Why I voted against N.C. Amendment One

I voted against North Carolina’s Amendment One last week during early voting,* and did so for the following basic reasons:

  • I think amendments to a state Constitution should be undertaken sparingly, and believe further that they should secure rights for persons and not limit them.
  • Because N.C. already has a law that bans same-sex marriage, I consider Amendment One to be mean spirited, piling on, and an attempt to introduce yet another wedge issue into the campaign.
  • Amendment One is broadly written, and its passage would likely do more than limit marriage options. For example, it could invalidate certain domestic partner unions that enable persons to get health insurance, etc. Duke University has been a leader in providing such benefits for its employees, and has taken a stand against the Amendment. The passage of Amendment One would likely have unintended consequences beyond the stated goal of proponents–to ban gay marriage–a goal that is already secured by state law as I noted (there are dueling commercials in the State saying this point is either true, or false).

I voted against the amendment for all these reasons.

More broadly, there has been a great deal of discussion within churches and other faith communities about Amendment One. I am a Christian, and within Christian communities there is a great deal of divergent opinion about the Amendment, with most mainline denominations urging defeat, while many independent, evangelical congregations and leaders urging passage. I grew up in a fairly conservative Church background, and rejected faith as a teenager. In college I discovered a faith of my own influenced positively by my upbringing, and have been working to understand what being a Christian means ever since (I understand this to be  a lifelong enterprise). I have changed my views on many things, and getting to know many gay and lesbian folks in school and work has changed my understanding on myriad issues.

My experience in faith and politics has been that as my faith grew, I became more liberal in most of my political views, even as I was part of Churches that tended to be more conservative politically. I was often the “radical liberal” at Church or other Christian groups, and sometimes the ‘fish out of water Christian’ in some of the politically liberal circles in which I ran, though this dichotomy has seemed to lessen over time.  I have experienced a fair amount of angst and pain over the years related to fellow Christians saying something along the lines of “how could you be for (fill in the blank) and be a Christian?” So, I try hard not to put this back onto others. I am a Christian, and I can tell you my views, but I am quite cautious about claiming to know the ‘Christian view’ on most issues.

I know there are some Christians who believe that voting for Amendment One is required for those who believe, in one sense as an act of defending God. I respect their sincerity, but disagree. My feeling is that first, God doesn’t need to be defended. Second, the clincher for me is the lack of love and dual spirit of pride and condemnation that I hear in religious appeals to vote for Amendment One; this just doesn’t represent my understanding of how we Christians are supposed to treat our neighbors, and I will not be a part of it.

*I realize this discussion is off topic for this blog, but several people have asked me how I voted on the amendment and why, so I thought I would just write it down.

Update: I realize this post doesn’t make clear that I also support marriage equality for same sex couples. That seems very far away for N.C. at this point.

About Don Taylor
Professor of Public Policy (with appointments in Business, Nursing, Community and Family Medicine, and the Duke Clinical Research Institute), and Chair of the Academic Council at Duke University https://academiccouncil.duke.edu/ . I am one of the founding faculty of the Margolis Center for Health Policy. My research focuses on improving care for persons who are dying, and I am co-PI of a CMMI award in Community Based Palliative Care. I teach both undergrads and grad students at Duke. On twitter @donaldhtaylorjr

9 Responses to Why I voted against N.C. Amendment One

  1. Good for your for taking the time and energy to thoughtfuly analyze your perspectives on these complex issues, instead of blindly following one side or the other. And good for you for having the courage to write about it here. I’m glad I found your blog! I’m looking forward to following your commentary!

    • Don Taylor says:

      This blog focuses on health policy and the budget, so that is a fairly atypical post. But, it is an important policy issue in my state. thx

      • I understand that. And I am a policy wonk myself with a specific interest in health policy in my day job, which is why I will be interested in following your blog. But I do think it takes courage to share your thoughts on an issue that has been so traditionally polarizing.

  2. steve2 says:

    I am with you on this Don. I was brought up evangelical Christian (Dad thought Falwell was a moderate), and my parents were John Birchers. I gave it up when I ventured out into the world via the military. It just didnt make sense anymore once I got to know other people. I am quite happy with our church now (Episcopalian) and consider myself a Christian. I would have voted against this also. I am hoping this is a last gasp backlash against inevitable change.


    • Don Taylor says:

      my background was conservative, though a bit more nuanced than average for the rural south, especially with respect to race as my parents esp were very clear that judging someone based on their race was wrong. This was a positive example of the notion that faith could be a source/reason for going against the grain. Inevitably, kids grow up and have to figure things out for themselves (says the the dad of a 17, 15 and 11 year old)….

  3. Pingback: I Love North Carolina « freeforall

  4. Pingback: North Carolina Passes Amendment One « The Reality-Based Community

  5. GainesWorthy says:

    What about the fact it is unconstitutional?
    That should be reason right there, agree?

    • Don Taylor says:

      I don’t think a challenge to the State constitution will work because we just amended it. If it seems to conflict with other parts of State constitution, NC Supreme court would have to figure that out. It could be challenged as violating US constitution. I guess the simplest way is the Loving v. Va case (1967) that overturned laws against inter racial marriage, and which concluded getting that marriage was a civil right. I think that the Proposition 8 case from California is along these lines, so the US Supreme court could apply that case. The logic makes sense to me….of course the practical definition of constitutional is whatever 5 members of the US Supreme Court says it is.

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