N.C. bishops 'pleased' with marriage vote, pray for unity and renewal
Pictured: Parishioners at St. Ann Church in Charlotte stood along Park Road on May 6, holding signs and forming a prayer chain to demonstrate their support of the constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage. (Photo by George Hoffman Jr. | Catholic News Herald)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With a heavy turnout at the polls, North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman by a 3-to-2 margin.
In unofficial results calculated late May 8 by the North Carolina State Board of Elections, 1,303,952 people -- 61.05 percent -- voted for the amendment while 831,788 people -- 38.95 percent -- voted against it.
The amendment read, "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state." It enshrines the definition of traditional marriage in the state constitution, elevating it from what has been state law since 1996.
Bishop Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, who were at the Vatican May 8 for their "ad limina" visits, had both championed the amendment, which they said would prevent any arbitrary redefinition of marriage.
Marriage, they reminded Catholics, is based in natural law by God and instituted as a sacrament by Jesus Christ. It binds together a family, the fundamental building block of all societies, and provides the most stable and nurturing environment to raise children.
Bishop Jugis said May 8: "I am pleased that the people of North Carolina voted for marriage. The church consistently teaches that marriage is created by God as the faithful and exclusive union of one man and one woman, open to the gift of children."
In a separate statement, Bishop Burbidge urged Catholics to pray "that whatever divisions may have occurred during this referendum process, may be healed by the grace of God and a mutual renewed commitment by all people of good will, so that we may together build a society reflective of the unity that is ours as members of God's family."
Bishop Jugis had mentioned the marriage amendment battle during a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI earlier that day. In his homily at Mass at the altar of the tomb of Blessed John XXIII in St. Peter's Basilica May 8, Bishop Jugis said he and Bishop Burbidge had endured scorn for their efforts to uphold Church teaching on marriage. It was a cross worth bearing, he said, "to be courageous in witnessing to the Gospel."
"I shared with another bishop my sadness over this criticism of our support for something as beautiful and foundational to society as traditional marriage," he said. The other bishop "encouraged me by saying, 'Wear it as a badge of honor.'"
Ever since the amendment was put on the ballot by the Republican-led Legislature last fall, the bishops had urged Catholics to vote for it. They communicated with parishioners in print and online diocesan news media, TV and radio ads, parish bulletins and postcards, billboards and yard signs, and letters read from the pulpit during Masses the weekend before the vote.
The bishops had said the vote presented an opportunity to explain the importance and sanctity of traditional marriage in the Church and in society.
In a joint letter read at all Masses May 5-6, the bishops wrote, "We are for marriage, as we believe it is a vocation in which God calls couples to faithfully and permanently embrace a fruitful union in a mutual self-giving bond of love, according to his purposes. It is not only the union itself that is essential to these purposes, but also the life to which spouses are called to be open, the gift of children."
Their efforts ran parallel to the campaign by Vote For Marriage NC, a nonpartisan coalition of churches, groups and individuals that organized public support for the amendment, which even at the start of the campaign last fall was considered widely popular among North Carolina voters. Each diocese also donated $50,000 to the Vote for Marriage NC campaign for its advertising blitz and voter education efforts.
In a statement released on election night May 8, Tami Fitzgerald, chairwoman of Vote For Marriage NC, said, "We are thankful to God and to the people of North Carolina for joining together today to preserve marriage as the union between one man and one woman in our state constitution.
"North Carolinians have been waiting for nearly a decade to protect marriage -- a sacred institution authored by God -- from being redefined against the will of the people," she added. "The marriage protection amendment ensures that it will always be the people of our state who determine what marriage is in North Carolina, not an activist judge or future politicians."
North Carolina is the 31st state to define traditional marriage in its constitution, and the last among the Southern states to do so.
The amendment attracted large numbers of people to the polls, with 2.1 million (34 percent) of the state's 6.3 million registered voters casting a ballot on the question, according to the state elections board results. Turnout was as high as 50 percent in some counties.
Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of Oakland, Calif., chairman of the U.S. bishops' Subcommittee on the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, praised North Carolina voters, saying the amendment's passage "demonstrates people's awareness of the essential role that marriage, as the union of a man and a woman, plays for the common good."
It also "affirms the authentic and timeless meaning of marriage," he said in a May 10 statement.
Meanwhile in Colorado, legislation that would have permitted civil unions in the state died without a vote May 8. But two days later, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an order calling for a special session asking lawmakers to take up several issues left unfinished, including the measure on civil unions.
The Colorado Catholic Conference issued a statement reiterating the Church's teaching against legalizing same-sex unions and said it was disappointed with Hickenlooper's decision.
