Apparently there’s some sort of vote coming up that involves gay marriage or something. Though, if one only read the Daily Tar Heel, you’d think it was a settled matter. There’s overwhelming opposition to this amendment and, anyone who opposes it is some sort of Medieval bigot who hates gay people. Not to mention, there are some really compelling propaganda films out there. In the interest of creating a more intelligent debate (and without necessarily taking a side), I just thought I’d raise a few questions. So, let’s being, shall we?
1. What exactly changes if this amendment is ratified?
Current North Carolina law prohibits the marriage of anyone but one man and one woman. Amendment One largely seems to just take what is a statutory matter and make it a constitutional matter. Not much more seems to change. I suppose, in theory, it’s more difficult to change the state constitution than it is mere law, but that’s not exactly a compelling argument either way.
2. What effects will passage of Amendment One have on business in the state?
As mentioned previously, state law already prohibits gay marriage I don’t seem to be able to find a source pin-pointing the exact year of that particular law’s enactment, but I’m informally told it was 1997. Assuming that’s the case, this law has been on the books for about 15 years, which raises an interesting question. For weeks, people have been running around in a big panic about how “writing hate into the constitution” will drive businesses out of the state and we’ll all die in poverty because everyone will think that North Carolinians are just a bunch of homophobic barbarians.
If this claim was true (and I don’t think I’ve exaggerated it too much- indeed, the DTH even tried to argue that there would be some sort of foreign policy impact from the amendment’s ratification), then you’d think we would have seen something like this happen over the course of the last 15 years, because “hate” is already written into state law. But we haven’t. Businesses still come here and set up shop (admittedly, not as much as they used to, but that’s what happens when you let Democrats run the place). Gov. Perdue herself claims that North Carolina is “one of the best places in the nation to locate or expand a business.” So, what’s the big deal? If there were some sort of economic impact to be had from laws of this sort, we would have seen them already. This just seems to be nothing more than scare-mongering.
3. Should the government be involved in the private lives of its citizens?
I’ve been reading a lot of arguments to this effect from more conservative-leaning commentators on the subject, but there are still some unresolved issues. For instance, a lot of people say that they don’t think the government should be involved with the whole marriage shin-dig because it’s ultimately a private matter. However, considering that marriage is ultimately a legal contract between two people, I think that the state is going to be involved on at least some level. The state effectively creates a definition for the contract (like it does for any sort of legal relationship, i.e. LLCs, corporations, etc.) and provides system for the enforcement of the contract (until its dissolution). So, it would seem to me that the state is free to define this contractual relationship anyway it pleases. You can, of course, debate the merits of one definition over another, but there’s nothing inherently bigoted about defining it any particular way. You ultimately have to draw the line somewhere. In the same way that there are certain requirements you have to fulfill in order incorporate a business, so too there are certain requirements you have to fulfill in order to create a marital relationship. I don’t think there’s any philosophical problem here. One only has the right to incorporate a business if one meets the requirements, likewise, two people only have the right to marry if they meet the requirements. And no one’s really up in arms about the state’s involvement in incorporation.
There’s also nothing to prevent two people from getting “married” outside the legal system. Churches are free to recognize whatever they want to, and people are free to live together. There’s nothing to prevent people from getting married. They would just lack legal recognition (which ultimately would be a government-free alternative to a traditional marriage). Note the last line of the amendment (which curiously always seems to be left out whenever people criticize it): “This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.”
But let’s be honest. Ninety percent of the opposition to this amendment would be eliminated under a Flat Tax system. Sure, people are out there talking about how it’s all about civil rights, etc., but there’s nothing to prevent these people from loving each other however they want. It’s not like the morality police are going to break down the door if two gay men move in together (this isn’t Saudi Arabia after all). The only thing their relationship would lack compared to a traditional marriage is a couple of tax breaks ( a benefit of the legal recognition). Not to completely change the subject, but I think our overly byzantine tax code is really one of the root causes of this debate.
4. Lastly, why are so many of the anti-Amendment One crowd so nasty?
After four years at UNC, the vitriol of this campaign really shouldn’t surprise me, but it’s still pretty bad. Many opponents of this amendment just causally call the opposition “bigoted,” “hate-mongers,” “backward,” “homophobic” and all the rest. Personally, I find it to be kind of a turn off. Now, I realize that not every opponent of amendment is like this (I know several people who have been able to discuss it in a refreshingly reasonable manner), but there’s enough of it to give one pause before deciding to associate oneself with this group. A re-tooling of tactics would be a nice, as would the recognition that two people can have a political difference without necessarily hating each other.
That about does it for now. Though, I may, of course, come up with some more questions later, should the discussion prove stimulating enough.