NC House leader says anti-gay hate group 'overruled' him on same-sex marriage amendment

By Chris Fitzsimon, NC Policy Watch

Normally in this space on Monday we tell a story about North Carolina in facts and figures with a Monday Numbers column. But this is not a normal Monday. It is the day before voters go the polls to decide the fate of an amendment that would write discrimination into the state constitution.

That's not about numbers at all. It is about punishing and demonizing human beings, thousands of men and women in North Carolina, our families, our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends, and our partners.

You ought to know by now that the amendment is about far more than banning same-sex marriage. That is already illegal. It is about banning civil unions -- forever. It is about ending health care benefits for children and families. And it's about throwing dozens of other laws into chaos, statutes about domestic violence, wills and trusts and visitation rights.

House Majority Leader Paul Stam, a chief proponent of the amendment, dismisses such talk as crazy and foolish, but he had never deigned to tell us why the amendment goes so much further than simply restating the ban on same-sex marriage if that is his goal.

This weekend, Stam finally explained it to the Fayetteville Observer who reported it this way.

Stam, the Raleigh lawmaker, said he wanted a more narrowly worded amendment but was "overruled" by "national experts" he identified as the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal advocacy group.

I don’t recall electing the Alliance Defense Fund to represent me or to overrule members of the North Carolina General Assembly. Apparently Stam’s first allegiance is to a hate group, not the people in Wake County that he is supposed to represent.

The president of the Alliance Defense Fund is Alan Sears, who along with Craig Osten, wrote a book a few years ago, “The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today.”

The book is heavily promoted by the organization and many other zealots on the so-called Christian right. I read it this weekend after seeing Stam’s comments. It is disgusting.

The authors just don't believe that same-sex marriage is wrong, they believe that it leads to "polygamy, endogamy (the marriage of blood relatives), bestiality and child marriage," comments by the way that Stam himself made during the legislative debate last year.

They say that "pedophilia and homosexuality are intrinsically linked" and they see a conspiracy everywhere to promote the "radical homosexual agenda."

Sears and the ADF believe people can be "cured" of being gay through religious conversion and they cite the case of John Paulk, who appeared on the cover of Newsweek as an "ex-gay" and became an activist for groups on the Christian right. Paulk resigned from the movement after controversy erupted after he was spotted at a gay bar in Washington.

The amendment that the Alliance wrote reflects their offensive philosophy that gay couples deserve no rights -- not marriage, not civil unions, not employee benefits, not even privacy in their own homes.

That's what it is really on the ballot, a referendum on the basic human rights of tens of thousands of people in our communities.

The polls show both that the amendment is likely to pass and that most voters don't understand what it really does, how it far it goes into denying rights to our friends and families and neighbors because of who they love and want to spend their lives with.

Former President Bill Clinton is making robocalls urging voters to oppose the amendment while sadly Rev. Billy Graham is capping his career with full-page ads on behalf of the twisted views of the Alliance Defense Fund.

Whether the amendment passes or not, the supporters of discrimination and intolerance are in for a surprise when they wake up Wednesday morning. They may find that voters have figured out the damage the amendment would do to our state and our communities and defeated it at the polls.

They definitely will find a renewed sense of determination among compassionate, caring and committed people, gay and straight, that this bigotry will not stand, that history is on our side and that as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us, "The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice."

A few weeks ago, I attended an event held to oppose the amendment. It was on a local farm owned by a gay couple, an architect and a designer who have been together 17 years and work every day to make people's lives better.

There were a hundred or so people there in all, gay couples, straight couples, writers, lawyers, technology professionals, sharing music, laughter, and love for each other and their communities.

I have no doubt that one day our state will officially respect and honor that and recognize people for who they are, not discriminate against them for who they love.

Let's hope it begins on Tuesday.