"This special session is a rash reaction to political and financial pressure from special interest groups who do not represent the majority of Coloradans," the conference said May 10. "In 2006, the people of Colorado passed the marriage amendment to uphold traditional marriage between one man and one woman, and they defeated the ballot measure for domestic partnerships that same year."
"On this issue, the people have spoken. Governor Hickenlooper's plan spends taxpayer resources to oppose the will of the people," it added. Each day of the session will cost $23,500.
— Patricia L. Guilfoyle, Catholic News Herald
Information about the amendment
The statewide campaign for the marriage amendment is closing in on the Tuesday, May 8, vote.
The amendment would enshrine traditional marriage in the North Carolina constitution – taking what is already state law and shielding it from being redefined by judges or politicians, proponents say.
The for/against ballot states: "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State."
Polls on May 8, Election Day, will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Pictured: Deacons Art Kingsley (left), Peter Shaw and his father John Shaw, and Father James Ebright all listen as the Rev. Mark Harris of First Baptist Church in Charlotte speaks at a marriage amendment campaign press conference May 7, one day before the May 8 vote on the statewide constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage. More than 200 ministers each spoke in favor of the amendment at the Charlotte event. (David Hains for the Catholic News Herald)
Republican and Democratic party primaries are also being held on May 8, but any registered voter in North Carolina can take part in the marriage amendment ballot.
Supporters of the amendment, led by the nonpartisan coalition Vote for Marriage NC, and opponents are meeting with voters, airing television campaign ads and disseminating information to North Carolina residents in person and online through websites and social media.
North Carolina's two bishops, Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte and Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh, are urging Catholics to vote for the constitutional amendment, and they are using the upcoming vote as an opportunity to catechize the faithful about Church teaching on the sacrament of marriage.
The remaining days of the campaign are seeing a flurry of activity in churches of many denominations across the state as the message to support the amendment goes from the pulpits to the pews.
Vote for Marriage NC, the coalition of churches and public policy groups that have banded together to promote passage of the amendment, made a push over the weekend of April 28-29. Sermons, handouts and a video featuring many prominent local pastors urged supporters to go to the polls on May 8.
A high-profile endorsement from famed evangelist Billy Graham, along with similar endorsements from his son Franklin Graham and daughter Anne Graham Lotz, has also boosted the supporters' message out to North Carolina voters.
Catholic parishes in the dioceses of Charlotte and Raleigh will make their push for the amendment this weekend, May 5-6. A letter from Bishop Jugis and Bishop Burbidge urging voters to turn out to the polls on May 8 will be read at all Masses.
Registered Catholic families throughout the state have also received postcard reminders from the bishops during the final days of the campaign.
As the May 8 vote approached, Bishop Peter Jugis reflected on what all of the discussion about marriage has meant to Catholics in the diocese.
"The marriage amendment issue has required Catholics to think about the sanctity of the sacrament of matrimony. I pray that this reflection will strengthen their commitment to marriage as created by God, and that they will vote for the amendment on May 8," he said.
— David Hains, diocesan Director of Communication
Where and when to vote?
www.ncvoterguide.org: Find your polling place, check your registration status.
www.ncvotered.com: The website for the nonpartisan, nonprofit North Carolina Center for Voter Education. You can also call them at 1-877-25-VOTER.
More about marriage
Explore facts about the marriage amendment and read answers to marriage questions.
Pope Benedict XVI weighs in on marriage laws in the U.S.
Features about local couples:
North Carolina's Catholic bishops have produced a series of videos explaining Church teaching about the sacrament of marriage. View the videos.
For details about the ballot initiative, go to www.catholicvoicenc.org.
To learn more about Church teaching on the sacrament of marriage and resources for your marriage, check out the following websites: ForYourMarriage.org, Marriage-Unique For a Reason, and Why Marriage Matters.
Citizenship and voting resources for Catholics: www.catholicvote.org
N.C.'s Catholic bishops ask faithful to vote for constitutional amendment defining marriage
CHARLOTTE — The state's two Catholic bishops are being vocal in urging people in their dioceses to support the measure to protect traditional marriage in the state constitution.
Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh and Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte have been spending months educating the faithful about Church teaching on marriage and encouraging people to vote for the constitutional amendment, ever since the measure was placed on the ballot by the Republican-led state legislature last fall.
The for/against ballot question reads: "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State."
Marriage is already defined that way in North Carolina law. Supporters say the constitutional amendment would shield marriage from being redefined by judges or legislators over the public's objections, because the constitution could only be changed by another vote of the people.
Thirty states, including every Southern state except North Carolina, already define marriage in their constitutions as being between one man and one woman.
