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‘An Embarrassing Day for Watauga?’ High Country Commissioners Endorse Marriage Protection Amendment

By Jesse Wood

This is how the ballot will look on May 8.

April 3, 2012. That’s what one local blogger called Tuesday’s action by the Watauga County Commissioners.

Now all three High Country counties – Ashe, Avery and Watauga – have recently endorsed the Marriage Protection Amendment, which is stated on the May 8 primary elections ballot as a “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.” 

Ten other counties in North Carolina, which is a 100-county state, have also passed resolutions endorsing the amendment, including Wake, Brunswick, McDowell, Stanly, Lincoln, Union, Caldwell, Columbus, Craven and Yancey, according to Vote For Marriage NC, an organization that supports the amendment; asked the Legislature to put it on the upcoming primary ballot; and gives free yard signs to volunteers.

In a Raleigh News and Observer blog on Tuesday, Tami Fitzgerald, chairwoman of Vote for Marriage NC, said, “Across North Carolina, boards of commissioners are taking strong stands for marriage. The outpouring of support for the Amendment proves that the people of North Carolina should have their voices heard on marriage.”

The Watauga County Commissioners became the latest local county to endorse the Marriage Protection Amendment, voting 3 to 1 in favor of it on Tuesday morning. The commissioners were divided among party lines with all Republicans voting in favor of the amendment. (Commissioner Jim Deal was the lone dissenter, while Commissioner Tim Futrelle was absent.) 

J.W. Williamson, who in his blog Watauga Watch, stated his concern for the commissioners “suddenly springing” the resolution without public notice or labeling it on the agenda. After the meeting, he wrote that Tuesday was an “an embarrassing day for Watauga County” and that the amendment was “terrible.” 

His blog continued: “Playing to the lowest prejudices of your base might be considered good strategic politics, but it has little to do with good government or with any of the many problems actually facing Watauga County.”

Some feel this amendment is unnecessary because state statutes already prohibit same-sex marriage. The High Country United Church of Christ has set up a webpage advocating against the Marriage Protection Amendment that states:

  •  Voting “against” on this amendment is NOT a vote to legalize same-gender marriage, which along with all civil unions are already deemed invalid by state statute in North Carolina
  • Common law marriages of opposite-sex couples in North Carolina are invalid already too
  • This amendment would codify discrimination into our state’s constitution against unmarried partners of both same-gender and opposite-gender relationships.

With only a month until the primary, this issue is heating up across North Carolina –  and abroad, too, as even President Obama recently chimed in on the matter in mid-March, announcing his opposition to the Marriage Protection Amendment.

“While the president does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples,” said Cameron French, his North Carolina campaign spokesman, in a statement. “That’s what the North Carolina ballot initiative would do – it would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples – and that’s why the President does not support it.”

While some deem this amendment an unnecessary, discriminatory, and divisive issue – split among party lines – that distracts constituents from other issues, that may or may not be more important to voters, such as the economy, others feel that a vote for the Marriage Protection Amendment is warranted and are adamant about the traditional union.

On the Facebook page of Vote For Marriage NC, Patty Valentine posted, “I will support gay marriage the day hell freezes over! Marriage is between one man and one woman.”

To learn more about both sides of the issue, click to Vote For Marriage NC at www.voteformarriagenc.com, or High Country United Church of Christ’s Amendment One page at www.highcountryucc.org/amendment-one.

Also, in the coming weeks, check back to www.hcpress.com for updates on this story, as well as opinion-editorials from leaders on both sides of this controversial issue leading up to the primary on May 8.