Today, May 8, 2012, voters in North Carolina will be casting support or opposition to Amendment One, which recognizes marriage in North Carolina exclusively as one man and one woman. The primary goal of this amendment is to prevent the state of North Carolina from being forced into abandoning its ban on same-sex marriages, in the same way Texas was forced to legally abandon its laws against sodomy.
Opponents have put forth that the amendment would remove domestic violence protection and rescind benefits for unmarried heterosexual couples and their children. It is also argued that it would cast gay citizens as second-class citizens comparable to ethnic minorities and women in times past, subjecting them to persecution. Separation of church and state has been brought up and the idea that hurting a minority portion of the population is blatantly immoral.
In all the rhetoric, marriage itself is the issue.
Proponents of Amendment One are essentially declaring that they believe that marriage should be held to its traditional standard as a binding institution that unites one man and one woman for life. This important implication is that all other relationships that do not conform to the traditional standard, from unmarried heterosexual couples to homosexual couples seeking full recognition as a married couple, are not considered marriage.
Opponents of Amendment One are essentially declaring that marriage needs to shed its traditional boundaries and be open as an idea to whatever couple consents to be married and however they choose to define their particular marriage. Also, unmarried couples who are living together should not be excluded from having their relationship recognized without the requirements that marriage might entail.
The ultimate and fundamental achievement of those who oppose the amendment is the full acknowledgement of sexual relationships that are without boundaries or institutionalized expectations. Sexual relationships become organic, entered into and exited out of based purely on the desire of those involved. Traditional marriage is inherently inflexible and exclusive in its demands and limits placed on human sexual behavior. The shedding of those demands and limits is a major factor behind the drive to seek a redefinition of what marriage is and the inclusion of those who have chosen to reject marriage for the “undefined” relationship.
The line dividing traditional marriage from more flexible and inclusive ideas of relationships is mainly between traditional conservatives who argue for marriage to be framed around biblical declarations and modern secularists seeking a particularly non-religious, or at least religiously liberal, understanding of human sexuality.
In the traditional conservative view, marriage is about living a life considered right by biblical standards (which assumes non-biblical standards are wrong), keeping human sexuality contained, and procreation, the forming of families through natural offspring. In the moderate / liberal view, marriage and “undefined” relationships are about expressing love and happiness and companionship for people from all walks of sexuality. This is not to say that unmarried couples do not have children or form families, but staying together and preserving family is not the highest priority (of course “family” is now redifined to be a much more flexible term).
America is in a place where forty years of an open sexuality and feminist culture are moving from the people and into the legislature. For those who do not accept modern ideas of marriage and sex, they are facing laws that will inevitably force on them those modern ideas of marriage and sex. Sensing this, traditional conservatives are pushing out in an effort to protect what they hold dear from legal exclusion.