Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Durham, NC Council Passes Resolution Supporting Same-sex Marriage

The debate over who should be able to wed legally took center stage Monday evening as the Durham City Council passed a resolution supporting same-sex marriage.

Joshua Weaver asked the council to consider the resolution in April.

"I want the American dream. I want to be able to get married and have that big house with a couple of kids playing in the yard, and that is why it is so important to me. For someone to tell me that I can't do that (because I'm gay), I just don't think that's right,” Weaver said.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa and Massachusetts. Beginning in September, it will also be legal in Vermont and Maine.

Durham council members do not have the authority to change state law, but Monday’s resolution was aimed at showing support for same-sex marriages. Chapel Hill and Carrboro have also passed resolutions supporting same-sex marriage.

"I think what it says is that Durham is a community that is very diverse. We are accepting of a lot of different opinions and beliefs,” Mayor Bill Bell said.

However, not everyone was in favor of the resolution.

"There are many of us who are Christians and we are totally against the same-sex marriages, constitutionally as well as biblically,” Durham resident Victoria Peterson said at the meeting.

The executive director of the John W. Pope Civitas Institute, a conservative public policy advocate, also spoke against the resolution.

"This resolution flies in face of public opinion. As a large majority of North Carolinians of all backgrounds and parties oppose defining marriage as anything except marriage between one man and one woman," Francis De Luca, executive director of the Civitas Institute, said in a statement.

De Luca has backed proposed legislation for a state constitutional amendment that would clarify a valid marriage as one only between a man and woman.

Introduced this year into the General Assembly, Senate Bill 272, "The Defense of Marriage Act," and a similar House bill – failed to make it through legislative committees.

Proponents of the bill – including NC4Marriage, a bipartisan coalition of voters, lawmakers and clergy, have argued that it will protect marriage and protect children from being taught in schools that homosexuality is normal and that a same-sex union is the moral and legal equivalent to marriage.

Meanwhile, North Carolinians appear to be split on the issue.

An Elon University poll in March found that 50.4 percent of respondents opposed a voter-approved amendment protecting marriage while more than 43 percent supported it.

While respondents opposed the amendment, only 21 percent of said they support full marriage rights for same-sex couples. About 28 percent said they would support civil unions or partnerships but not marriage. About 44 percent of respondents said they oppose any legal recognition for same-sex couples."

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