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100 Plus Gather for Marriage Rally at WHS, Not All Supporters; Hot Button Issue Continues to Intensify

Correction: The High Country Press unintentionally overestimated those in attendance who were in opposition to the Vote For Marriage NC grassroots rally at the Watauga High School. More likely about 20 people – which is half of the 40 initially reported – attended who were against the Marriage Protection Amendment. One supporter for the rally emailed the High Country Press and stated that 200 showed up. From an estimated headcount by two local media outlets, that number seems overestimated. Minor changes are italicized in body of article. High Country Press strives to report unbiased, accurate information and welcomes our readers suggestions and corrections.  

Rep. Jordan (left) Sen. Soucek spoke at the rally. Photo by Jesse Wood

By Jesse Wood

April 10, 2012. About 125 people gathered inside the Watauga High School auditorium to attend the Vote For Marriage NC grassroots rally organized by Three Forks Baptist Association and Mount Vernon Baptist Church of Boone on Tuesday night. The rally was in support of the Marriage Protection Amendment, which defines marriage solely as between a man and a women and will be on the ballot during the May 8 primary election.

About 20 of those in attendance sat in opposition, or at least didn’t clap after speeches – and a few were almost stone faced – while the rest applauded thunderously to the words of the guest speakers, which included Rep. Jonathan Jordan (R); Sen. Dan Soucek (R); Reverend Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League; and Ed McLearen, a retired attorney who resides in Ashe County, where  a similar rally was held at Ashe High School on Monday evening.

One person, who condemned the Marriage Protection Amendment, handed out flyers – which stated 10 reasons to vote against the amendment – as attendees walked inside the new high school: the number one reason being that, “It’s not needed. There is already a N.C. law forbidding gay marriage.” Other reasons on the list included that the law would strip domestic violence protections, health benefits, child custody rights and more from unmarried citizens – all of which were denied by the guest speakers, who claimed these were untrue and have been intentionally spread by those intending to squash the amendment.  

More than a hundred attended the Vote 4 Marriage NC rally at the Watauga High School. Photo by Jesse Wood

The moderator of the event, Bud Russell of the Mount Vernon Church of Boone, acknowledged – and welcomed – the dissenters who were present, though he added that the grassroots event was not a question and answer forum. “This event is sponsored by people who are for the amendment,” Russell said. “[That said] I think we can agree to disagree, but still be agreeable.”

Soucek, who spoke first, has been a vocal advocate of the Marriage Protection Amendment and was instrumental in seeing that this issue was on the ballot during the primary election. Among other subtopics regarding misconceptions of the amendment, Soucek, in his five-minute speech, struck down the notion that the amendment was expanding the size of government (which goes against a core principle of the Republican Party, the major party supporting the amendment) by meddling with individual’s liberty.

“People claim the government shouldn’t be involved in the marriage issue, but the reality is it is involved and will be involved one way or another,” Soucek said Tuesday night. “Do we want [this issue decided] through the courts, through a judge who may or may not be elected, who will be appointed and not among the mainstream society, or do we want a vote of the people of North Carolinato decide.”

He added that before this amendment made it on the ballot, he was among several dozen politicians who could vote on this issue. “Now I am one of six million,” he said. “I like taking the power from Raleigh and handing it to the people of North Carolina.”

Mark Creech of the Christian Action League gave a passionate speech.

Jordan countered other “false” arguments that have “been thrown around.” He said that economic performance will not be affected by this amendment, stating that nine of the top 10 states ranked by economic performance and output from 1999 to 2009 – have marriage amendments; and eight of the 10 states forecasted to have the poorest economies have legalized same-sex marriage or unions. Though these statistics have no relation to the economy, he said these studies counter the misconception that the economy will be harmed by the passing of this amendment.

McLearen spoke directly to the pastors and church organizations in the audience on legal matters that nonprofit churches and its pastors may encounter with regards to endorsing or rejecting candidates or supporting or not supporting governmental policies. Also, in his speech, he called the concept of the “separation of church and state” the “boogey man.”

