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."