RALEIGH, N.C.—Back in 1956, North Carolina voters passed their first constitutional amendment, which according to the Associated Press would "guarantee that no child in the state will be required to attend an integrated school against its will. ... It would allow the citizens of local school administrative units to vote to close their schools if integration moves caused 'intolerable' situations. It also would allow the use of state and local funds to pay private tuition for children whose parents objected to their attending an integrated public school."
Boy, those were the good old days, weren't they?
Well, don't worry; North Carolina voters are apparently just as ignorant and bigoted as they were 56 years ago, only this time the boogeypersons are gays and lesbians.
As The New York Times pointed out in an editorial last month, North Carolina already has a law prohibiting men from marrying men and women from marrying women—and it's unclear if anyone down there has ever even heard of transsexuals—but sticklers as they are for details, the state's legislature (mostly Republican, natch!) decided that just passing a law was not enough. For the second time in history, they had to change the state's Constitution as well! After all, look how well it worked out for them the first time they did it! (Indeed; that first change wasn't revoked until 1971.)
As The Times also pointed out, the amendment isn't even phrased very well, in that it also eliminates all legal recognition for civil unions and domestic partnerships, which even hetero couples enter into—and that's a Bad Thing because it "could harm all unmarried couples, imperiling some children’s health insurance benefits, along with child custody arrangements and safeguards against domestic violence."
The fight for marriage equality continues to be an uphill battle, especially with some political leaders coming late to the battle, and the latest poll from Pew Research shows that 43 percent of the public still opposes that obvious right—"nor shall any State ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws," remember?—but that's down from the 57 percent that opposed it a decade ago.
And if North Carolinians aren't familiar with their country's Constitution, couldn't they at least have looked at who was supporting the measure, and why?
For instance, take the wife of the measure's sponsor, Sen. Peter Brunstetter. His wife Jodie was overheard telling someone that, "The reason my husband wrote Amendment 1 was because the Caucasian race is diminishing and we need to uh, reproduce."
See? It's not about discriminating against gays; it's about the "fact" that, apparently, most gays are white and the "fact" that gays don't reproduce, so if the state doesn't allow gays to marry each other, all those gay white men will marry white women, have kids, and Jodie Brunstetter will be safe from all the "coloreds."
But as Jodie told reporter Chad Nance, "If I did [say that], it wasn’t anything race-related." Good to know!
And then there was Pastor Sean Harris of Fayetteville's Berean Baptist Church, who gave his flock a "special dispensation" to do violence to their children:
"When your little son starts acting a little girlish when he's four years old, and squashing that like a cockroach, and say, 'Man up, son. Get that dress off you and get outside and dig a ditch because that's what boys do'... Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up! Give him a good punch, okay? 'You're not gonna act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you're gonna be a male.' And when your daughter starts acting too butch, you rein her in and you say, 'Oh, no; oh, no, sweetheart. You can play sports; play 'em; play 'em to the glory of God, but sometimes you're gonna act like a girl and walk like a girl and talk like a girl and smell like a girl and that means you're gonna be beautiful, you're gonna be attractive and you're gonna dress yourself up.'"
After that, senile old Rev. Billy Graham sounded, well, senile when he exhorted voters that, "I believe the home and marriage is the foundation of our society and must be protected. The Bible is clear: God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote for the marriage amendment."
Even Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary just across the border in Louisville, Kentucky, had a few choice words in his critique of The New York Times' editorial.
"The effort to limit marriage to the union of a man and a woman is described as 'obvious discrimination,'" Mohler wrote. "That is meant to insinuate that the effort is therefore wrong, and even immoral. But that is just not intellectually honest. Discrimination—even 'obvious discrimination'—is not necessarily wrong at all. Indeed, any sane society discriminates at virtually every turn, as do individuals. ... Often, we discriminate on moral terms. No sane person would ask a convicted child molester to be a baby sitter. No sane society would elect a known embezzler as state treasurer. These acts of discrimination are necessary and morally right."
Yeah! 'Cause, y'know, gays and lesbians are every bit as immoral as child molesters and embezzlers—just ask Al!
What isn't too well known, though, is who spent the big bucks to fund the "Yes on Amendment One" campaign. Would it surprise anyone to know that the Christian Action League dropped over $300,000 into the "Yes" coffers, and that the National Organization for Marriage ante'd up about the same? That the North Carolina Values Coalition and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh each kicked $50,000; the American Family Association and Bayleaf Baptist Church were good for about $20,000 each, and conservative radio station and bookstore owner Phil Drake thought the issue was worth donating a cool quarter of a million to?
But, of course, North Carolina businesses were four-square in favor of marriage equality, right?
"Corporations have been silent," reported BusinessWeek's Emery Dalesio. "North Carolina's chamber of commerce hasn't heard much from its members on the amendment and is staying neutral, CEO Lew Ebert said. ... Business leaders who support the amendment have stayed silent for fear of becoming targets of boycotts and public attacks."
Wow! I guess all those Republicans who've been saying that businesses will all do The Right Thing if we give them all those tax breaks were absolutely right!
Well, at least one group is trying to make North Carolina pay for its bigotry. GayMarriageUSA is petitioning the Democratic National Convention Committee to move its convention, which will take place in Charlotte in September, "to a state that upholds values of equality & liberty, and which treats ALL citizens equally."
Admittedly, it's a bit late to make such a change, but in the current Near-Depression, surely there are dozens of cities that would move (if you'll pardon the expression) heaven and earth to make room for all the people (and their wallets) who will flock to such a gathering—and after just one day, their petition already has over 14,000 signatures.
Won't you add yours by clicking here?
Image above from the website Every1against1.com.