Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Message for Venango County, from North Carolina

No One Is Hurt By Marriage Equality

By Tommy Tomlinson of The Charlotte Observer:

I’ve got one week left at the paper. The vote on Amendment One is May 8, a few days after I’m gone. So let’s take a minute to talk about it now.

In case you’ve missed the debate, welcome back to Earth, and let’s get you caught up: Amendment One states that marriage between one man and one woman is the only valid domestic legal union in North Carolina. If you approve of gay marriage, you’ll be against Amendment One.

I approve of marriage equality. I’m against Amendment One.

I don’t agree with the opposition, but I understand where a lot of it comes from. Many of you feel the Bible condemns homosexuality. I hope you also understand that if we lived under all the things the Bible condemns, adulterers would be put to death, women would have to cover their heads in church, and the Panthers couldn’t play on Sundays. Among many, many, many other things.

The Bible has a lot of rules, but only ten commandments, and Jesus prunes even those to their essence in Luke chapter 10: Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength and mind… and love your neighbor as yourself.

Man, that “love your neighbor” part is hard.

Because what love really requires, in the end, is that you accept your neighbors for what they are. If they’re hurting you in some way, of course you can take recourse, but this is the thing about gay marriage: It hurts no one. It just bothers people. And we don’t have a right not to be bothered.

Please don’t try to argue that gay marriage undercuts the institution of marriage. If we made marriage as hard as getting a college degree, maybe. But in North Carolina, all you need for a marriage license is a willing (straight) couple and 60 bucks. When my wife and I got our marriage license in South Carolina, they gave us a little bag of soap and detergent and tissues. They figured a lot of new marrieds didn’t have much to live on. 

If you truly think marriage is sacred, don’t ever spend a day in divorce court.

Here’s the thing, though: Marriage really is sacred, in the right hands. But it requires love, and common sense, and tolerance of flaws, and the constant effort to fix your own.

None of those qualities are exclusive to straight people.

That should go without saying, right? But I think the deeper truth under this gay-marriage debate is that a lot of straight people don’t know any gay people, and at some level just don’t understand that straight and gay people are 99.9 percent the same.

Some gay people should never get married, not because they shouldn’t be allowed to, but because they’d be crappy spouses. And by the same token, millions of gay couples would be loving and monogamous and all the things we want married couples to be. In fact, a lot of them are that now. They just don’t get to have the piece of paper.

It makes no sense to deny them the piece of paper. 

A few weeks ago, House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Cornelius) said something both sad and wise. He said he thought Amendment One will pass on May 8, but it’ll be overturned 20 years from now because the next generation will be more tolerant of gay marriage. Tillis wasn’t courageous enough to actually oppose the amendment – he voted to put it on the ballot – but he was brave enough to say out loud what seems obvious to me, and to anyone who looks at history.

We waste an awful lot of time fighting some of the freedoms we were founded on.

But freedom has a solid won-loss record. And no matter what happens on May 8, when our children and grandchildren look back on it all, this whole debate will make us look silly and small.

I suspect that, in God’s eyes, we already do.

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