Waving or waiving our values

Tonight Town Council members vote on two measures that are both for show. One vote is for a resolution urging North Carolina voters to vote against a state constitutional amendment that will ban certain people from marrying. The other is to decide whether to ban certain people from talking on cell phones while driving.

On the surface, the two votes seem unrelated. The first resolution is to take a stand against Amendment One, which will be on the ballot in May. Amendment One is an attempt to mess with the state’s constitution, defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. Amendment One is the sort of thing that rallies angry people to pick up a pitch fork and join a mob and destroy something – anything. The point is to have someone or something to blame for your unhappiness.

The amendment won’t fix anything, and it certainly won’t stop people of the same gender from loving one another. It will only prevent unmarried couples from receiving the legal protections married folks take for granted. It will allow a judgmental blood relative to bar a domestic partner from visiting his or her beloved in the ICU, for example. It may invalidate domestic violence convictions if the perpetrator and victim weren’t married.

Council also votes tonight on whether to pass an ordinance that will fine some people who talk on the phone while driving, but only people who are single, childless, in a partnership that the state doesn’t recognize as a marriage or have only a hand-held cell phone, not the more expensive hands-free variety. So council is voting on an ordinance that all of them – except the mayor – are exempt from.

The cell phone ordinance is for show because the state attorney general’s office has said the ordinance won’t stand up in court. But, like Amendment One, it’s an opportunity show off our values, to define the type of people and behaviors that we want to protect and sanction. Council defends the exclusionary language as mimicking wording in the state law that prevents drivers under age 18 from using cell phones.

Does council not see the irony? They buck the state’s proposed change to the constitution because it is exclusionary, at the same time they accept the state’s equally exclusionary law on the cell phone ban, saying they can’t reject the state’s wording.

Council is likely to pass both the resolution and the ordinance. What does that say about what we stand for? Imposing ordinances that hand-pick who is exempt is every bit as misguided as hand-picking which ordinances to enforce.
– Nancy Oates

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1 Comment

  1. Terri Buckner

     /  March 12, 2012

    Nice post, Nancy. I fully support them endorsing opposition to Amendment One. But while I think the cell phone issue belongs to the state instead of the town, I suspect they will pass it, too. It’s an election year.

    It will be interesting to see how they handle the NCD issue tonight. Will they anger the residents and postpone any further discussion on NCD until 2020 has been completed?