Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a new and updated list of anti-gay organizations it has named to their infamous list of hate groups. The list continues to include the Family Research Council, which is taking a leading role in fighting for Amendment One, the proposed anti-LGBT amendment to the North Carolina state constitution. The Family Research Council’s president, Tony Perkins, appeared in Charlotte on Sunday. You can read my in-depth review of his appearance here, or check out this week’s “Sex, Cash & Politics,” for more Perkins’ history of work in the field of hate…
Amendment One supporter’s ‘fruit’ is rotten to the coreOn March 4, Tony Perkins, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council delivered a guest sermon at Charlotte’s First Baptist Church (click here for an in-depth review). His presence at the home church of North Carolina Baptist State Convention President Mark Harris is significant and comes as voters soon head to the polls to vote on Amendment One, the constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage and civil unions and domestic partnerships for unmarried opposite-sex and same-sex couples alike.
Despite his pleas to God and Christ’s Gospel, Perkins is no run-of-the-mill Christian conservative and his fruit would be unrecognizable to Christ, who said his disciples would be known by their love for one another. I have faith that other Christians voting in May won’t be so easily deceived. The truth will be apparent to them: Perkins’ discord, divisiveness and hate are no sign of Christ or the Gospel. To the contrary, Perkins’ work is the perfect Gospel antithesis.
This post is an in-depth review of the March 4, 2012, worship service at First Baptist Church of Charlotte — its pastor, Mark Harris, the president of the North Carolina Baptist Convention — and its guest sermon by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins (reported by The Charlotte Observer here). Quotes from Harris and Perkins, along with the full audio, follow initial commentary. In addition, other commentary by Matt Comer is provided in red and [in brackets]. A YouTube video with Perkins’ most direct comments on marriage and North Carolina’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment, young people and LGBT people is included at the end, along with a transcript. A final commentary and a call for Perkins and Harris to end their harm against LGBT youth and people follows at the conclusion of the post. Finally, my first column in the new weekly series, “Sex, Cash & Politics,” will delve into Perkins’ hate group connections. The column will be delivered today to print and online publications across North Carolina and cane be used free-of-charge as an op-ed or guest commentary. Click here to learn more about the column and subscribe for free.
You gotta hand it to Southern Baptists. They know how to put on a show. Blaring trumpets, waving flags and soaring patriotic melodies blended together with a little bit of soul and spirit in calls for defending “God and Country.”
It was Durham-based blogger Pam Spaulding that alerted me to the Family Research Council‘s Values Bus Tour stop on Sunday at First Baptist Church-Charlotte. I and an acquaintance decided to go. Mostly I was curious: Why in the world was Mark Harris, the pastor of one of Charlotte’s landmark Baptist churches and president of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention, allowing a man like Family Research Council President Tony Perkins to speak at his church? Why would a seemingly Christ-loving, people-loving pastor allow the leader of a hate group to speak to his congregants?After more than an hour of First Baptist worship, the reason became clear.
“Tony Perkins…has been willing to step up and speak out,” Harris told his congregants, affirming that Harris’ brand of Christianity is just as hate-filled and exclusive as Perkins’.
Marriage and the church are under attack, First Baptist Church-Charlotte Pastor and N.C. Baptist Convention President Mark Harris and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said on Sunday. And, it is up to the faithful to defend against the attacks of Satan. For any keen observer — and, no doubt, to any of the few LGBT young people in the audience (of which I am sure there are quite a few, given how large a congregation First Baptist is) — it’s clear who Harris and Perkins think are on the satanic side of the LGBT equality debate. For all their whimpering over faith and freedom, what they really wish to create is a heterosexuals-only, exclusive country club.
Take, for instance, the First Baptist choir’s performance of the song, “Livin’ in the Homeland,” before Perkins’ sermon. A recording of the song (not of the choir itself, sorry) and portion of the lyrics:
Livin’ in the homeland, not afraid to take a stand,
Every woman, child and man deserves to be free.
Stand tall. Don’t fall. All for one. One for all.
That is the battle call for you and for me.