The last – and the most passionate – of the guest speakers was Creech, who has lobbied on behalf of evangelical churches for 13 years while fighting “leaders of the abortion movement, gay rights movement, atheists, evolutionists, the gambling, liquor and all left wing cadres,” he said. He received a standing ovation from those in attendance and was interrupted more than once during his speech by someone speaking out loud in dissent.

Creech quoted biblical phrases, such as “be fruitful and multiply,” to back up his position and said that marriage is the “life-giving foundation that creates and sustains a culture.” He said people often incorrectly argue that this amendment is similar to cultural opposition to interracial marriage years ago. “That comparison is untenable. Race is irrelevant to marriage while gender is absolutely essential to it,” he said, adding that only mothers can make really good mothers and only fathers can make really good fathers, i.e., a man can’t ever be a good mom and a women can’t ever become a good father. He also added children will be confused if same-sex marriage is legalized.

“When government sanctions by law homosexual relationships, I make the contention to you that the younger generation becomes confused about the Real McCoy. It loses its understanding of lifelong commitments, emotional bonding, the role of the husband, the role of wife, the role of children, and more specifically, the sanctity of marriage,” Creech said. “Marriage is ultimately reduced to something of a private partnership that provides for sexual convenience and makes certain government benefits accessible.”

He said that “contrary to every heading the press has printed on the subject” that the Marriage Protection Amendment isn’t an “anti-gay amendment” nor is it “meant to make gays and lesbians second-class citizens.” He said it is a pro-marriage amendment, but one that is, nonetheless, discriminatory.

“This amendment is discriminatory,” he admits.

Ashe County resident and retired lawyer Ed McLaren spoke before the crowd at WHS. Photo by Jesse Wood

“In the same way that the U.S. constitution says 17 year olds can’t vote. It is also discriminatory that a man can’t have two wives; can’t marry his sister; [and] can’t marry a minor,” Creech said. “Let’s be objective my friends. All laws are discriminatory, but it is discrimination against behavior. What legitimate basis could we possibly deny the polygamous, the bigamous, pedophiles or even the incestuous among us? They too could claim discrimination.”

So far, the Marriage Protection Amendment has overwhelming support among the High Country county commissioners – boards that all have a Republican majority. Avery, Ashe and Watauga have recently passed resolutions endorsing the amendment. On a nationwide basis, Soucek said, 30 states in the U.S. have passed similar laws.

This is how ballot will look for Marriage Protection Amendment vote.

Those against the Marriage Protection Amendment claim it is divisive, splitting constituents along party lines and a diversion from other issues such as the economy, jobs and healthcare. Also, those same people say this amendment is unnecessary because North Carolina statutes already prohibit same-sex marriage.

And some folks point to what may be a the hypocrisy concerning the amendment. When the High Country Press informed readers of the rallies at both Watauga and Ashe high schools, we asked them “How do you feel about this?” One reader responded via Facebook, “For those of you voting for this bill: If marriage is so sacred why aren’t you rallying to ban divorce?”

With less than a month until the May 8 primary election, this issue has become a focal point in communities across North Carolina– and the High Country is no different.

Check back for videos of last night’s event, and in the coming weeks, High Country Press will publish opinion-editorials from leaders of both sides of this controversial issue. Check back as the debate continues. 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 for more information about the organizers, click to www.3forksassoc.org.

Click here to read a previous High Country Press article on the Marriage Protection Amendment. 

Click here for important dates regarding the Marriage Protection Amendment. 

Want To Watch?

Our video of Tuesday night’s rally features Sen. Dan Soucek (R) and Rep. Jonathan Jordan (R) speaking to the audience and citizens Roy Greene, who is against the amendment, and Brad Shields, who is for the amendment, talking to High Country  Press after the rally about their thoughts on the amendment as well as Tuesday night’s event.