DOBSON — On Monday, the Surry County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution to support traditional marriage. Before voting on the resolution, however, it heard comments from individuals on each side of the issue.
Last week, the commissioners announced their intent to vote on the resolution supporting the marriage amendment. Although the commissioners’ resolution names the document as the “North Carolina Same-Sex Marriage Amendment,” county citizens have been quick to note its name as the Defense of Marriage Amendment.
Hence, last night, the Rev. Larry Phillips of Midway Baptist Church in Mount Airy began by expressing his appreciation for the commissioners’ stand. “I want to thank you, first of all, for what you are doing and your recognition and support for the defense of marriage,” he said.
“I suppose, by some, your actions are going to be considered unethical; they’re going to be considered unnecessary. Let me remind you the Supreme Court of the United States has constantly upheld that communities have a right to define and set the standards of decency. You gentlemen serve tonight as our representatives, and … you certainly have a right to reflect that in your policies and in your decisions.”
Speaking as a “concerned citizen of Surry County,” Robert Johnson read from Romans 1:26-27: “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error…”
Representing the opposite side of the debate, Steve Motsinger responded that “we need to remember that there are relational, civil and religious aspects of the domestic partnership we call marriage. Primarily, marriage is about love. It happens when two people who love and care exclusively for one another decide to formalize their commitment to each other.
“The church is — and always should be — free to decide which couples it should marry. However, religious beliefs should never prevent a couple’s access to a civil union,” he continued. “Every person, regardless of sexual orientation, should have the freedom to choose a life partner and enter into a civil union to legalize that relationship.”
On that note, Mary Lou Spencer addressed the commissioners. “Do you have gay friends and family members? Do you truly believe these North Carolina citizens made a choice for their sexual preference? It is not a choice,” she said. “Do you deny that, if you are in a relationship, it was because of your sexual preference that you fell in love with someone of the opposite sex? You can’t. Partners of the same sex marry for the same reason. They marry for love, commitment and family.”
Judy Reed offered a counterpoint to Spencer’s words. “To the people who were talking about having [homosexual] family members and friends, I do. I have a family member; also have friends. I love them, and I respect them,” she said, before expressing that no one is born homosexual. “It’s things that the devil has put in their minds.”
“This is not an indictment against any lifestyle of any people, because I certainly can proclaim to you that I love all people that I minister to,” said the Rev. Rusty Reed, interim pastor of Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Mount Airy. “But please let me say there was a city in the days of the Old Testament — many, many years ago — [that] had the opportunity to make things right in their city. To make things right in the eyes of God. God sent a family there to teach those people that which was righteous in God’s eyes. That was the city of Sodom and Gomorrah. And God destroyed that city.
“With all due respect to those people who support the rights of people in gay marriage,” concluded the reverend, “it’s in opposition to God’s law.”
County commissioners respond to testimonies
Once the testimonies had finished, Commissioner Paul Johnson noted that he had received several emails and phone calls opposing the commissioners’ support of the Defense of Marriage Amendment. According to Johnson, some individuals had referenced Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers’ statement that the amendment would weaken the state’s appeal to businesses.
“I would expect him to come out against the amendment, being that Duke Power gave $10 million to the Democrat National Committee, to sponsor the Democrat National Convention in Charlotte,” said Johnson. “He also said it was going to discourage jobs to North Carolina and Surry County. I disagree with him vehemently. In my opinion, it would encourage people to come to North Carolina, knowing that we are of moral fiber and stand up for what we believe in.”
Paul Johnson added, “Like my cohorts on the board, I love everybody. God has commanded us to love our brother and to love each other.
“But the sanctity of the family has been under attack for years and years and years,” he said. “Unless we protect the moral sanctity of the family, I’m afraid our nation as we know it is going to cease to exist.”
Commissioner Eddie Harris elaborated on why the commissioners chose to vote publicly on a resolution supporting traditional marriage. Critics have suggested all N.C. county boards should not voice their opinion on the state-wide issue.
“Some folks have suggested that maybe this isn’t a county issue,” said Harris. “But I think it’s important of citizens to know how their elected officials stand in the event that they do seek a higher office. It gives them a better insight into how they may or may not vote in the future. An educated public is always good for democracy.
“I want the public and the citizens of this county to know that I have always — my whole life — treated everyone with kindness and decency and consideration, no matter who they are, regardless of sexual orientation. I think that’s a great part of being a Christian, and I think everyone should do that. As this debate goes forward in our county and our state and our nation, I hope that the public discourse will remain civil and polite and kind. That’s the way it ought to be in a democracy; that’s the way it ought to be in America — we treat each other with kindness and consideration.
“Obviously, these are very emotional issues. They are emotional for almost everyone,” concluded Harris. “I cannot hide from the fact that I am a supporter of traditional marriage. It doesn’t diminish my love one bit for people who choose a lifestyle that I may not agree with. But that is who I am, and that was the person that was elected to this seat in 2010. So I hope we can all move forward and love each other and be kind to one another.”
“Thank you, sir. Very well put,” said Chairman R.F. “Buck” Golding, who then reminded the audience to vote on the Defense of Marriage Amendment May 8.
“Whoever turns out the most votes will win this issue. That’s just the way it works,” he said. “So thank God for that, and thank God for America.”
With that said, the commissioners voted on a resolution announcing their support for marriage remaining only between one man and one woman. Johnson made the first motion, which was seconded by Vice Chairman Garry Scearce. The remaining commissioners raised their right hand unanimously in support.
“The resolution passed!” announced Scearce, to a room full of cheers and applause.
Next, the commissioners will send their resolution to N.C. delegation. On May 8, North Carolinians will enter the polls to vote for or against the — as the ballot will read — “Constitutional amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”
Reach Josh Armstrong at 719-1921 or firstname.lastname@example.org.