Pokeinthenose - I promise you I understand the that if it passes then any city policy using the term marriage in a position contrary to the amendment would immediately make that policy unconstitutional and that amendment one needs to be voted down. When I say they should pass policies consistent with equal rights, I mean they should be striking the term marriage altogether from city policy. So as one example, if the city offers a benefit to married couples (as defined by amendment one) and therefore does not extend the same privilege to same-sex couples then it shouldn't be in the benefits offered to city employees at all! Instead the city should create a policy that uses and defines a more equal term, such as a domestic partnership/civil union and convey certain benefits without any reference to the term marriage. Then any city employee meeting the criteria of a domestic partnership whether same-sex or opposite-sex would receive the same benefits package. Granted, there would still be (and currently is) a significant number of rights that would not be available to same-sex couples and in this example this only helps same-sex couples where at least one is a city emploiyee. But from the viewpoint of what the city council can do this would be a move in the right direction.
My argument is that establishment politicians rely on support from faith-based organizations. Faith-based organizations and their supporters have pushed for marriage to be codified in its religious context into the state constitution. Therefore most establishment politicians will not take a stance (at local, state or federal levels) contrary to that position. You ask whether I think faith based organizations are anti-gay. I don't know the answer - I do know however that Amendment One will go to the ballot and it presumes to define marriage on its religious definition rather than on any constitutional rights definition. Whether city employment policies are uncontroversial is up for argument but it is not the argument I am making. Any controversy surrounding domestic partnerships or lack thereof is closer to what I am arguing. Should it be uncontroversial? - Yes. Is it? - I can't agree with your assertion that it is not. As a state SC does not recognize domestic partnerships, although the cities you mentioned might have passed some sort of policies recognizing those rights for city employees. If so, then great - that is exactly to my point. They used a non-loaded term to protect rights to a type of civil union. We need to provide local politicians means to openly and equally support both opposite-sex and same-sex unions and the way I think you get there is to remove spiritually charged terminology from law. If you changed every instance of 'marriage' to 'domestic partnership' in existing law and define domestic partnership as a union of any two consenting adults, then I don't think you will find much controversy or unwillingness for city council members to get behind and support it.
The reason I bring up amendment one in regards to your commentary is that I don't believe you will get establishment politicians (republican or democrat) to take the stance you are looking for because of the underlying problem I asserted. Council members on the left and right both depend on support from faith-based organizations so they are not going to take a stance that will jeopardize their reelection. If you want them to take a strong civil liberty position on defending rights of same-sex couples you first have to give them an out so that they can do so without upsetting their voter base. Removing loaded terminology from the law is one way in which to give them the out so they can move policy forward in providing equal rights to everyone.
@Pokeinthenose - I don't know that educating people on the purpose of the Constitution is going to do much good either. As far as I know, the strict separation of church and state, 1st amendment and the civil rights movements are still taught in every public school yet somehow we end up with a majority of the population thinking it is okay to legislate marriage into law based on its religious definition. The fact is the word 'marriage ' is too loaded in its religious context to have any place in the law anymore. Too many people are unable to separate the religious context of marriage from the legal. What we need is politicians willing to change the term used for defining consensual relationships between adults to something more neutral so that the religious context no longer enters the picture in legal matters regarding how consenting adults choose to be treated for tax purposes, property rights, probate, health care decision, insurance, etc. Although you are quite right that the major issue stems down from flaws at the federal level, that doesn't mean local representatives get a free pass on this issue. Local representatives can still put pressure on State and Federal lawmakers and pass city policy that is consistent with equal rights.
Matt, the root problem is the one that Amendment One is (incorrectly) prefaced on. We have a word 'marriage' that carries two different meanings when used in a religious context versus a legal one. I can see that, as well as you, but unfortunately a majority of the people in NC and the Nation for that matter are unable to distinguish between those two contexts. What we have is a religiously charged word that is already codified as law and if Amendment One is passed will be codified as supreme law of the State of NC. Think about that - we will have a religious ceremony institutionalized into and defined by our State constitution. See any 1st amendment or separation of church and state issues there? The word marriage is so pervasive throughout our legal system that it spills into everything from tax, contract, probate, health care and insurance laws. The only fix (short of people being willing to rationally consider the difference between the religious and legal aspects) is to strike the term altogether from law and replace it with something less spiritually charged - like domestic partnership, civil union, etc. So what we need is elected officials to start amending existing ordinances and laws to start using a more neutral term to refer to a consensual relationship between adults that conveys the rights and privileges connected with such a shared relationship rather than the term marriage. Religious institutions have clearly laid claim to that term and as such it no longer has a place in law.
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