I grew up in North Carolina. I have a lot of friends who still live there. But this is one occasion I’m glad I don’t live there and didn’t have to vote. Judging from the fiery stream of Facebook posts that appeared in my newsfeed, Amendment One nearly tore the state apart.
For those of you who somehow managed to miss this,
amends North Carolina’s state constitution to define marriage solely as a union between a man and woman. Twenty-nine other states have adopted similar legislation—including Kansas where I live now, and Hawaii has given its legislature the power to limit marriage to heterosexual couples.
My faith precludes me from altering the Biblical definition of marriage. A reformed view of the Bible doesn’t support homosexuality any more than it supports lying, cheating, adultery, murder, lust, or stealing. I couldn’t vote against NC Amendment One and maintain a clear conscience and reverence for God. Nor could I vote against it and seriously support the First Amendment right of religious liberty.
But I have gay friends who are dear to me. They are devastated by the passage of Amendment One. They feel the state has left them without any legal protection. They feel hated by their neighbors. How could I vote to pass something that hurts them?
I wonder. Might there have been a third option? One that respected the majority of voters’ convictions by protecting the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman while at the same time acknowledging the status and needs of the minority? One that clearly defined marriage as heterosexual and also recognized same-sex unions as sanctioned by the state not the church?
This isn’t a new idea. I don’t know if it’s the answer. Some will say a compromise takes it too far or not far enough.
Criticize me all you want for not understanding the issue. I don’t understand it fully. I can’t. I’ve never been rejected, belittled, or discriminated against because of my sexual orientation. On the other hand, I’ve come awfully close to being ridiculed because of my faith when it comes to this issue.
My heart aches when people who’ve been friends for years snipe at each other and kick civility to the curb. I’m troubled when normally quiet folks are bashed for respectfully speaking their opinions or the viewpoint of their churches. I bristle when pundits who live nowhere near the South declare it backwards and steeped in prejudice. I hurt when my friends hurt regardless of whether they are straight or gay.
The people of North Carolina followed the rule of law to approve Amendment One as it was presented to them by their elected representatives. I believe most of them did so with heavy hearts. There are citizens on both sides of the argument who harbor hate, prejudice, and fear. That’s obvious from the things said and written about this issue. But the majority who approved Amendment One didn’t vote out of hate for their fellow North Carolinians. They voted to protect the definition of marriage and the First Amendment right of religious expression.
Yes, I’m glad I didn’t have to vote. It’s easy to make sweeping statements from a few states away. It’s much different when the controversy is in your own backyard and you’re suddenly at odds with your neighbors and friends.
The pastor reminded me from the pulpit this past Sunday that the Gospel message is one of Truth and Grace. I’m not sure what that looks like when it comes to Amendment One, but I believe there must be room for both Truth and Grace in how we deal with this issue going forward.
In his post “A Few Like You”: Will the Church Be the Church for Homosexual Christians?, Wesley Hill quotes novelist Marilynne Robinson’s challenging question: “Will people shelter and nourish and humanize one another?”
Given the chance, given the example, given Truth and Grace, I believe they can. I hope and pray they will.
questions to spark comments:
What do you think about Amendment One? If you live in North Carolina, how has this issue impacted you? How will you be an example of Truth and Grace?
Aimee Whetstine grew up in North Carolina. She and her family now live in Kansas where she writes for the