04/05/12 — Group backs amendment vote

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Group backs amendment vote

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 5, 2012 1:46 PM

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Joe Haas makes his case before Wayne County commissioners Tuesday morning that they should pass a resolution supporting the Defense of Marriage constitutional amendment. Close to 100 people packed the commissioners' meeting room to demonstrate their support of the issue. Commissioners voted 4-3 to place the issue on their April 17 agenda for discussion and action.

Nearly 100 supporters of the Defense of Marriage constitutional amendment jammed the Wayne County commissioners' meeting room Tuesday morning, spilling out into the hallway. Seven people spoke in favor of the amendment that is on the May 8 state ballot, and pressed commissioners to pass a resolution endorsing it.

Commissioners did not vote on the resolution handed out by Joe Haas of Faith Free Will Baptist Church, who is director of the North Carolina Christian Schools Association, and the Rev. Dann Patrick, the church's pastor.

But they voted 4-3 to add the issue to their April 17 agenda for "discussion and action."

"A number of Wayne County citizens, pastors and community leaders from every (election) district are here today that would like to respectfully ask you pass a resolution supporting the marriage amendment," Haas said.

Bob Jackson, chairman of the county Republican Party, was one of the speakers in support of the resolution.

"Sometimes we have to make tough decisions," he said. "This board especially. To vote against that resolution, in my mind, is a vote for the contrary. If it is voted down, then we have to assume that those who voted against the resolution, that is what you believe, that it (marriage) is not one-man, one-woman.

"I believe there will be a motion for the resolution at some point that will give you the opportunity to get on the record and express your feelings why you would vote one way for the other."

Commissioner Chairman John Bell questioned the motive behind the group's request.

"What is the real purpose of the county commissioners doing a motion when the item is already on the ballot?" Bell asked. "It is already on the ballot to be voted on by the citizens of this county and this state."

Haas said he thought the board would want to go on record supporting "the very foundation" of the institution of marriage.

But Bell indicated he perceived another motive.

"I kind of get the impression that there is somebody out there that for whatever reason, I am not saying it is you sir, but somebody is trying to box us in for whatever reasons it is -- to make us either vote for it or against it so that they can use it for another reason. I do not like that. I do not like to be used that way," Bell said.

People do not need a resolution telling them to vote, Bell said.

Commissioner Ray Mayo made a motion to place the resolution on the board's April 17 agenda. Commissioner Steve Keen asked that the resolution be read so that he and the public could understand it. Mayo read the resolution.

Bell repeated that there was a motion to add the resolution to the April 17 agenda and asked if there were any questions.

"Yes sir," Keen said. "I don't understand the motion. Could you read it one more time, please? I just want it read one more time for clarity."

Mayo read it again.

The motion passed 4-3 with Keen, Mayo, Evans and Commissioner Bud Gray voting yes. Bell and Commissioners Sandra McCullen and Jack Best voted no.

Best said he has been married to the same woman for 44 years and that marriage and family were important to him, but that he would vote against the resolution.

"The individual's right to vote his own conscience is also something that I think is important," he said. "For me as a commissioner to encourage you to vote one way or another is something that I really don't think that I ought to do.

"I know how I am going to vote, but I am not sure that I need to make you think you have got to vote my way. This resolution is kind of saying I want you to vote my way. This is what it says to me. Maybe it doesn't say that to you. I can't tell you how to vote."

The threat to marriage is real, Keen said.

"There are those who are using deceptive messages to distract and confuse voters about what the marriage protection amendment accomplishes," he said.

The amendment elevates the current law to constitutional status so that it can only be changed by a vote of the people and not the courts, Keen said.