Bishop Burbidge and Bishop Jugis are coordinating their efforts through Catholic Voice North Carolina, the public policy institution of the state's two bishops. Also working for passage is Vote For Marriage NC, a coalition of local and national organizations and churches including the Christian Action League, NC Values Coalition, African-American pastors, N.C. Baptists, and the National Organization for Marriage. Opponents are being led by the Coalition to Protect All N.C. Families, which has received funding from the Human Rights Campaign.
The bishops say this particular vote presents an opportunity to explain the importance and sanctity of traditional marriage in the Church and in society.
In a joint letter being read at all Masses this weekend, the bishops wrote, "We are for marriage, as we believe it is a vocation in which God calls couples to faithfully and permanently embrace a fruitful union in a mutual self-giving bond of love, according to His purposes. It is not only the union itself that is essential to these purposes, but also the life to which spouses are called to be open, the gift of children. Children have the right to the indispensable place of fatherhood and motherhood in their lives as they grow, are loved, nurtured and formed by those whose unique vocation it is to be a father and a mother through the bond of one man and one woman in marriage."
"While our state already has a law that prohibits same-sex marriage, as we are well aware by what has taken place in several other states, such laws can be overturned by judicial or legislative action," they continued. "This is why it is so important for us to vote to protect traditional marriage and pass the amendment to make this definition of marriage part of our state constitution. The vote this week places this decision in the hands of the people of North Carolina. We ask you to join us in our support for the sacred vocation of marriage and what its definition means to us and to the future of our great state."
The May 8 ballot features Democratic and Republican primaries for the North Carolina gubernatorial race as well as several key congressional contests, but the non-partisan ballot measure on the marriage amendment has become the most visible, most expensive battle of all, statewide media have reported – despite the fact that polls show the amendment is popular with voters and is predicted to pass by a significant margin.
Supporters and opponents have raised a combined $3.2 million so far, according to their first-quarter finance reports, mostly from in-state donors but also from national groups that did battle in California's Proposition 8 fight in 2008. That's more than any other race on the ballot. The shadow of "Prop 8" looms large for both supporters and opponents in this campaign, and both sides have enlisted consultants and donors from that campaign in their battle in North Carolina.
In addition, opponents have been outspending amendment supporters by nearly two to one. The Charlotte and Raleigh dioceses each contributed $50,000 to Vote for Marriage NC for an advertising blitz in the final two weeks of the campaign.
Campaigning intensified quickly as soon as the early voting period opened April 19, and both supporters and opponents have been encouraging voter turnout through television ads, billboards and yard signs, radio interviews, Facebook and Twitter updates, and voter forums – besides church leaders preaching from the pulpit. Both campaigns have also produced "toolkits" for churches, with materials for members as well as legal advice on how to campaign appropriately within federal rules.
High-profile endorsements and denunciations of the marriage amendment have also ratcheted up the campaign's volume.
Endorsements this week from famed evangelist Billy Graham, who is a North Carolina native, his son Franklin Graham and his daughter Anne Graham Lotz put more wind into the sails of the supporters' campaign.
In his statement of support, Graham said, "At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage. The Bible is clear – God's definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote for the marriage amendment on Tuesday, May 8."
Besides the state's Catholic dioceses, other Christian congregations supporting the marriage amendment include dozens of Baptist churches, Church of God and Assembly of God congregations, churches of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and the N.C. Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Twenty-four counties have also passed resolutions endorsing the amendment, along with numerous local political and civic leaders, law enforcement and legal professionals.
On the other hand, outgoing N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue, a Democrat, has spoken out against the marriage amendment. Even President Barack Obama's re-election campaign took the unusual step of commenting on a state issue, calling the vote discriminatory.
Christian congregations opposing the amendment include the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the North Carolina Council of Churches. Jay Bakker, the son of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, and Clay Aiken of "American Idol" fame have also spoken out against the amendment. The North Carolina NAACP also opposes it.
As the campaign has intensified, Bishop Jugis and Bishop Burbidge have been using a variety of communication tools to inform Catholics about the issues involved.
They jointly produced a series of four YouTube videos explaining Church teaching on marriage, they disseminated information through their diocesan print and online news organizations, and they sent letters to pastors and postcards to the faithful encouraging people to vote for the amendment. Diocesan communications staffs participated in forums, appeared on radio and TV programs, and distributed educational materials to parishes. The bishops have preached about it during their homilies, and even put out yard signs in their own yards and invited pastors to do the same at parishes across the state.
"The marriage amendment issue has required Catholics to think about the sanctity of the sacrament of matrimony. I pray that this reflection will strengthen their commitment to marriage as created by God, and that they will vote for the amendment on May 8," Bishop Jugis wrote in the April 27 edition of the Catholic News Herald.