Side by side, hand in hand, for freedom’s cause we’ll take a stand!
March! March with our flags held high.
Not afraid to fight. Not afraid to die.
March! March for the cause is just.
‘Tis a sacred honor, ‘tis a holy trust.
Freedom and liberty demand a high cost.
Many rights gained through so many lives lost.
The brave and the free know it goes hand in hand,
If you dare to dream, dare to dream,
Dare to dream of livin’ in the homeland.
And, they call gay people militant? That’s another debate for another day (and one we’ve had before…). But, one can’t help but find it ridiculously funny that Harris, Perkins and Co. believe they are the ones whose rights are under attack. I see no proposed constitutional amendments seeking to limit their rights. I see no organized movement to send Christians to “ex-Christian” camps. I see no state legislatures taking up “Don’t say Christian” bills. I see no school principals or school boards in mass denying the formation of Christian school groups or expelling heterosexual students and their boyfriends or girlfriends.
It’s a topsy-turvy world Harris and Perkins live in. The whole weight of a discriminatory body of law weighs down on the lives of LGBT people, yet it’s the WASP-y Christians who are oppressed? Talk about delusional. Continue reading this post…
The Charlotte Observer last week noted their slate of 36 different awards and honors from the N.C. Press Association. Among them was columnist Peter St. Onge, who was honored with awards for three columns on LGBT issues — two in the serious columns category and one in the lighter columns category.
The first serious column honor included one on his gay brother and his impending marriage in New York. A snippet:
This week, N.C. legislators dug in harder on keeping the wedding day away from gays, approving a constitutional amendment outlawing homosexual marriage that will go before voters next May. Our state already has a law against gay marriage, of course, but a consititutional amendment is harder to change than a simple law. Gay marriage opponents know it’s their best chance at defending an institution they believe is under attack.
That’s a word – attack – that sneaks often into this gay marriage debate. And also this word: agenda. It’s how those who fear homosexuality separate gays from the rest of us, by painting them as “others,” as an occupying force that wants to diminish the things we hold important.
St. Onge was also honored for his serious column on the Mecklenburg County Commission’s inadequate response to Commissioner Bill James’ “sexual predator” comments. The kicker:
What did politeness accomplish Tuesday night? We got a thoughtfully worded resolution that opposed, in principle, speech that could hurt others. We also saw several members of Charlotte’s gay community speak eloquently on the issue and remind everyone, with their presence, that there’s pain at the other end of the arrows people fling.
Lastly, St. Onge’s lighter column on Wells Fargo’s rainbow lights show on its Uptown Duke Energy Building on National Coming Out Day in October 2010 also received a nod. In it, St. Onge recounted Wells Fargo’s fumbling over questions about who requested and decided to “light the Southern city’s evening sky with a 48-story stamp of approval for a gay and lesbian event.”
Congratulations, Peter! And, thank you. Charlotte is much better place because of your outspokenness and word wizardry.
Today, MeckPAC, the Mecklenburg Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Political Action Committee, of which I am a member, released the following statement. It is, in part, a response to comments made this morning by Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James, as reported by The Charlotte Observer.
Charlotte City Council and Mecklenburg County Commission need to take stand against constitutional amendment
Local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group encourages elected officials to pass resolutions opposing Amendment One
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — MeckPAC, the Mecklenburg Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Political Action Committee, is calling on the Charlotte City Council and Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners to take a strong stand against discrimination by passing resolutions opposing Amendment One, the anti-LGBT, anti-family and anti-business constitutional amendment slated for the May 8, 2012, primary ballot.
Amendment One would require that the state recognize opposite-sex marriage as the “only domestic legal union” in the state. Legal professionals and scholars have said the vague and overly-broad language of the amendment would ban marriage, civil unions and domestic partnership benefits for both unmarried same-sex couples and unmarried opposite-sex couples.
The amendment would also ban domestic partner benefits currently offered to public employees by local governments like Mecklenburg County. It is vitally important for the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners to defend their LGBT employees who depend on county domestic partner benefits in order to provide healthcare and other needs for their families and children. The amendment would also prevent governments like Charlotte, which has been debating domestic partner benefits, from extending such measures to employees in the future.
