Fiddling While Rome Burns

I've been watching with interest the developing marriage amendment story here in North Carolina:

North Carolina voters will decide in the May 2012 primary whether to add an amendment to the state constitution that bans legal recognition of same-sex marriages, after a 30-16 vote Tuesday in the stateSenate in favor of a referendum.

The state House approved the vote by a 75-42 vote Monday. Votes in both the House and Senate were more than the three-fifths margin required to send the issue to the voters.

Supporters and opponents of the marriage amendment say they expect to be busy trying to persuade people between now and next spring.

I'm personally against the amendment, and in fact I have some pretty strong feelings about the appropriate role for government in defining relationships at all, so you can safely assume that I'll vote against the amendment. You can also safely assume that a great number of people, including the amendment's supporters, assume that I'm in the minority here in North Carolina and so they feel confident that they'll get the amendment passed. It's also probably a safe assumption you'll hear at least some of the amendment supporters say something to the effect of "Well, most people here are straight and are good Christians and believe that a real marriage is only between a man and a woman.  Since we're the majority we should be able to say that marriage is only rightly between a man and a woman.  That's our right in our democratic system – majority rules."

That last statement opens up a lot of arguments (equal rights/protections for minority groups, the proper role of religion in public policy, etc.) that would take about 800 pages to dig into and I'll save that for another day.  I will, however, tell you that I'm always made uncomfortable by that argument because it uses the same logic that has been used to oppress people in the minority throughout our history. I will also tell you that I'm far more concerned with the state of our economy than with the fact that Harry might marry Barry.  

I'd really rather not have our leaders play the marriage fiddle while tens of thousands of our citizens suffer through high unemployment and soaring rates of hunger and poverty in a burning Rome. (See Nero Fiddling While Rome Burns).

On a more fundamental level I'll also tell you that I will vote against the amendment because I don't happen to think that if someone is gay there's something wrong with them. I don't think being gay is something that a person can, or should, be cured of, and I find any law that singles out our gay fellow citizens and treats them as a second class citizen to be a stain on our society.  Just wanted to make that clear. 

3 thoughts on “Fiddling While Rome Burns

  1. Bo Houff

    Jon, I hesitate to comment on this issue, but I will, in a limited manner. First, I tend to agree with you that government ought not be involved in matters of personal relationships. As soon as I say that, I think of divorce laws, child support laws, etc. and I see that this is difficult to accomplish while protecting society. I support civil unions rather than same-sex marriage, primarily because the term “marriage” already has a definition, established over a long period of time, that in my view should not be tinkered with. Even if one were to agree that same-sex couples ought to be able to call themselves as married, how do we rationally say, then, that groups of three or more, siblings, cannot marry? I don’t know how long it might be before such relationships are pushed to be recognized, but it is a matter of when, not if, that happens.
    I do support civil unions, as that term has not taken on the meaning that marriage has.

  2. Jon Lowder

    Thanks for the comment Bo. Personally Im not too hung up on what its called, but I am focused on the rights of the people involved.  I would be fine with calling it a civil union as long as in the eyes of the state all couples are considered a civil union and enjoy the same rights.  Im fine with marriage being a status conferred by the couples church of choice – heck they can call it a huggle for all I care – but in the eyes of the government any two people calling themselves a couple are a civil union.
    As far as more than two people being considered a civil union all I can say is that we already have members of society advocating for polygamy and I dont see how it would be any different if a man or woman wants to take multiple wives, multiple husbands or both.
    I agree that its complicated when we start talking about the role of government in relationships (divorce, custody, union, etc.), but at first blush Id say my thinking goes something like this: the proper role of the government is to help determine the rights of individuals entering into or dissolving a relationship, particularly as it pertains to the welfare of any children involved in the relationship and the disposition of the property of the people involved in the relationship. I dont think thats a role thats appropriate for a private entity (church, non-profit, etc.).  I do think its totally appropriate for churches to perform weddings and provide marriage certificates that are tied to a certificate of civil union issued by the state.
    Last thing – I fully understand that many people will never be able to accept same-sex couples no matter what you call them, and its their right to disagree, but my personal feeling is that a couple is a couple is a couple.

  3. Bo Houff

    If everyone respected/tolerated the views of everyone else we’d be a lot further down the road to understanding. On both sides of nearly every issue at least one side seems to feel that if anyone disagrees with his position they are not only wrong (a reasonable reaction) but they are evil, stupid, and/or mentally ill. Too often the response is insults and name-calling.


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