Raleigh allowed this to happen. The constitution isn’t intended to prescribe discrimination against a certain group of people, is it? And now they think it will be helpful to take it to the masses, to put it to a vote? As if we weren’t already polarized enough. It grieves me to the core.

My point is, this is not just about gay marriage. Don't think that when you vote on Amendment 1 you're going to be voting for or against same-gender marriages in North Carolina. In fact, I think it’s very possible to be against gay marriage and oppose this amendment for a variety of reasons: 1)We already have a law that prohibits same gender couples to marry. 2) It is inappropriate as a constitutional amendment. 3) It is allowing discrimination to become the law of the land. 4) It has far-reaching legal implications for ALL domestic partnerships other than those within a marriage. 5) It is wrong for a certain religious group to impose their beliefs on others by making them law. 6) It reflects badly on our state, and that’s bad for business.

I can’t bring myself to think of how the passage of this amendment could affect our state and so many of the families I love. I know that North Carolina is the only Southern state that doesn’t already have such an amendment. (And I’ve been proud of that!) I also know that every time a similar amendment in other states has come before the people for a vote, invariably it has passed. (Although all these amendments are worded differently so people aren’t always voting on the same thing.) And so, it scares me.

If you’ve read this far, you know that I’m an emotional mess over this: I’m angry, I’m grief-stricken, I’m scared. But I also am hopeful. I know that if the people of North Carolina will get off their duffs and vote, and if they are given the facts, all will be well. And that, of course, is why I’m so concerned that they be given the facts and not biased “news” in the media.

I’m praying that we’ll use our heads when we vote on this amendment in North Carolina. And I’m praying that we’ll be the ones who turn the tide on the introduction of fear-based laws that discriminate against those who are not-like-us and threaten the freedom we cherish so much as Americans.


Ruth Ann said...

Thank you for clearly stating what I've been thinking about this amendment.

furrycelt said...

i agree and i share your frustration. however, i am not as hopeful. we live in a broken world. in a broken country. with broken people vying for power in a broken system lead by a broken media.

i don't think we Christians can nor should fix it. though i will still vote. so i guess i am not completely hopeless.

Anonymous said...

Finally, someone who gets this!!! It is a fear based law that will negatively affect the parent/union and the sibling union.

Susan Shackelford, Charlotte said...

Excellent column - thank you for writing it. Too bad all ministers in the state weren't required to read it to their congregations prior to the vote.