Several local elected leaders have spoken out personally against the amendment, including Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx. Speaking at the Human Rights Campaign Carolina Gala on Saturday, Feb. 25, Foxx said: “When I go into the ballot box in May … I’m going to be voting against Amendment One.” Last fall, Mecklenburg County Commissioner and then-Chairman Jennifer Roberts signed on to a letter with six other municipal government leaders from across the state urging legislators not to place the amendment on the ballot, noting that the amendment would “threaten important protections for contributing North Carolina citizens, and will significantly harm the future of our state.”
On June 1, 2004, the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in support of the then-proposed anti-LGBT constitutional amendment. At the time, local LGBT leaders called on the county to reverse its decision and David Moore, then-editor of QNotes, Charlotte’s local LGBT community newspaper, called the resolution a “shameful, embarrassing blot on the face of the Queen City” showing “contempt and prejudice sanctioned by the government.”
The 2004 resolution has never been reversed and remains just as shameful and embarrassing today as it did eight years ago.
MeckPAC calls on the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners to reverse their 2004 position and, with the City of Charlotte, join with leaders like Mayor Foxx and Commissioner Roberts in passing a resolution opposing Amendment One and its many potential harms to North Carolina families and children, residents, citizens and businesses.
Similar resolutions and official statements opposing the anti-LGBT Amendment One have already been approved by the elected bodies of Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Greensboro and Raleigh.
# # #
The N.C. Baptist State Convention has made their position on discrimination and bigotry quite clear, and despite their pressure to either ignore completely or twist the Gospel to fit their own needs, there are plenty of Baptists across North Carolina who are willing and ready to step up and speak out against hate and, especially, hate in God’s name.
Above all others, Baptists have a history that enables them to stand up for the true Gospel. The misdeeds of our forbears should be lesson enough to prove that the Gospel cannot be a message of hate, exclusion, division and bigotry. To the contrary, Jesus’ ultimate message of radical love and inclusion is “good news” to the masses. Our God is the Lord of salvation, mercy, freedom, justice and love.
To that end, national Baptist organizations, local churches and local Baptist leaders and congregants will gather in Charlotte this weekend for the first in a series of events in the “Many Voices, One Love,” campaign sponsored by the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB), the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America (BPFNA), and the Alliance of Baptists.
The event, “NC Baptists Against Amendment One: Justice, Equality and Personal Freedom,” will be held at Myers Park Baptist Church, 1900 Queens Rd., Charlotte, N.C., Feb. 25, 2012, from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
A featured panel discussion will be held 9:45-10:45 a.m., moderated by Dan Murrey and featuring Myers Park Pastor Stephen Shoemaker, as well as Ken Godwin, Chaz Seale and Ricky Woods. Angela Yarber, pastor of my hometown Wake Forest Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., will also be a panelist.
Representatives from The Human Rights Campaign, the Faith and Justice Servant Leadership Group of Myers Park Baptist Church and The Coalition to Protect NC Families will also be present at the event.
The Wake County Board of Commissioners will consider at their meeting today a resolution supporting North Carolina’s anti-LGBT, anti-family constitutional amendment, according to grassroots activism group Neighbors for Equality.
The resolution is being recommended by Republican Commission Chairman Paul Coble, who has billed the measure as a a statement in “support of voter participation” in the amendment referendum, to be held along with primary elections on May 8, 2012.
But the resolution does far, far more than that, resolving “that the Wake County Board of Commissioners endorses the Marriage Amendment to the North Carolina Constitution which states that the only domestic legal union that is valid or recognized in North Carolina is marriage between one man and one woman.”
If the intention couldn’t be any clearer, here’s the summary that Coble offered when placing the resolution on the agenda:
The North Carolina General Assembly voted to place an amendment to the North Carolina Constitution before the voters on May 8, 2012. The amendment recognizes that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union recognized in this State. The amendment will ensure that judges will adjudicate based on the law and not on activism, and keep the judiciary from redefining marriage inconsistent with the North Carolina Statutes.
