DOBSON — On Monday, the Surry County Board of Commissioners will vote on a resolution supporting the North Carolina same-sex marriage amendment, set to appear on the May 8 ballot.
In its previous meeting, the board voted to draft the resolution, with the motion made by Vice Chairman Garry Scearce and seconded by Commissioner Paul Johnson.
Drafted by County Manager Dennis Thompson, the resolution announces the board’s support of “the passage of the proposed [a]mendment to the Constitution as a means of strengthening the [s]tate law which already exists, and as an affirmation of traditional marriage unions that have been and continue to be the foundation of our family heritage.”
According to Scearce, the idea for the resolution arrived after other counties passed similar support for the amendment, commonly referenced as Amendment One.
“I’ve had a lot of people ask me why we haven’t done a marriage amendment,” he explained. “I hadn’t given it a bunch of thought.
“But when I got to looking, there are a lot of counties around us who had already done so. I felt it was our obligation to follow what most of the voters want.”
Commissioner boards in neighboring N.C. counties Ashe, Davie and Watauga have likewise voted to support the amendment.
As for Surry’s board, the commissioners voiced religious and tax-related reasons for supporting the resolution. Commissioner Eddie Harris elaborated on the latter case.
“Surry County’s tax dollars are involved in this issue, in the fact that marriage licenses have to be taken out and recorded in the county in which the marriage takes place,” he said. “It’s not my concern to get involved with peoples’ private lives. What they do is their own business, in regards to the lifestyle they choose.
“I personally believe marriage should be only between a man and a woman, and the county should not be involved in any arrangement other than marriage between a man and a woman.”
Commissioner Paul Johnson echoed that sentiment. “Being a Christian and a God-fearing person, I believe that God intended for man and woman to be together, not man-and-man or woman-and-woman,” he said. “Times may have changed. But the Scriptures have not changed, and God has not changed.”
Scearce said he believes most Surry Countians will vote for the amendment, passing it “with flying colors.” One reason for that belief, he added, is due to amount of yard signs he has seen favoring the amendment.
Similarly, Johnson said, “In Surry County, I have seen one that says to vote against the marriage amendment. I have seen probably at least a thousand signs, and I know I’ve had at least 25 to 30 phone calls from people wanting signs that encourage others to vote yes.”
Nonetheless, the same-sex marriage amendment has opposition from such prominent figures as President Barrack Obama and N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue. This week, Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers said it would weaken the state’s appeal to businesses around the globe.
In March, Elon University released a poll revealing 54 percent of people surveyed oppose the amendment, while 38 percent support it. The poll consisted of 605 N.C. residents, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.98 percentage points. The poll also did not take into account whether its participants were registered or likely to vote.
If the same-sex marriage amendment is passed, it will add a new section to Article 14 of the North Carolina Constitution: “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.”
“That would further strengthen the law we have in North Carolina,” said Harris. “It will make it harder for a liberal activist judge to tamper with it.”
According to County Attorney Ed Woltz, the amendment would most considerably affect same-sex couples who entered a marriage or civil union in another state, since N.C. already has a statutory prohibition again such unions. If the amendment is passed, same-sex couples could forfeit certain rights by moving to N.C. For instance, in the time of death, the surviving partner in a marriage or civil union would not have the right to administer his or her deceased partner’s estate, unless otherwise is stated in a legal will. Furthermore, the couple’s land ownership would be affected, as the surviving partner would not automatically be entitled to the deceased partner’s half of the land.
Still, Woltz added that certain potential effects of the amendment have been exaggerated by its opponents. On Thursday, Perdue released an online video in which she claimed the amendment could invalidate domestic violence laws. Her conclusion arrived partially from Ohio’s passing of a similar amendment, which resulted in some judges dropping domestic violence charges in cases with unmarried couples.
“There’s been a lot of talk about Ohio having issues with the domestic violence claims,” said Woltz. “But apparently that’s the only state where that has been an issue.
“I don’t think many of the amendments use the same language. Certainly none of them use the same language as ours.”
No matter how the county and state vote on May 8, the commissioners anticipate a unanimous vote to approve the resolution on Monday. If the resolution is passed, it will be sent to N.C. delegation soon afterward.
Reach Josh Armstrong at 719-1921 or email@example.com.