North Carolina Rep. Grier Martin speaks out on love, marriage & the future in NC

Editors' Note: This post was written by Grier Martin, a Democratic member of the North Carolina General Assembly and is being promoted in conjunction with Equality NC, with whom Freedom to Marry is proud to partner in the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples in North Carolina. 

Experience is the preeminent teacher in life. When you decide to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, a simulator can only tell you so much about the experience; it's the first jump that truly teaches you what to expect. The same is true when you take the jump and have your first child. Your parents and books can provide advice, but it's the sleepless nights and countless visits to the pediatrician with umpteen questions that help you understand what it is to truly be a parent. 

The recent decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Bostic v. Schaefer stated, “The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual’s life. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance.” 

My decision to marry was one of the most personal, and important, decision of my life up to that point, as it was the same for my wife. All other decisions that we have made since — whether joining the military, running for elective office, joining the board of community organizations — were driven by our shared desire to serve and build a more equitable North Carolina that works for all of our citizens.

My decision to marry was based on love.

After my wife, Louise, and I were married, experience taught us much about what makes a committed, faithful union, as well as what that union meant for both of our lives. With that knowledge, we both understand more deeply than ever that our friends who were gay had unions that were as meaningful and committed as ours. It begged the question: When their love was equal to ours, why were they being denied the same legal rights that we had just because we happened to be born straight?

"My decision to marry was one of the most personal, and important, decision of my life up to that point, as it was the same for my wife. My decision to marry was based on love."

After 9/11, I volunteered for active duty with the Army and served as a paratrooper out of a sense of duty to our country and our freedom. While in the service I met men and women who were willing to die to protect our freedoms — including the freedom to marry — who were unable to have the full range of freedoms that others held dear. This struck my wife and I as deeply unfair. Rarely has this been more evident than in the case of Tracy Dice Johnson, who lost her partner Donna to a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, and was then denied death benefits because she lived in North Carolina, where same-sex couples cannot marry. While the case was ultimately decided in favor of Tracy, imagine the trauma of having to add concern over benefits on top of an unimaginable loss. 

The birth of our daughter, Sara, was ultimately the pivotal moment in how we considered service to our community and the impact that we are trying to have on the future of our state. As do all parents, we began to ask ourselves what kind of world we would leave for Sara and her friends. We hope to see schools that provide more opportunity for each student, universities that are accessible to students from every walk of life, and drinking water free of hazardous chemicals.

But my wife and I also believe that it is important that we foster a society that respects the love and commitment of all couples. After all, our children will be looking back at our own decisions as a generation with the same skeptical eye that we once cast on our own parents' decisions from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.

On behalf of my family, friends, and my fellow veterans, and for my daughter and her friends, I applaud the Bostic v. Schaefer decision and Attorney General Cooper’s decision to no longer defend the ruling - and I urge the legislature and governor to follow the lead of the Attorney General in acknowledging that no reasonable legal defense of the misguided “Amendment One” remains following the ruling.

After all, everyone deserves the right to make the personal decision to love — and to have the same freedoms and protections as their neighbors, friends, and family.