Coble, a Republican candidate in North Carolinas 13th Congressional District, makes his position on marriage abundantly clear on his campaign website: “He believes that marriage should be preserved for one man and one woman. He believes that freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion.” Meaning, in essence, “Screw the First Amendment; I’m forcing my religious beliefs into constitutional law and you just have to deal with it.”
Grassroots activist group Neighbors for Equality is encouraging Wake County citizens and residents to attend the 2 p.m. meeting today and share their thoughts on the amendment and the resolution. Public comments will be accepted. From Neighbors for Equality: “Sign up before the meeting. Comments from the public will be received at 2:30 p.m. for 30 minutes. A signup sheet for those who wish to speak during the public comments section of the meeting is located in the back of the Boardroom.”
The News & Observer published a report from Associated Press writer Tom Breen this morning detailing some of the legal arguments, concerns and questions being considered as North Carolina’s anti-LGBT, anti-family constitutional amendment heads to the ballot in the state’s May 8, 2012, primary elections.
E. Gregory Wallace, who teaches constitutional law at Campbell University’s Wiggins School of Law, was one of several legal commentators Breen sought for comment.
From the piece:
“It’s difficult to predict with any certainty how courts are going to predict constitutional provisions or statutes,” said E. Gregory Wallace, a constitutional law professor at Campbell University’s Wiggins School of Law.
In a decision called Ohio vs. Carswell, the state supreme court ruled that the marriage amendment didn’t invalidate domestic violence laws. The analysis by UNC researchers argues that an Ohio-like situation is possible here, but Wallace said the fact that the matter has been settled in that state makes such an outcome less like in North Carolina.
It’s up to the voters, of course, to determine whether all of the legal back-and-forth amounts to more than speculation, which Wallace argues is probably for the best on such charged topics.
“I think it’s a healthy thing that it’s going directly to the people of North Carolina,” he said. “When you talk about making fundamental change in an institution as old as marriage, that’s probably something that’s best left up to the people themselves.”
Notice that? Every time Wallace comments on the discriminatory amendment he’s either defending it or deflecting concerns over its potential harms.
Meanwhile, legal commentators at the most prestigious and mainstream law school in the state disagree with every point Wallace makes. But, can we be surprised that a Baptist-affiliated law school professor is in favor of the amendment? Of course not.
And, take into consideration Wallace’s support over a decade ago of the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law’s “Marriage Law Project,” and his signature on a letter to the Dutch Parliament admonishing them for considering full marriage equality.
The text of the letter:
TO THE PARLIAMENT OF THE NETHERLANDS: A STATEMENT ON THE DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE FROM LAW PROFESSORS ACROSS THE WORLD
We are professors of law and jurisprudence at universities across the world. We believe that marriage is the unique union of a man and a woman, a community of life and love. Marriage so understood is built into the fabric of social life, and cannot be arbitrarily redefined by lawmakers. Male-female marriage provides incomparable benefits to society, especially for children and for those who invest their lives in raising their children. Our domestic and international laws should preserve, protect and promote the institution of marriage.
We offer no simple recipe for laws that address non-marital sexual relationships. Our countries address these questions in different ways (indeed your own country has already adopted a wide-ranging Registered Partnership Act). But we are united in the conviction that the legal definition of marriage, as the union of a man and a woman, should not be changed. Redefining marriage to include same-sex unions will introduce unprecedented moral, social and legal confusion into our communities. The casualties of this confusion will be the families and children of the future, and therefore our societies as a whole.
We would remind the Dutch Parliament that many legal scholars, including the undersigned, do support marriage as the union of a man and a woman. In that respect, we represent the beliefs and practices of the overwhelming majority of humanity. No country is an island. Your actions will have fateful consequences not only for Europe, but for every country in the world.
There’s no doubt quite a few far-right, anti-LGBT activists’ (you know, the kind that always compares homosexuality and gay marriage to incest, bestiality or pedophilia) hearts skipped a beat on this Valentine’s Day when they saw the headline…
I would have loved to have seen their disappointed faces when the story turned out to be everything but their wildest oppression-crazed dream.
