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The offensive offensive begins


The folks who want to write discrimination into the state constitution formerly kicked off their campaign of intolerance this week, launching the ridiculously named “Vote for Marriage NC” coalition.

The distortions and misleading rhetoric weren’t limited to the name.

Rev. Mark Harris, President of the N.C Baptists, said in a statement that “the marriage amendment is simple and straight-forward. It’s about preserving marriage as we’ve always known it and making sure that activist judges can’t redefine it in the future.”

The marriage discrimination amendment is a lot of things, but simple and straight-forward are not among them.

It not only bans same-sex marriage, which is already illegal in North Carolina, its broad sweeping language would strip benefits from partners of same-sex workers, weaken domestic violence protections, and threaten individuals’ rights in wills and trusts.

It would affect thousands of unmarried couples, gay and straight, and could wreak havoc with dozens of state laws and regulations.

As for preserving marriage as “we’ve always known it,” you have to wonder if folks like Rev. Harris were disappointed when the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1967 that the ban on interracial marriage was unconstitutional.

That certainly changed marriage the way people in southern states had always known it.

Even the absurd claim about activist judges doesn’t make any sense. Judges in North Carolina state courts have shown no inclination to overturn the law.

Federal courts seem the far more likely venue and a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to give gay men and lesbians the same rights as everybody else would trump North Carolina’s amendment anyway.

Every part of Harris’ statement is nonsense, which seems fitting for an organization that wants to deny people the right to get married while calling itself the Vote for Marriage coalition.

This week’s disingenuous and offensive claims are only just the beginning if the lessons from amendment fights in other states and the debate about in the General Assembly are any indication.

Pandering Republican legislators seemed perfectly comfortable speaking at rallies and events where religious bigots bellowed that gay people are an abomination and are going to hell and in one case even clanged two padlocks together in a bizarre anatomy lesson.

Expect more stunts, fear-mongering and hate speech as the May vote on the amendment approaches. Most of it won’t be on official websites or in public proclamations from the well-funded coalition of state and national fundamentalists.

They are likely to stick to the less-confrontational, though thoroughly absurd statements like the one from Rev. Harris to make their case. The scary stuff will be behind the scenes, in fliers and mailers and whisper campaigns.

The pro-discrimination forces surely know that the more people in North Carolina understand the amendment and what it means for people’s lives, the less they like it and the less likely they are to vote for it.

Polls are already showing support for the amendment is slipping.

The Coalition to Protect N.C. Families, a broad group of religious, business, and community leaders opposed to writing discrimination into the constitution, kicked off its campaign last week to educate voters about what the amendment would actually mean for North Carolina—and it is a troubling scenario indeed.

Our state has plenty of real problems, tens of thousands of people out of work, families living in poverty, and schools staggering after massive budget cuts come first to mind.

Demonizing people in the constitution because of who they love doesn’t address any of them. Neither does cutting off health benefits or weakening domestic violence laws.

Supporters of the amendment should at least be honest about it. Despite their name, they are not really for anything in this case, except discrimination and the opportunity to write their narrow-minded agenda into our state constitution.

Let’s hope the momentum to defeat this narrow-minded crusade continues to grow and that voters make it clear all North Carolina families deserve our respect and support.