Monday, October 13, 2014

The Rainbow in North Carolina

In the spring of 2012, there were storm clouds brewing in North Carolina.

Well, North Carolina in the spring time, that's very much a literal statement. Storm fronts come roaring down the Appalachians into the Piedmont while other storms ride the waves into the coastal plains and the sandhills.  

But the storm clouds of that particular spring of 2012 were not of the meteorological kind but were no less destructive. There was a movement afoot to save us from the greatest threat to the sanctity of nostalgia and ignorance. There was a movement to save us from gay marriage. 

Our "salvation" was to come in the form of an amendment to our state's constitution, an iron lock on the gate that separated part of our citizens from the rest. Not beholden to the whims of an electoral body or the veto of a governor, an amendment would stand strong and fast against any assault on goodness and decency.  

On Friday, October 10th, 2014, 2 and half years after this bulwark was firmly put in place for all time, gay and lesbians could legally marry in North Carolina. And who made it possible? Why the right thinking defenders of truth and sanctity who pushed through the amendment in 2012. 

Same sex marriage was not on my radar prior to 2012. Of course, as they say, I did not have a dog in this fight. I'm a straight white male; I'm good, right? And to be honest, when I did think about gay marriage, I wasn't really sure how I felt about it other than, well, uncomfortable. No, it wasn't a homophobic thing; as the saying goes, some of best friends are gay.*

*This is not a true statement. I do not have any best friends.

But the idea of a guy and another guy getting married..or two women getting married...was kind of weird. And if anyone gay reading this thinking, "Geez, this guy's a closet homophobe" or "What's weird about two people in love wanting to get married?", well that's my journey to get through.**

**Hell, sometimes I'm not sure straight people should be allowed to marry either.  

But the thing was I had no adamant feelings on the subject one way or another. But then the political and religious conservatives saw a threat, a threat to society and the foundations of government and our way of life. They saw a threat to the institutions of God. Here in North Carolina, the passions of rage and righteousness were so stoked that no less than an amendment to our state's constitution was proposed. More than laws or regulations, a constitutional amendment would stand the tests of time and forever protect the sanctity of marriage and the piety of the good folk of North Carolina. 

Before that, I think the gay and lesbian community were...well, not content with but certainly resigned to the prospect that same sex marriage was going to take a long, long time. A give in a rule here, a change in a law there. Any more aggressive push for the right to marriage for gays and lesbians would be met with a terrible backlash and set back their cause by years, decades even. 

So the fear mongers among the faithful did gay men and women a big favor by taking an aggressive push to stop gay marriage in various states and communities before it could begin to take root. Now the backlash would be against them. 

It did not come right away, mind you. Fear and ignorance prevailed in North Carolina that spring in 2012 as the amendment passed. It was dubbed Amendment One as if this was the most important thing anyone in this state had ever done or every will do. And it was a potent weapon in the hands of the proponents of gay marriage. Because now the fight was not for gay marriage but for the basic rights afford all citizens of the United States. 

And this is when I woke up and realized that there was something very important at stake. The rights of a part of our population were being curtailed and we were doing it under the cover of law. 

And slowly but surely, a lot of other people began to wake up as well. People who were only moderately in favor of same sex marriage or even those who really didn't give a damn one way or the other on the subject, these people saw a very real threat to the rights of a group of Americans. Hell, I know a few people who still oppose gay marriage on religious grounds but still see the folly of institutionalizing a systemic denial of rights to a targeted segment of American society. 

So to those self-professed guardians of morality and societal norms, the gay and lesbians of North Carolina should give you thanks. You gave them something to fight for, not as homosexuals seeking the right to marriage but as American citizens being denied their rights and freedoms that should be extended to all people. And let me tell you, every single American citizen has a dog in that fight.  

So I imagine that various North Carolina state senators and congressmen will go back home and harumph in indignation at this folly and will vow to fight on for what's right for America. A few extra checks get deposited in campaign accounts so that's a plus side for these ignorant haters. There will always been the small-mind who hide in the shadows of fear and ignorance. 

The rest of us have come out into the light, some confident, others a bit shaky about what the future may hold. But we get to see tomorrow. We get to see the rainbow in North Carolina.


Below is a news story on the judge who ruled North Carolina's amendment as unconstitutional. 

Judge Strikes Down North Carolina Gay Marriage Ban

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A federal judge in North Carolina has struck down the state's gay marriage ban, opening the way for the first same-sex weddings in the state to begin immediately.

U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr., in Asheville issued a ruling Friday shortly after 5 p.m. declaring the ban approved by state voters in 2012 unconstitutional.

Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger kept his Asheville office open late to begin issuing marriage licenses to waiting couples.

Cogburn's ruling follows Monday's announcement by the U.S. Supreme Court that it would not hear any appeal of a July ruling by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond striking down Virginia's ban. That court has jurisdiction over North Carolina.

May I share what I found remarkable about this story? That it is completely unremarkable. It was not the lead story on the Huffington Post. It's not a big story, ultimately only 5 sentences long. I had to search for it for it amongst the other stories of other states seeing the barriers to same sex marriage fall. 

Alexis Leonard, left, and Chelsea Beresford, right, smile after applying for a marriage license at the Buncombe County Register of Deeds office in Asheville, N.C., Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013.

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