“A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some.” US Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun
When the many unfounded fears and falsehoods surrounding same-sex unions are stripped away, as was done in California’s Prop 8 trial (Perry v Schwarzenegger) by multiple expert witnesses (ref), what is left is largely religious-based objections to homosexuality. My opinion has been, and remains, that efforts to enact law based on interpretation of religious scripture is nothing short of an assault on one of our most cherished founding liberties, that of religous freedom as expressed in our First Amendment’s Establishment Clause (ref).
How important was this concept to the framers of our constitution? That clause is contained in the very first sentence of the very first amendment in our Bill of Rights (ref). And our ‘founding fathers’ were well aware of the persecution that occurred in Europe when church and state united. Although it was religious persecution resulting from that union that drove many to the shores of colonial America, it was also, oddly enough, something that was being reproduced here as 9 of our 13 colonies adopted their own church (as recounted in Holmes’ work, The Faiths of the Founding Fathers). Religious freedom did not occur in these United States until it was incorporated into our constitution in 1791 (ref).
In North Carolina, an amendment to the state’s constitution, Amendment 1, is being put to a vote on this May’s primary ballot. This amendment states that the only domestic legal union that will be valid or recognized in the state would be a marriage between one man and one woman. The broad implications of this amendment on the rights of unmarried couples, both same-sex and opposite-sex, has been discussed by UNC law professor Maxine Eichner (ref) and echoed by others as well (ref).
Our history has shown the folly of placing a minority’s rights to a vote. Consider that women’s suffrage was voted down by NJ voters in 1915, 58% to 42% (ref). And further consider in 1967 (when the US Supreme court struck down miscegenation law in Loving v Virgina) that 72% of the public opposed interracial marriage and 48% felt that marrying a person of another race should be prosecuted as a criminal offense (ref). In ruling on Loving v Virginia the court declared “Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man’, fundamental to our very existence and survival..” (ref). And Judge Vaughn Walker (a Reagan/GHW Bush nominee), who presided over California’s Prop 8 trial stated: “That the majority of California voters supported Proposition 8 is irrelevant, as fundamental rights may not be submitted to [a] vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections”; his ruling that Prop 8 violated the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment has been upheld by a federal appeals court (ref).
As was recently reported in the press, the Amendment 1 campaigns are intensifying as the voting date approaches (ref). In that article a pastor tells his congregation that they must vote for the amendment or face God’s anger and judgement; that his congregation must denounce “sexual sins” and decide if they are for “righteousness or wickedness”. And how is that not ‘Get Out The Vote’ activity to incorporate religious opinion into the state constitution?
In attempting to limit the rights available to a segment of our citizenry based on religious beliefs, it would be worthwhile to remember the words of US Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun (ref):
“When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion it conveys a message of exclusion to all of those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some.”
Note: Subsequent to the posting of this article, a letter to the editor was accepted for publication by the Raleigh News and Observer