RALEIGH - A month before it will appear on the ballot, students of Campbell’s Norman A. Wiggins School of Law heard a panel of four speak for and against the controversial North Carolina Same-Sex Marriage Amendment Monday.
Sponsored by the student group Campbell Crossroads, the forum featured State Rep. and Campbell adjunct professor Rick Glazier, State Rep. and pastor Phil Shepard, lawyer and Amendment One proponent Anthony Biller and Methodist minister and co-founder of Faith in America Inc. Jimmy Creech.
Biller and Shepard spoke as advocates for, while Glazier and Creech spoke against Amendment one, which would define marriage in North Carolina as strictly between a man and a woman if approved. Same-sex marriage is already banned in the state, but the proposed measure would add the ban to the state constitution.
Voters will decide on the amendment on May 8.
“How you define the institute of marriage has consequences,” said Biller, a 1997 graduate of Campbell Law. “In the United States, we’ve begun to redefine the institution of marriage not to be about the protection and nurturing of children, but to be about the needs and desires of adults. When the institution stops producing lifelong commitments between men and women, it stops producing families. It stops producing children.”
Glazier countered Biller by saying the amendment contradicts the importance of family in society.
“The sad genesis of this amendment - only the second one ever proposed in North Carolina that would eliminate minority rights rather than expand them - was in my opinion, quite simply, fear,” Glazier said. “Passage of this amendment will not only result in the codification of our long-existing law banning gay marriage, but (will create) a vast expansion of current law, creating one of the most intrusive laws in the nation that would effectively bar any legal recognition … of any non-married couple of any sexual orientation.”
If the amendment passes, North Carolina will join 12 other Southern states formally defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Shepard, a minister and retired civil servant from Onslow County who co-sponsored the bill, said he supports it based on what he’s been taught and based on “God’s word.”
“I believe it is at the very heart and soul of who we are and what we believe,” he said. “I’m here today because there was a legal union between my mother and father. This vote is allowing you and allowing me to have a say in this.”
Creech, who for over a decade has traveled the country preaching to churches and universities on gay rights, recently completed writing a book, “Adam’s Gift,” about his experiences and his church’s struggle to welcome people of a different sexual orientation. He said nobody has the right to tell another what a marriage should or shouldn’t be.
“Your marriage begins when you make a commitment of love and fidelity to one another,” he said. “You create your own marriage.”
More than 100 students were on hand for the forum, and following five-minute presentations from the speakers, many of the students took part in a Q&A with the panel. The law students questioned the amendment’s impact on domestic violence laws and asked the state representatives on the panel their thoughts on mixing theology and politics.
Perhaps the biggest point of contention among the panelists was the debate whether Amendment One should be on the ballot in the first place.
“When marriage starts to be defined as validating the choices of adults and not about protecting and promoting the advancement of children, there are consequences,” Biller said. “The choice should be made by the people of this state. Not by the legislature, and certainly not by judges.”
Glazier disagreed, saying the amendment isn’t needed in a state that already bans gay marriage.
“There was a time when it was tradition for some in this room to only count as three-fifths of a person,” he said. “But we can and we do mature as a nation and as individuals. What is seen in one generation comes to be understood in future generations … as oppressive. We’re all scared of the dark. The real problem comes when we’re scared of the light.”
The forum marked the third event in three weeks where hot-button political and social issues have been the topic of discussion and debate at Campbell University. In late March, Campbell hosted four panelists to discuss natural gas drilling at the 109th annual N.C. Academy of Sciences Meeting, and last week, the annual Campbell University Lecture Series hosted Pulitzer Prize-winning editor Manny Garcia to discuss journalism ethics and politics, as well as the media’s handling of the Travon Martin murder case in Florida.
- by Billy Liggett, Assistant Director for Publications, Campbell University