The story from NPR is actually quite moving — the tale of two people who fell madly, deeply in love despite the obstacles in their path, a love that lasted a lifetime. It’s very sweet.
(Update, Feb. 13, 2012, 3:25 p.m.: As Charlotte remains silent on matters of LGBT equality, the New Jersey Senate pushes forward with a marriage equality bill and Washington state becomes the seventh to legalize equality in marriage for LGBT couples. Queen City, take note: The future is coming fast, and you’re being left in the dust.)
My post on Friday recounting the exchange between Charlotte City Councilmember LaWana Mayfield, a Q&A panel audience member and me and Mayfield’s insistence that Charlotte “has never taken a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh” caught the ire of a couple of my readers.
In particular, “Hunter” cut right to the chase (certainly, in a more forceful way than I would have):
Mayfield’s statement is utter bullshit.
The Charlotte City Council takes positions on state legislative matters all the time. Cities have legislative agendas, and Charlotte is no exception.
Shame on Mayfield for daring this speak such obvious lies.
Anyone with even a single iota of knowledge on how local government works knows that city councils and other local governing bodies (e.g. county commissions, transportation commissions, etc.) take public positions on state and federal matters on a regular basis. That usually happens yearly when, as Hunter points out, local governments adopt their state and federal legislative agendas.
The City of Charlotte is no exception. The council’s Governmental Affairs Committee meets regularly in order to discuss, debate and propose the city’s annual state and federal legislative agenda. They even publish a calendar outlining the timing of their deliberations and subsequent approval by city staff and city council.
The city’s 2012 state legislative agenda has yet to be finalized and I couldn’t find a copy of its proposed contents on the city’s and county’s website. I did, however, find the proposed 2011 state legislative agenda, complete with a full 22 pages of in-depth public policy position statements on items ranging from public safety and criminal justice to infrastructure, taxing and budgeting needs.
Perhaps I should have posted more about this on Friday; I just figured the existence of legislative agendas was a no-brainer. Hunter’s comment reminded me, perhaps, that’s not true, despite the fact that so many current council members and candidates certainly knew what a legislative agenda was during campaign season.
Back at the old day job, we spearheaded an initiative to get council candidates on-the-record responses to four issues of importance to local LGBT citizens and residents.
The fourth question in our candidate questionnaire asked:
Would you support the adoption by city council of a legislative agenda that includes items to (a) seek legislative approval to extend public accommodations and public housing ordinances to include both sexual orientation and gender identity, (b) oppose the state’s 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a statute which bans recognition of same-sex marriages, and (c) oppose any attempt to pass a state constitutional amendment that would ban recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships and other legal arrangements?
Yes I would support A, B and C. I believe that by building relationships and commitments among the Council members we can ensure enough support to sustain a yes vote.
That doesn’t square so easily with Mayfield’s response at the Thursday evening panel, when she argued, “Charlotte City Council has never taken a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh.”
Mayfield also said (emphasis added):
As far as taking a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh, it has never been the policy of the Charlotte City Council to make a statement one way or another. We really focus on what’s happening in the City of Charlotte. We do not step outside of our realm too often. If it’s going to benefit the city, that’s our focus.
And, that bears a more in-depth response than the one I offered on Thursday evening, when I said, “It might have been something that came out of Raleigh, but it is something that will affect Charlotte. It will affect all the LGBT people who live in Charlotte — people who are represented by the people on city council and who will be affected by the amendment.”
