5.08.2012

Despite Amendment One's Passing, NC Is A Better State Today

Amendment One has passed.

The easy thing to do is to get angry. To take it out on those who voted to enshrine discrimination into our state constitution.

The natural thing to do is to lash out. And with something as important as civil rights, I believe that is a completely valid response. When the citizens of our own state tell us we are less than human, it cuts deep.

I'm not gay. I can't express how it must feel to have the majority decide whether or not I should have the rights they are afforded. I am hyper-empathetic, however, so I like to think I have some idea of how devastating that might be.

There are people who are near and dear to me who will wake up tomorrow morning to a less welcoming North Carolina. They will wake up in a state that not only actively discriminates against them, but has also written discrimination into their mission statement.

There will be children, seniors, women, and heterosexual couples who will be harmed in the coming months and years because people are afraid of change.

As the inevitability of the passing of Amendment One sunk in, I began to feel resentful, angry, sad, embarrassed, and incredibly disappointed. I am sure millions of North Carolinians feel the same. But as the pro-amendment camp celebrates their victory in downtown Raleigh, it's important to remember that, while we suffered a devastating loss, what we accomplished over the past several months should make us all very proud.

The majority of North Carolinians were on the wrong side of history on May 8, 2012. Despite this fact, I have no doubt that North Carolina received an education over the past several months. Many North Carolinians were challenged, many for the very first time, to re-evaluate their views on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Many who once believed homosexuality was a 'sin' and a 'poor lifestyle choice' now understand that we do not choose our sexual orientation. We also opened a lot of eyes to the cynical nature of politics (not so sure that was a secret), and encouraged them to really think about the potential unintended consequences of their vote. We rediscovered the power of music, art, and the written word to enact change (even if that change is much more gradual than we feel is acceptable).

Most importantly, we reminded people that every voice counts, and that everyone has a unique way to contribute to the cause of social justice. In all my years in North Carolina, I have never seen such an outpouring of creativity, passion, and determination. Despite our defeat at the polls, each of these efforts impacted many lives, changed many minds, and opened many hearts.

No amount of back-patting can make up for the fact that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters have been wronged. I have no words that will lessen the blow. It is a devastating blow that will reverberate for many years to come. This amendment will undoubtedly join the interracial marriage ban amendment of 1875 as one of the ugliest moments in North Carolina history. We will surely lose many of our wonderful friends and fellow citizens to other, more welcoming states, and I can't say I blame them.

What we can say, however, is that we put up one hell of a fight. While just we took a giant step backwards from a legislative perspective, we are actually a better state because of our fight. As odd as it may be to state, North Carolina is a more welcoming, more tolerant state today as a result of our hard work. There are more allies now than there were in September (or that there have ever been in our state's history). There are more people willing to stand up for injustice now than there were in September. There are more churches willing to reach out to (and stand up for) the LGBT population. There are more people willing to risk their community standing, their relationships, or even their employment status, by vocally protesting against religion-based bigotry.

Most importantly, there is an entire generation of young people -- kids, teens, and college students -- who witnessed this injustice firsthand. There is an entire generation of young people, like my own, who cannot believe that gays and lesbians would be denied rights enjoyed by the rest of the population. To them it is as unconscionable as denying marriage rights to interracial couples, or denying women the right to vote.

These young people are the voters, lawmakers, clergy, community leaders, business leaders, and elected officials of tomorrow. While we are devastated by Amendment One's passing, we do know that North Carolina's future is in their hands.

While we can be certain this younger generation will clean up our generation's mess, our part in this fight is not over. We will wake up tomorrow with a heightened sense of purpose and the resolve to pick up the pieces and continue in our fight to make this a better North Carolina for all families.

We shouldn't have to wait, but one thing is very clear. As MLK said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."






15 comments:

  1. I'm still encouraged by the gains of recent years.

    This is sort of an end game by people who know they don't have an actual argument in favor of treating people differently.

    The very fact that 2% of the population has been able to bring this issue to the boiling point is notable.

    I always say that, on a personal level, I'm not putting my life on hold until my state decides to treat me equally. As an American, however, it concerns me that it takes so long...

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  2. I'm so embarrassed by my state today this is incredibly shameful

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  3. I am not from N.C. I am not even American, but it is with a very heavy heart I hear this news. As I watched across the border, I had no doubt in my mind the outcome. I thought it so ridiculous to waste so much money on what was an obvious outcome. Like many in my country I preferred to believe that the loud obnoxious shouting of the pro-amendment side did not represent the majority, and just a few far right nuts. I have to say it has greatly impacted the way I look at your country as a whole and state in particular. Instead of thinking it is only the extreme we hear about on the news, now I'm think it is more a representation of the population than I thought. Perhaps I spend to much time on blogs like yours and preferred to delude myself into believing that you represented the average American who was for freedom and equality for everyone.

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    1. This was a very effective statement. I will remember what you have said for a long time to come. It greatly saddens me that our country is no longer what I thought it was. I'm sorry we now appear this way to other countries, but there is nothing more to say.