In the bishops' video series explaining Church teaching on marriage, Bishop Jugis noted, "Marriage exists for two reasons: the mutual love and support of the spouses and for the procreation and education of children. These two purposes, uniting couples and procreating children, are equal and inseparable. Because marriage offers benefits, unlike any other, to persons, to society and to the Church, the institution of marriage, as the union of one man and one woman, must be preserved and protected."
Bishop Burbidge also emphasized in another video, "We believe marriage was established by God and endowed by God with its own proper nature and laws that predate the state and religion," adding that "the topic of marriage is powerful and emotionally charged precisely because it is such an important institution of society."
Catholic parishes have also hosted forums to discuss Church teaching on marriage and field questions about the marriage amendment, and priests in both dioceses have been preaching about marriage over the past several weeks – from the pulpits to the parish bulletins to their Facebook pages.
In April the two dioceses also donated $50,000 each to Vote For Marriage NC. Bishop Jugis called the contribution "an important use of the discretionary funds of the Diocese of Charlotte because it will help protect marriage from redefinition."
Leaders of Christian churches throughout the state preached on the topic and distributed handouts to worshippers during what Vote For Marriage NC promoted as "Marriage Sunday" on April 29.
Catholic parishes in the Charlotte and Raleigh dioceses will make their final push for support of the amendment this weekend, May 5-6. A letter from Bishop Jugis and Bishop Burbidge urging voters to turn out to the polls on May 8 will be read at all Masses.
"We, the Bishops of North Carolina, have repeatedly voiced our strong support for the marriage amendment and we are asking Catholics in both dioceses to vote for the amendment," they wrote in the letter.
No matter the heavy campaigning by both sides, polls indicate that the marriage amendment is popular with likely voters.
Likely primary voters said they would vote for the amendment by a 14-point margin – 55 percent for, 41 percent against – according to the independent pollster Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, N.C. (The margin of error for the April 27-29 telephone survey of 982 likely North Carolina primary voters was +/- 3.1 percent.)
Supporters say that with numbers like these, they are confident the marriage amendment will pass.
Tami Fitzgerald, chairwoman of Vote For Marriage NC, said in a statement, "The numbers are holding strong across North Carolina. The fact is, people are showing up to their early polling places, casting their vote for protecting marriage. We have every indication that on May 8, these votes for marriage will continue."
Yet despite the amendment's apparent popularity, supporters are being outspent by opponents by a sizeable amount.
A campaign finance report filed with the state board of elections showed that the Vote For Marriage NC Committee has received more than 1,000 individual donations from North Carolina residents totaling $1.19 million. The report period covered Jan. 1 through April 23.
The Coalition to Protect All NC Families, which is leading the opposition effort, reported raising almost twice as much, $2.04 million, during the same period.
Vote for Marriage NC's Fitzgerald has said judicial decisions in other states that have legalized gay marriage despite popular opinion should serve as a lesson for North Carolina voters.
"Every day that goes by is another day when a judge can decide to substitute his values for those of North Carolinians," Fitzgerald said. "We need the marriage protection amendment to prevent that."
— Patricia L. Guilfoyle, editor
More information and resources
Catholic Voice NC: www.catholicvoicenc.org
North Carolina State Board of Elections: www.ncsbe.gov
Vote For Marriage NC: www.voteformarriagenc.com
Learn more about May 8 marriage vote at upcoming parish forums
CHARLOTTE — Parishes in the Diocese of Charlotte are hosting informational forums to educate voters in advance of the May 8 ballot to protect traditional marriage in the North Carolina constitution.
The May 8 ballot states, "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State."
The ballot measure will take what is already state law in the state's constitution, a move proponents say will protect the institution of marriage – based in natural law and elevated to a sacrament in the Church by Jesus Christ – from being redefined by judges or politicians.
Both of North Carolina's bishops, Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte and Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh, are urging Catholics to vote for the nonpartisan measure, and they are using the upcoming vote as an opportunity to catechize the faithful about Church teaching on marriage in general. The bishops have been preaching about the topic and have produced a series of educational videos on YouTube.
David Hains, diocesan director of communication, added, "The parish forums are a great way for Catholics to learn about Church teaching on the sacrament of matrimony, to hear from Bishop Jugis via video, and to get a better understanding of what the upcoming amendment says, and does not say, about marriage."
The next forum is scheduled for 10 a.m. May 6 at Sardis Presbyterian Church in Charlotte. Hains has been leading the free public forums, at the invitation of the pastors.
Hains also pre-recorded an interview for WBT Radio's "David Chadwick Show" (1110 AM) that was aired on April 15. The program is still available online: click here to listen.
-- Patricia L. Guilfoyle, editor