Thoughts on Amendment One
[from weekly Reflections shared by Ben Devoid, pastor of Dilworth United Methodist Church]
Throughout our history, Methodists have engaged in social action and from time to time have entered the political fray. The Church’s allegiance is to God alone: Our role in public life is to hold accountable all elected officials in light of the gospel’s call to be in solidarity with those on the margins of our society. We cannot be true to this calling unless we are willing to speak to contemporary issues of justice and mercy.
In its earliest years, Christians active in the Methodist revival spoke before the British parliament to ban gambling, to enact laws that protected children in the workplace, and to end the Empire’s slave trade. First-generation Methodists questioned capital punishment, worked for decent housing among the poor and for safer working conditions among coal miners. It is with this heritage behind me that I speak to Amendment One.
May 8 is a big day in the State of North Carolina. Our citizens will vote on a Constitutional amendment that declares traditional marriage as the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in the state of North Carolina. At first glance it sounds like a simple decision to make. We are all for strengthening the institution of marriage. Yet, if we take a closer look, it becomes apparent that this amendment holds the possibility of doing great harm to families and children of our state.
The fact is, approving this amendment will do nothing to benefit my marriage of twenty-eight years or anyone else’s in North Carolina. If it fails, nothing in present law changes.
On the other side of this issue are the nearly 90,000 couples living together by domestic partnership and civil union, with children as dependents. Because these families will not be legally recognized, many of the poorest children in our state are at risk of losing health coverage. This amendment also creates legal entanglements with some parents and child custody.
The amendment may harm unmarried women by invalidating existing domestic violence protections, resulting in domestic violence convictions to be dismissed or overturned. And the Amendment would keep unmarried couples from being able to visit one another in the hospital, and possibly stop them from being able to make emergency medical and financial decisions. It could revoke legal protections and invalidate trusts and end-of-life directives.
We don’t know what Amendment One will do. It seems to be cold legislative wording.
I am a strong supporter of the institution of Christian marriage. I take to heart the wedding liturgy that reads, ‘the covenant of Christian marriage was established by God.’ Marriage secures a family’s future, by binding a couple for better or worse, rich or poor, and sickness and in health, with the support of the Christian community. Today, church doctrine does not allow me to do this for all couples living together in fidelity and honor of one another. Neither would all unions be recognized by the state. One day that may change.
But left as is, what good comes from harming those who live together outside the marriage covenant? It seems only to increase the acrimony in our society. As people of faith, what is our responsibility to our neighbor, whatever our differences? John Wesley believed there were three simple rules that should guide our lives.
Do No Harm.
Stay in Love With God.
Thanks Ben, for this faith-based essay on how we practice loving our neighbor as ourselves, bearing no grudge and not seeking revenge (Leviticus 19:18).