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  4. Jamissmiles - The pro-amendment camp isn't really representative of the NC population as a whole. Sadly here in the USA, it is mainly the older generations that vote and it is the older generations that are hanging on to this piece of bigotry. That was part of the reason why the pro-amendment folks wanted to make this fight now. They know time is NOT on their side. Change IS coming.

    The vote was very close - last tallies I saw were 51% in favor; 48% against. I keep reminding myself of this so I don't get too upset and angry. Your blog post helped too, Def Shepard - thank you for pointing out our gains and accomplishments in this fight. It is important to not let ourselves get too angry. A little anger than can be channeled into action is ok - too much anger doesn't serve anyone well.

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  5. Beautifully said. I think too that the next generation will clean up our mess. Hopefully it won't take that long though.

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  6. I'm also embarassed to be in NC today. My one ray of hope is the county where I live was one of the counties against the amendment.

    One thing that the above didn't point out is guilt doesn't just lie with those who voted for this bigoted amendment, but also with those who were registered but didn't vote at all (less than 35% of registered voters voted). I knew I wouldn't have time on Tuesday so I took time out of my schedule to vote early. With such a long early voting time there's really no excuse not to.

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  7. It's great to speak of the gains that NC has made. But it doesn't change the fact that it hurts that we are hated and treated unfairly. As a black woman I have suffered racism every where I've lived except Europe. When I returned to the US it was with a heavy heart. This policy of mistreatment under the guise of democracy is deplorable and damn joke. Other countries watch us, laugh and move along because they know the US is headed for ruin if this way of operating continues.

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  8. I've found so many wonderful North Carolinians as a result of this stupid amendment. I've also found out who I no longer wish to associate with, and have dealt with them accordingly.

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  9. Amendment One didn't ban gay marriage - there was already a statutory ban on gay marriage. Further, anyone who feels so inspired needs to simply hire an attorney and challenge the amendment on equal protection grounds. It's so broadly written it won't be on the books for five years.

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  10. ^In regards to that, there is an online petition I would like to bring to this blogs attention.

    It can be found here:
    http://www.change.org/petitions/1-million-against-amendment-1?utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=share_page_mobile

    The more people that see, share, and sign this, the faster we can make a move to repeal the amendment and shake things up in NC. You don't have to live in NC to sign the petition, so please share it with everyone.

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  11. I am from North Carolina and voted for Amendment One. Read Amendment One. It is one page long. Read it, look at what it says. More importantly, look at what it doesn't say. In the TV adds against Amendment One, there was no mention of same sex marriage? Why is that? There was talk of losing child support, protection orders, etc. Nowhere are any of these mentioned in the amendment. If you watched at the adds for the amendment you saw the focus was on marriage between one man and one woman. To the average person, it was difficult to tell both adds were talking about the same amendment. Same sex marriage was already illegal according to state law. The purpose of this amendment was to prevent a legal challenge to the existing law. North Carolina joined 30 other states with similar amendments. Were any existing rights lost? Not that I can see.
    I am a Christian. I believe that marriage is the religious union between a man and a woman. Call my views simplistic if you like but I am not a homophobe, racist, or intolerant. I don't hate anybody. I would support civil unions between same sex couples, but that wasn't on the ballot.
    A number of you have voiced your opinion in opposition to the amendment and that is your right. The bottom line is this: There is already a NC law prohibiting same sex marriage. If the amendment had failed, it would have still been against the law.

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    1. The people who voted against the amendment DID read it, Anonymous, and it is insulting that you would insinuate otherwise. The fact that you are claiming that the amendment simply defines marriage as being between one man and one woman demonstrates that you haven't read it carefully. Marriage has always been defined in NC that way. The problem is that this amendment states that "marriage," as has already been defined, will be the "only domestic legal union" -- which has not been legally defined in our state -- recognized by NC law. This introduces an enormous amount of legal gray area, and absolutely could be used to take away rights from children and adults in unmarried partnerships (straight or gay.) In other words, it is precisely BECAUSE of what the amendment didn't say.

      And one other thing: you said you would support same sex civil unions. How exactly are you going to do that if NC now no longer recognizes domestic legal unions between anyone but heterosexual married couples? THAT is what you voted for.

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    2. "Were any existing rights lost? Not that I can see."

      Already there are moves to strip health insurance from NC families in the wake of the harmful Amendment 1. Here, let me Google that for you: http://pundithouse.com/2012/05/james-edges-driggs-pushes-to-scrap-county-employee-benefits-for-same-sex-couples/

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  12. Eric - THANK YOU for writing this. Your positive outlook inspires me on this day-after. The logic of love seems to be quite elusive to so many. I hope and pray that, as you said, our next generation of leaders will indeed unravel the mess they witnessed yesterday and restore "freedom for all" within our state AND our country. Until then, my heart aches.

    Peace,
    Jeane

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