Yesterday was spent in a funk after the majority of my state voted to pass Amendment One. Although it was expected to pass, I was hopeful that it wouldn’t. My state is relatively progressive for a southern state. NC voted for Obama in 2008, one of only three southern states to do so. Until May 8, NC was the only southern state that did not have discrimination written into its constitution. I thought that the wording of the amendment was so poorly written and legal
Yup. It’s true, unfortunately. It was true before the amendment passed, actually. North Carolina has now become the butt of many jokes about inbred rednecks and ignorant bigots. Roseann Barr tweeted, “my friend grew up in NC-his dad had sex w their family pet, mom came home, saw it and shot the dog.” Ha-ha…um, huh?
People are expressing their shame at being from the state of NC. A travel and tourism page on Facebook, Visit North Carolina, has been inundated by angry Facebookers calling for a boycott on the state. Many are vowing not to vacation here, or even buy gas on their way through the state (that’s a good idea, because gas is highly taxed here). One stated that “We here in Chattanooga, Tennessee do not support your states view of bigotry. You have made a mockery of the south and we are ashamed of you.” I suppose that person is unaware that an amendment of the same name and with the same purpose passed in Tennessee with 81% of the vote in 2006.
My own Facebook feed provided similar material from people who were likewise unaware of their own state’s popular vote to strip rights from a subset of the population based solely on religious views and personal bias. I guess in a way, this fury is a good sign. When people realize that their own states have similar laws and constitutional bans, it will serve to fan the flames of progress. I can’t help but wonder how these people can be so clueless? Granted, the NC issue has been all over the national news lately, but still…how can a person not know what’s going on in their own backyard?
There is a petition circulating to move the Democratic National Convention from Charlotte to a “tolerant” state with fewer bigots. Charlotte’s Mecklenburg County, by the way, is one of eight counties that voted to defeat the amendment. There is also a call from Hollywood to stop film-making in the state. This one doesn’t make much sense since California has their own bigoted amendment against gay marriage, a distinction shared by thirty other states. An encouraging bit of news on California’s Proposition 8 broke recently, however. A federal appeals court has ruled that it is unconstitutional, stating that it “serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.” NC can expect similar challenges to its amendment, which will ultimately cost taxpayers millions to defend. Doesn’t sound very fiscally conservative, but what matter is money when it comes to moral outrage and religious zealotry?
Conservatism by definition means resistance to change. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is a common saying around here. Conservatives think that traditional ways are the best ways. Radicalism is conservatism’s inverse function. Radicals seek to undermine the status-quo and make rapid, extreme changes that upend convention. Usually the word is used to describe liberals, leftists and anarchists. Conservatives abhor radicalism because such rapid changes are usually not very well thought out and can have serious, unforeseen repercussions.
Conservative principles aren’t in evidence when it comes to persecuting “the gays.” Since 1998, thirty-one states have amended their constitutions to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Some states, such as NC, have amendments that also ban civil unions, domestic partnerships and other legal constructs that could be used to approximate a marriage. In less that fifteen years, this radical assault on civil rights has been sweeping across the nation like a virus.
The scourge began on the national level with the Defense of Marrriage Act, or DOMA, enacted in 1996, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage and allows states to define their own stance on the issue. This act emboldened states to begin passing state-level constitutional amendments despite federal and state laws that already banned gay marriage. The radical shift from conservatism to activism advocating discrimination had wide support, especially from religious groups that felt that public policy should be guided by religious principles.
Given prevailing views on homosexuality at the time, Democrats were not very vocal on the issue, and did not make gay rights part of the official platform in the 2000 election. Republicans still used the wedge issue to help elect George W. Bush to the presidency, despite his dubious qualifications. DOMA enabled the government and the military to deny many protections and benefits to same-sex partners and their children. President Bush advocated a federal constitutional amendment to reinforce the law, stating that he was concerned about legal challenges. His administration successfully fought legal challenges to the law and warned that “activist judges” could undermine it. President Obama has supported repealing the act, but so far challenges to the law have been unsuccessful.
In EVERY instance where the issue of gay equality has been brought to referendum, the public has always voted against it. Any progress on the issue has always been through the legislative or judicial process. In his first inaugural address, Thomas Jefferson said:
“bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possesses their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”
The Bill of Rights explicitly states these rights, which DOMA and all laws that discriminate against anyone based on their race, religion, or sexual orientation violate. Minority rights should never be dictated by majority rule when it comes to equality. Even Ayn Rand, whose acolytes have infiltrated the loftiest heights of government and economic influence, said this about majority rule:
“Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).”
Currently, six states allow same-sex marriages: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia. Washington state and Maryland are expected to legalize it as well, barring any legal challenges or injunctions. New Mexico has no laws or amendments for or against gay marriage.
The GOP and religious fundamentalists seek to impose religiously-based restrictions on all Americans. Women, homosexuals and minorities have endured protracted assaults on their liberties. Paranoid rants about “creeping Sharia” seem ironic in the face of the radical right’s stated intentions to make this a “Christian nation.” North Carolina is only the latest inductee into the hall of shame. It won’t be the last, if (very recent) history is any indication. House Republicans, furious over the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, are even now proposing a ban on same-sex marriage on military bases. The GOP vigorously oppose reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in large part because of added provisions protecting homosexual couples.
As for the repercussions of Amendment One for NC, the push has already begun to strip benefits from local government employees. Mecklenburg County commissioner Bill James didn’t waste a single day attempting to begin compliance. An email sent to the county attorney and county manager stated:
“Since Amendment One has passed, when will we [county commissioners] get a memo or something that outlines what changes we need to make to our health plan to be in compliance? I recall when the Democrats on the Commission forced the issue and added these benefits for homosexuals that a number of legal experts said it was illegal then. … Now that Amendment One has passed it obviously is illegal to offer this benefit as there is now only one ‘domestic legal union’ recognized in the state…”
Charlotte is one of several municipalities that offer same-sex partner benefits, along with dependents of same-sex partnerships. Leaders in Asheville, where I live, have vowed to keep benefits in place for same-sex and unmarried partners of employees. It is to be expected that these towns will face considerable legal challenges by those who seek to enforce the amendment. Rather than boycotting the state, supporters of equality should join forces across the nation to bring about lasting change that support the Bill of Rights, which grants us all freedom from tyranny and majority oppression. Every state that has passed restrictive laws and amendments contain pockets of true believers who don’t feel that the state has any business legislating against civil rights.
President Obama (FINALLY) has come out in support of gay marriage. In sharp contrast, Mitt Romney’s campaign adviser, Ed Gillespie, has stated that Romney will make the issue of a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage a part of his campaign platform:
Yes, NC is the latest embarrassment in the long struggle to secure equal rights for all Americans. But the cancer of bigotry has metastasized across the nation and threatens again to infiltrate the US Constitution and codify for the entire nation a policy of intolerance and persecution. I believe that freedom will ultimately prevail, though the struggle may prove long and costly.
The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.–Martin Luther King Jr.
Sign the Change.org petition to repeal Amendment One!
Educate yourself on your own state’s laws regarding marriage equality.
My favorite progressive Christian blog, The God Article, has a great post on this subject and a proposal to be a force for change and equality. The author eloquently states his take on the matter:
Hate will never be conquered by anger.
Ignorance will never be defeated with judgment.
Love will not prevail until it is practiced relentlessly.