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Head of NC Baptist Convention: I support the anti-gay amendment – but I’m not a bigot (updated)

UPDATE: The Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families responds to Harris below.

No one likes being called a bigot, but no matter how you slice it, Rev. Mark Harris is exactly that. The Charlotte Observer has a puff piece on the senior minister at uptown Charlotte’s First Baptist Church, who will be a well-known advocate for the passage of the anti-gay marriage discrimination amendment that will go before voters on May 8. He is the head of the  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina – the organization represents 4,300 N.C. Baptist churches (1.3 million members).

The gist of the Observer profile is that Harris is just for a civil public debate on the referendum, which would bar gays and lesbians from civil marriage as well as negate any opportunity for civil unions and eliminate domestic partnerships where they have been locally established.

Read this nonsense:

“But I hope we can express our positions – keep the conversation to the facts and our principles – and do it in a civil way,” Harris, 45, said. “It doesn’t mean I’m going to change someone else’s position or they’re going to change mine. “But in America, we all ought to be able to express ourselves without things getting out of hand.”

What is getting out of hand is the obvious stated goal of these fundies to conflate church and state when it comes to civil marriage. I don’t care what he believes or preaches on Sunday, or what happens in his church. This amendment has nothing to do with interfering in church affairs, it’s about enshrining bigotry in the North Carolina constitution, which should be expanding rights, not restricting them, based on any group’s objection to another group of people.

Harris tries to extract himself from the bigotry he is a proponent of by stating he’s not for “discrimination.” I’m not sure what dictionary he’s using but try to square your definition with this:

“From a biblical position, all I can do is state my position: I believe that homosexuality is a sin … That said, I don’t believe that that position is at the heart of this amendment. If homosexuals choose to maintain a relationship and live together, that’s their business. I don’t believe people should be discriminated against.” Same-sex marriages, he said, aren’t good for children. “I just believe that marriage between a man and a woman is ideal,” he said. “It is such a unique union, and it is absolutely essential to the future of humanity.”

Are we back to the procreation argument? What about infertile couples? Couples beyond procreative years? They aren’t marrying to further the human race. And they don’t need a church ceremony to be married under state law. This isn’t about Mark Harris’s vision of God’s law, something that the Rev. Nancy Kraft, pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, notes in the article:

She, too, hopes the debate will be civil. Her objection, she said, isn’t based on religion. “I just think it’s inappropriate as a constitutional amendment,” Kraft said. “It’s political grandstanding on the part of people who are anti-gay.” She said the amendment would discriminate against gay people. “I hope people really look at this as a broader issue and don’t think they’re voting on gay marriage,” she said. “There is no rational way you can justify putting discrimination into our constitution.

Harris also adds that the amendment is needed to stop “activist judges” from overturning the state DOMA. The sad truth is that none of these anti-gay arguments make logical sense, but this is an emotional and personal issue for many North Carolinians. The debate can be civil, but it needs to be fact and evidence based, not about fear-mongering or religious justification for discrimination.

*  NC group uses ‘sniper crosshair’ image to bash marriage equality

UPDATE (12/28): The Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families responds:

“We agree with Mark Harris’ assertion that we should keep the Amendment conversation factual – and do it in a civil way. Nevertheless, this type of discourse is something not seen in other states, especially from an industry willing to pit people’s religion – as well as gross misinformation – against families. We must be willing to honor the very real emotions, including pain and fear, that these types of discriminatory measures naturally evoke, especially when North Carolina’s particular Amendment is not only a permanent ban on marriage equality and civil unions – relationship recognitions that a majority of North Carolinians support – but also strips basic benefits and protections from loving couples, women, and children, and causes substantial economic harms to families, business and the perception of the state as a whole. No one of faith – or otherwise – will sit back while families lose their health insurance, domestic violence victims lose their protections, and loving couples lose their ability to see each other in the hospital. We can’t and we won’t let that happen. We will make sure that the families of NC are protected from this harmful, extreme amendment.”

-Jeremy Kennedy, Campaign Manager, The Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding