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ASHEVILLE — Faith leaders on both sides of the Amendment One ballot initiative spoke Thursday — the first day of early voting — hoping to sway voters as they choose how marriage should be defined in North Carolina. Members of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Asheville/Buncombe County stood outside City Hall to announce their support for the amendment, which would change the N.C. Constitution to say the state’s only legally recognized union is marriage between one man and one woman.
A coalition of Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal, Unitarian-Universalist, Jewish and other spiritual leaders held a press conference at the Unitarian-Universalist Church to show solidarity in opposition to the amendment, which they said would harm same-sex couples in committed relationships, heterosexual couples not legally married and children of all unmarried couples.
The amendment would hurt civil rights involving domestic violence, health care and end-of-life decisions, family finances and child custody for same-sex couples and unmarried heterosexual couples, several pastors said.
Members of the ministerial alliance, who were joined in support for Amendment One by the Baptist Ministerial Union of Asheville, issued a three-paragraph statement supporting marriage between one man and one woman and said discrimination is not an issue.
“We don’t agree with those who suggest that the amendment, as passed, would put discrimination into our Constitution,” the Rev. John Grant said.
He said the state’s Constitution already discriminates by prohibiting some activities while endorsing others. Marriage, Grant said, is no different. Fathers are not allowed to marry their daughters, he said in offering an example.
“We believe marriage is good for our society and has existed for millennia,” he said.
At the gathering of the other group of faith leaders, the Rev. Howard Hanger of Jubilee, frequently referencing the Declaration of Independence, said similar groups met 50 years ago to fight for civil rights for African-Americans; 100 years ago to fight for women’s equality and right to vote; and 150 years ago to fight against slavery.
In every case, the other side was “quoting the Bible and screaming that this would destroy our way of life,” Hanger said.
“This is not a gay agenda — I’m hetero, and a lot of these people are hetero,” he said, nodding at the group of pastors and rabbis behind him. “This is about our inalienable right to marry the person we love.”
Rabbi Batsheva Meiri, leader of Beth Ha Tephila congregation, said Amendment One is purely discriminatory against “decent, law-abiding citizens.” “If we don’t tolerate discrimination based on race, what about gender? What about physical differences? What about gender identity? Who is still left behind sitting at the back of the bus?” she said.