I want to start by thanking those people in my country and from around the world that have fought hard and sacrificed so much in the struggle for civil rights. In the 60s, so many people put their life, livelihoods, and family security on the line in order to lay the groundwork for equal rights for all. The struggle for black Americans was and still is hard won. Because of the African-American community’s strength and determination, they secured and framed the civil rights argument for all of us. That being said, “black rights” do not equal “civil rights”; they are one application of civil rights.
There is much comparison and contrast of the gay rights movement to the movement of the 60s that secured civil rights for black Americans. Assumptions of comprehensive parallels have been made and offenses have been taken. Compounding the emotional mix are the perceptions of the attitudes of the two communities towards each other – there is a perceived (and I have no idea if it can be fact based) undercurrent of distaste in the African American community for the gay lifestyle. This comparison and contrast of the two groups does next to nothing good for anyone other than hindering the debate of the real issue, which is civil rights.
Merriam-Websters definition of civil rights: the nonpolitical rights of a citizen; especially : the rights of personal liberty guaranteed to United States citizens by the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution and by acts of Congress. ( the link to read the amendments can be found in the Glossary here.)
Civil rights protects everyone like a huge umbrella. There is room for the black community, the gay community, the 99%ers (and the 1%ers) – any faction of American citizenry you can think of gets coverage. Amendment One, a legislatively referred amendment to the State’s Constitution that would restrict those rights in NC for gay people only.
Here is the language that will be on the ballot:
 For  Against
Constitutional amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized by this State.
This amendment does not recognize any form of same sex unions. It’s supporters want to make it clear that they not only do not accept gay marriage, but they don’t accept or respect civil unions registered in the state or anywhere else (currently the law allows regions to conduct their own civil union proceedings).
Adding exclusive and restrictive measures to a Constitution is anti-liberty, anti-freedom, and socially unjust. For many it equates to an erosion of family stability due to lack of opportunity, for others it may mean very real measures that challenge the civil union rights they have secured in their own regions or previous (out-of-state) residences. The impact would have negative ramifications for the gay community financially, legally, emotionally, and in making decisions about health, life, and death.
“Marriages” can be had anywhere and performed by anyone, espousing a myriad of beliefs in a smorgasboard of formats. The State cannot (and is not attempting to) “take away” a committed relationship or commitment ceremony, but those ceremonies – meaningful as they may be – do not address the real life issues that come up around the logistics of sharing a life and family.
Supporters of the amendment cite “tradition”, morality, or the fact that the state is not equipped to deal with the issue legally. They frame it as allowing the citizenry of North Carolina to decide what the definition of marriage is. Legislating morality is a dangerous precedent since morality is a contested concept that lies in the eye of the beholder. In this case supporters find gay unions immoral, the opponents find discriminating against minorities as immoral.
Legislating to preserve “tradition” means legislating to preserve a snapshot in time you really preferred. The definition of marriage has continually changed in human history and American history; it can be different for every couple, depending on how they have defined it for themselves. Marriage has been about property ownership, inheritance rights, family preservation, social status, financial gain, citizenship, reproduction, religion, romance, obligation, convenience, punishment, spite, genetics, and control (to name a few). Marrying for love is a relatively new thing, so this yoke of “tradition” assumes a snapshot in time of what they want marriage to be for everyone (forever!). Supporters want to freeze that preferred “tradition” for all of posterity.
The strongest argument is the one that frames it as a state’s rights issue. That argument would be strong if it weren’t for the “equal protection under the law” portion of the United States Constitution. The precedent has been established, and North Carolina is obligated to follow it.
I empathize with people who want to preserve their traditions, within our own communities, we are are free to assemble, make associations, clubs, churches, or any grouping of people that share moral codes, traditions, by-laws or whatever they please. That law is on the books right now and anyone can exercise those rights. No one is preventing the supporters of this amendment from forming a “Man and Woman Unions Only” club and following or enforcing their preferred moral code. The folks who did that for the rest of us agreed on a document that founded our government. Unless we can again get a national consensus on an amendment, we must insist upon upholding equal protection for all couples, all families, and all kinds of people.