First Baptist’s Mark Harris: Marriage fight is worth the cost


From Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, in response to “Tab for fighting same-sex marriage grows” (Jan. 30):

Excoriating North Carolina legislative leaders who defended the state’s marriage amendment, Michael Gordon implies that defending religious liberty exemptions for magistrates will also waste taxpayer money. Gordon’s article includes descriptors like “charging windmills” and “futile effort” to describe the defense of North Carolina’s constitutional amendment. Unfortunately, Gordon’s analysis omits the following facts.

Every N.C. public servant swears an oath to defend the N.C. Constitution. When the marriage amendment passed in May 2012’s primary election, the New York Times reported a record early voting turnout. In the end, the amendment passed with 61 percent of voters. Was it a wasteful overreach for legislators to defend such a mandate to the bitter end? No, it was their sworn duty.

The defender of the N.C. Constitution should have been N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, whose office is taxpayer funded. Cooper rejected that responsibility after the 4th Circuit Court struck down Virginia’s same sex marriage ban. Cooper announced that his office would stop defending the Marriage Amendment. Cooper said: “The State of North Carolina will acknowledge the 4th Circuit opinion that marriage is a fundamental right.” South Carolina’s attorney general announced, however, “South Carolina’s law remains intact … until that time when a decision is made by the highest court in the land.”

Cooper forced the legislature into what Gordon calls “a last-minute stand” for traditional marriage. Why? North Carolina’s lawsuits against the amendment were in progress. The 4th Circuit Court issued a stay blocking same-sex marriages pending a decision by the Supreme Court to hear the case. Hiring counsel after Cooper’s abdication was the only way the state could continue defending our constitution in the cases that were underway.

When U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn of Asheville struck down North Carolina’s marriage amendment three months later, UNC law professor Maxine Eichner commented, “The speed of this is breathtaking.” If Eichner, a same-sex marriage advocate, was shocked by the rapidity of judicial assault on the moral sensibilities of the public, can we fault our elected representatives for trying to defend those sensibilities?

Now the religious-liberty exemption for magistrates is experiencing the same legal attack, despite the fact that it burdens the state, not same sex couples. As George Will aptly noted, the “sore winners” of the gay rights movement refuse to make any accommodation for the majority of Americans who have a sincerely held view of traditional marriage. And thus the fights will continue, and yes, there will be a cost.