North Carolina is only the first of five states that will vote on marriage this year. Twenty-nine states have passed an amendment similar to the one North Carolinians will consider.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said North Carolina, along with the other four states, could send a loud message to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could hear a gay "marriage" case in the near future. The court has not accepted such a case yet.
"If the people speak in North Carolina, and also in other states, to affirm that marriage is between a man and a woman, it will tip the balance of the Supreme Court to reject trying to foist by judicial imperialism same-sex marriage on a populous that is clearly opposed to it," Land said at the March 28 forum.
Minnesotans also will consider a marriage amendment in November. The amendments prevent state courts from redefining marriage, as happened in Massachusetts, Iowa and Connecticut. Maine citizens will vote in November on an initiative that would legalize gay "marriage," while voters in Maryland and Washington state -- provided enough signatures are gathered -- likely will decide whether to reverse gay "marriage" laws.
The North Carolina amendment, known as Amendment 1, reads: "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State."
Land pointed to the importance of marriage for social stability.
"Every child," Land said, "has the right of having a mother and a father.
"We've conducted an experiment testing this idea and the results are clear: Moms and dads are not optional."
Land went on to say that the federal government spends $700 billion in domestic programs to support women and children due largely to the absence of fathers. The epidemic of fatherlessness has been "catastrophic" on America's landscape, Land mentioned.
The issue, Land said, "is not about gay rights," but instead "about the basic building block of human society" -- and "whether we'll allow it to be transformed by the whims of a minority."
The issue of religious liberty was also discussed as gay rights groups throughout the United States have pursued legal action against Christian owned-companies and religiously affiliated adoption agencies, forcing compensatory damages and even closure.
"This is not a question of sexual freedom, but of religious freedom," Land said. "The agenda of the homosexual community is to have their behavior and their lifestyle normalized and have same-sex marriage normalized and to have those who disagree with it to be ostracized."
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of North Carolina Values Coalition, said that "when marriage is redefined as genderless, there are legal consequences for anyone who disagree with it."
"Everything from inheritance laws to property rights must then change," she said. "If you disagree with this, you're treated as a racist and as a bigot."
"Gay marriage is the beginning of the end for religious freedom," she said.
With upcoming votes on gay "marriage" in other states, Land said, the future of marriage could be settled in the next 18 months.
No state has, by popular vote, chosen to create same-sex "marriage," Land said.
Gay marriage proponents insist that the proposed amendment is unnecessary, discriminatory and unfairly targets gay persons. Daniel Heimbach, an ethics professor at Southeastern Seminary, said gay "marriage" is not about equality.
"Marriage is a procreatively structured institution," Heimbach said. "The public interest in upholding marriage has nothing to do with affirming private feelings and everything to do with maintaining the one social institution on which social stability and intergenerational social survival most certainly depends. Unless marriage is radically redefined, gay relationships are not in the same relational category as the sort of relationships where marriage law is concerned."
Heimbach also disagreed with those who insist that gay "marriage" will cause no harm to society.
"The harm of legalizing gay marriage will radically change marriage in a way that it will then deny all fixed structures," Heimbach said. "It will de-institutionalize marriage as an institution.
"It will harm everybody by harming social stability."
A video of the forum is available at http://vimeo.com/39434649. Learn more about the amendment at www.voteformarriagenc.com
Based on reporting by Andrew Walker, a freelance writer in Kentucky, and Michael McEwen of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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