A few of many ways the amendment impacts Charlotte and why it is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council:
- The amendment would bar the extension of health and other benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees. The city doesn’t currently offer these benefits, but, as mentioned by Mayfield, the issue is currently being discussed and considered by council members and city staff. If the city truly desires to one day offer these benefits to LGBT employees’ families, then taking a position on the amendment and its ban on domestic partner benefits is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
- The amendment could mean the end of domestic violence protection for individuals, both gay and straight, in unmarried relationships. The city-county’s joint police department would have to explore new ways to combat and control domestic violence between unmarried partners. How would the police department ensure the safety of a person being battered and abused by an unmarried partner? How much authority would they have to remove the abuser from the household if law prohibits the recognition of their relationship? The city oversees and administers the police department, therefore it is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
- The amendment could invalidate joint child-custody and visitation arrangements between unmarried couples. Though the county primarily oversees the social services and children’s welfare programs here, if the city has any stake at all in the preservation of healthy homes and families, then this is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
- Studies have found that LGBT people in states with anti-LGBT constitutional amendments face increased mental health problems. According to anti-amendment organizers, one such study found that LGBT people reported increases in mood disorder (36.6% increase), generalized anxiety disorder (248.2% increase), alcohol use disorder (41.9% increase), and psychiatric comorbidity (36.3% increase). Again, the county primarily provides health services to the public, but if the city has any stake in protecting, preserving and promoting a healthy population and workforce, then this is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
- The amendment could result in a chilling effect in businesses currently located in North Carolina and those thinking of moving here. North Carolina is home to 15 Fortune 500 companies. The five largest — Charlotte’s Bank of America, Lowe’s and Duke Energy, and Winston-Salem’s Reynolds American and BB&T — each offer protections to LGB employees. With the exception of Lowe’s and Duke Energy, all offer protections to transgender workings. And, four — Bank of America, Duke Energy, Reynolds American and BB&T — each offer domestic partner benefits in addition to some some 50 other private companies across the state. Research of the “creative class” by Richard Florida has found that more and more workers within “creative” professional fields highly value respect, tolerance, inclusion and diversity. Such values are respected even among straight workers, who seek to know that a diversity of viewpoints, life experiences and people will be honored at their workplaces. According to anti-amendment organizers, the creative class workers were more than 2.5 times more likely to move to Massachusetts in the three years following marriage equality there than in the three years prior. What kind of message will this amendment send to current and potential employees and businesses in North Carolina? Will the amendment cause some citizens, along with their tax income and personal economic activity, to flee the state? Will some employees of major companies like Bank of America request to be moved to the company’s already-large presence in places like Boston or New York City (where marriage equality is recognized)? Will young entrepreneurs — the backbone of our small business economy — find it harder to recruit and retain highly-skilled and highly-valuable employees? Will companies themselves — those like Bank of America — find it easier to do business in less hostile places? According to the city council’s own 2012 Strategic Focus Area Plan for Economic Development, Charlotte seeks to “be the most prosperous and livable city for all citizens through quality economic development.” If the amendment holds any potential harm for economic development and growth, then this is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
So, above and beyond the fact that it is utterly false to say that Charlotte “has never taken a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh,” it is also false to say that Charlotte, inherently, has no interest in the potential approval on May 8 of this anti-LGBT, anti-family, anti-personal freedom and anti-business constitutional amendment. The interest is wide and varied, far beyond the simple impact on the personal lives of LGBT Charlotteans. The amendment could affect local government and its employees, local law enforcement, the health and well-being of local families and children and the economic well-being of our entire city, region and state.
This amendment is, without a doubt, a major question of concern for this city and its people and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council. Like Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Durham and Greensboro, the Charlotte City Council should consider and pass a resolution opposing the amendment and its potential harms to our fair city and this great state.
I encourage you to click over to the previous post on this subject, scroll to the bottom and find the contact information for Charlotte City Council. Send them an email or call them, asking them to take up a resolution opposing this amendment.
Prolific and longtime Greensboro blogger and journalist Ed Cone has been moderating a phenomenal discussion on North Carolina’s Amendment One among his readers over the past week.
It started with the Greensboro City Council’s hearing of a resolution to oppose the anti-LGBT amendment on Feb. 7. Cone and others immediately took Rachel Lee, communications director for the anti-gay Vote for Marriage NC referendum committee, to task after she relayed false polling data to the council and the public during the Tuesday hearing.
In the ensuing conversation — in which Lee refused to answer any of his questions about the constitutional provision and its impact on civil unions — Cone discussed just one of many possible strategies for working to defeat the amendment.
