Residents weigh in on same-sex marriage debate
Local residents with differing views of same-sex marriage say they hope that cases before the U.S. Supreme Court this week will bring legal clarity to the issue.
Religious leaders said they’re guided by Biblical principles on the topic, and that it’s important to separate matters of faith from legal questions. Others with a personal stake in the debate said the issue is, in essence, about equality — that married same-sex couples should be able to enjoy the same benefits as heterosexual couples.
Polls show growing support for gay marriage, but North Carolina voters last year approved a Constitutional amendment that bans it.
Supporters hope for clarity
Jo Godfrey, who, along with her husband, Byron, founded Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays in High Point, said her family supports gay marriage, but it can be confusing trying to reconcile federal and state law on the topic.
The U.S. Supreme Court this week considered a case involving the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman and denies federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.
Godfrey, whose son is gay and in a 15-year committed relationship, said she thinks it’s wrong to deny same-sex partners benefits like Social Security survivor payments and federal tax deductions.
“I believe marriage is a contract between two people who love each other,” she said. “The basic thing that we have come up with is, we feel very strongly that this should be more than a gay issue — it’s an equal-rights issue.”
Godfrey said she hopes the Supreme Court will take a broad stand on the issue that will settle the question of whether it is the law of the land. Nine states recognize same-sex marriages, while 30 states have adopted constitutional amendments that ban it.
“It’s got to clarify where we are. I wish we were concentrating on some other things,” she said. “It’s made it a hot-button issue, and that’s not what it should be.”
The Rev. Ken Kroohs, rector at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in High Point, said he thinks it’s important to separate legal from religious matters on the topic.
He became a proponent of same-sex marriage after “some very deep study of Scripture,” he said.
Getting to know gay couples in committed relationships that he said were more loving and stable than some heterosexual relationships he witnessed also influenced his thinking, although he has never preached on the topic.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people about it. I think this is one issue where conversation is appropriate, as opposed to me trying to impose my thinking on people,” Kroohs said. “Lots of people disagree with me, and I respect their opinions and I’m more than willing to sit down and talk about it. But the pulpit has a sense of authority, and I think when you have an issue like this that is so open to interpretation, I don’t think that’s place to do it.”
Opponents cite constitutional ban
When he was chairman of the Guilford County Republican Party last year, Al Bouldin was an active supporter of Amendment One, which defined marriage in the North Carolina Constitution as between one man and one woman.
The amendment took effect after state voters in May 2012 approved a referendum enacting it by a vote of 61 percent to 39 percent.
Bouldin said he thinks the outcome of U.S. Supreme Court cases being argued this week could either reinforce the amendment or strike it down.
It’s also possible, he said, that the high court might not issue a definitive ruling, and that it would, in effect, be left up to the states to decide how to handle the matter.
A case argued before the court on Wednesday focused on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), while a Tuesday case that was heard involved the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage.
“I think the voters of North Carolina showed what their current views were on the matter in the referendum that came up last year,” said Bouldin. “I would hope that the federal government would respect states’ rights, as far as it should be a state issue to decide as to whether or not that’s the way they want to implement the law and view marriage.”
The Rev. Mike Owens, interim pastor at Faith Baptist Church in Archdale, said he has delivered sermons expressing his opposition to same-sex marriage.
“To me and to a lot of others, the Scriptures are pretty clear on this,” he said. “Leviticus Chapter 18 and Chapter 20 and Romans Chapter 1 — they’re very clear that a homosexual lifestyle is sin, much like a lot of other lifestyles are sin.”
Owen said he tries to be clear that his sermons on the topic are based on the Biblical view, and not personal feelings. He said he’s been dismayed to see what some same-sex marriage opponents have to say sometimes branded as “hate speech” by those who disagree.
“There’s no hate. It’s just looking at the subject and saying, ‘Is it right? Is it wrong?’ And as the pastor of a church and a conservative theologan, I look at it and say, ‘I think homosexuality is a wrong lifestyle; it’s sin. But, so is adultery. So is lying. So is cheating. So is stealing,” he said.