FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 7, 2012
For More Information: Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President, 919-394-8137
Mrs. Amina J. Turner, Executive Director, 919-682-4700
The Far Right’s Trick Marriage-Definition Amendment
Puts Matters of Conscience in the Hands of the State
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II
President, North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP
Pastor, Greenleaf Christian Church, Goldsboro, NC
Member, NAACP National Board of Directors, Chair, Political Action Committee
Rev. Dr. Gregory Moss, Sr.
Pastor, St. Paul Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC
For 103 years the NAACP has fought for equal rights for all people. We have always fought against laws that would codify discrimination, hate and division. This is why we say Vote Against the Far Right’s Trick Amendment One on the North Carolina ballot on May 8th.
The NAACP does not have a position on same sex marriage. But we have always held a strong position against laws and constitutional provisions that take away rights of minorities. This Amendment authorizes the government to take legal action in matters of personal conscience. It defines a marriage between a man and a woman as "the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state." By upgrading the state’s existing law against same-sex marriage to a constitutional ban, the Amendment can be used as a basis to prohibit state recognition of other unions, including civil unions and the domestic partnerships now offered to public employees in some municipalities.
Constitutional amendments almost always expand the rights of people against the power of the State. This has been the noble historical trend of constitutional amendments in America. We prohibited slavery. We stopped Jim Crow. We expanded the right to vote for freed slaves, for women, for young people. This is the first such discriminatory amendment to be passed in the NC Constitution except for an amendment in 1875 that outlawed interracial marriage. But this trick Amendment reverses the noble trend of constitutional amendments. It curtails family rights. It places a matter of conscience and personal belief in the hands of the state. It sets a precedent, unheard of in North Carolina, to allow a majority to vote to curtail the rights of a minority.
This cynical Amendment was hatched in the backrooms of right wing extremist think tanks, organized and funded by billionaire right-wing corporations and foundations. As African Americans, Latinos and other racial minorities carefully build progressive alliances with white workers and other progressives to improve the lives of the 99%, the right-wing strategists decided to use Jesse Helms’ old "wedge" issue. One of the right-wing think-tanks, the National Organization for Marriage, said in a document recently released by the courts, the aim of the Amendment was to "drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies."
The NAACP understands that issues of marriage rights for same-sex couples is a sensitive issue for many families. People of goodwill have heartfelt differences of opinion about it. We respect these differences. That is exactly why the government has no business taking away the rights of some, because others don’t like them. The forces behind this amendment want North Carolinians to vote to prohibit people, families and faith congregations from making this highly personal decision. The authors of Amendment One want to place a matter of conscience and personal belief in the hands of the state. We believe firmly in the constitutional right of faith communities to determine whom they will and will not marry. The Government has no business in these decisions.
Amendment One has implications far beyond the rights of lesbian and gay people to make a long-term legal commitment to each other. Its language is so vague it could be interpreted to snatch existing protections against domestic violence for unmarried women in North Carolina, limiting such protections to only married women. In Ohio, a similar amendment set batterers free and put unmarried domestic violence victims at risk. It could cause children of unmarried parents to lose health and prescription insurance. It could be used to remove a child from her loving parent. It could threaten thousands of existing custody and visitation legal agreements. Many would oppose these drastic changes if they knew about them. Amendment One slips them in nearly unseen.
The real insult to African Americans and other religious people of color is that the same regressive forces behind this amendment are the same people who rushed bill after bill through the legislature, sometimes after midnight, to roll back our voting rights, our educational rights, our civil rights and our constitutional rights. Their purpose has been made abundantly clear: Undermine the constitutional role of government to operate for the good of the whole, to provide equal protection under the law, and to ensure liberty and justice for all.
We just returned from the Third Leg of our Truth and Hope, Putting a Face on Poverty in the Foothills and Mountains of NC. We heard story after story, saw scenes of deep despair and hopelessness in every part of our state. The issues of joblessness, homelessness, hunger, sickness and despair have multiplied in the past six years, since Wall Street’s bundles collapsed. Did the far right join with the growing new progressive coalition to address these basic human needs of our people? No. They placed on the ballot a Trick Amendment to distract all of us from dealing with the problems of poverty, and to force progressives to fight off another effort to take away family rights.
The NAACP’s historical mission, and our analysis of this cynical, poorly drafted Amendment leave us no choice: Vote against Amendment One on Tuesday, May 8th.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.