A lot of people who oppose gay marriage might well support civil unions. While such unions are not now available to North Carolinians, this amendment takes them off the table for the future. It’s a zero-compromise solution.
This needs to be discussed whenever the amendment is discussed.
But making civil unions unconstitutional could be a powerful wedge issue.
That’s why the supporters of the amendment do not want to talk about it, and why people who oppose the amendment should make sure it’s a major part of the debate.
Polling data supports Cone’s strategy.
From Public Policy Polling’s recent January data-gathering (emphasis added):
North Carolinians are increasingly having doubts about the state’s proposed amendment to ban gay marriage. When PPP first polled on it in October 61% of voters said they would support it. That’s ticked down to 59%, 58%, and now 56% over the course of our last three polls. It’s still leading for passage by a healthy 56/34 margin but the trendlines have to be encouraging for those hoping to defeat it.
The decrease in support for the amendment may reflect voters in the state becoming more aware about just how far reaching it would be. 57% of North Carolinians support some form of legal recognition for gay couples- either full marriage rights or civil unions- to only 40% who are completely opposed to any rights for same sex couples.
There are a lot of voters who are fine with civil unions but not with gay marriage who are planning right now to vote for the amendment, not realizing that it would ban civil unions too. But some of those folks are starting to move out of the ‘yes’ column, and getting a bunch more of them to will be the key to defeating the proposal.
Focusing on civil unions might be a smart strategy to reach folks in the middle, but it is a strategy that, even if understood, can be upsetting to LGBT North Carolinians. Why fight for table crumbs when you feel like you deserve a seat for the feast?
“Patrick,” one of Cone’s readers eloquently made such an argument:
I would prefer to talk about equal protection of the law and leave everyone, and their churches, to their own morality. But yes, it is galling to have to grope for political compromise to hold out the possibility that sometime in the future you might be granted a legal status that is separate but somewhat similar but ought to be good enough because it’s more than you ever thought you’d get anyway. It is also galling to have to figure out how much prejudice and discrimination you’re willing to accept from people who are your allies because, though vaguely uncomfortable with you, they don’t actively want to spray paint “faggot” on your garage door or toss Molotov cocktails through your living room window. I was born a free citizen of the United States and North Carolina. I work every day. I maintain a respectable home. I pay a third of my income in taxes. I put cans of food in the paper bags the kids leave on my porch. I recycle, and I vote every time they open the door. I didn’t ask to be allowed to marry my partner of 14 years. I didn’t complain last year when I had unexpected minor surgery at Wesley Long Hospital and the holder of my health care power of attorney was cross-examined in the waiting room about his relationship to me and then wasn’t given one of the beepers that everyone else got to let them know their loved-one had survived. I didn’t go looking for Skip Stam to try to gay-marry him, but he came looking for me anyway. I haven’t asked anyone for anything, and I shouldn’t have to. Yes, it galls.
Those advocating a defeat to the amendment — primarily the Coalition to Protect All NC Families — have already begun a great amount of work in educating the public on the potential harm that could come to North Carolina’s families if this amendment is approved. In addition, there’s a great deal of harm that could come to the state’s children, to the state’s enforcement of domestic violence statutes, to personal freedoms and to the economy.
I agree with Patrick. It sucks to have to subjugate our movement for full equality — even if for only a few months. But, marriage equality in North Carolina is a long-time coming. Even if the amendment fails, we still won’t have full marriage rights — we likely never will, at least until Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court steps in. So, this particular political struggle isn’t about marriage. It never was about marriage. Instead, it’s about an out-of-control legislature and radical far-right fringe that’s seeking to extend the reach of big government’s arms into the personal lives and bedrooms of all North Carolinians — gay or straight.
More and more Tar Heel voters are starting to realize just how far-reaching this amendment is. Even some of our more conservative North Carolina voters are beginning to realize the harms of Amendment One, if some of my several conversations with Tar Heel Republicans can be any indicator. For many of them, the amendment is the absolute antithesis of conservatism.
As PPP points out, support for the amendment has decreased a full five percentage points over the course of four months. If the trend continues, we may very well see victory on May 8.