I woke up on Wednesday morning, Nov. 7, 2012, almost leaping out of bed with a big smile on my face, because I knew who was going to be president for the next four years. It is President Barak Obama, the nominee I volunteered for during the last two months. Along with this good news, I was elated to see how many other Democratic U.S. senators were elected, especially among women, and the new Democratic governors. I was disheartened about Gov.-elect Pat McCrory’s election, but that’s a topic for another column. I quickly opened up my computer and got onto the various websites that I check daily to see how the states where marriage equality was on the ballot were fairing. Lo and behold, Maryland and Maine voters approved marriage equality. Soon, Minnesota would do what we in North Carolina did not succeed in doing: they voted down an amendment outlawing marriage equality. They are now in-line to be a state that welcomes marriage equality. A few days later, Washington state voters also approved of marriage equality. And, with that, the evil spell was broken. Voters across the board of both political parties and independents voted for marriage equality. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), Family Research Council and the American Family Association forces had lost. The onerous hex was gone! After 33 states amended their constitutions to deny people marriage equality, four states heralded a new day in America. And, the last state to amend its constitution, perhaps in the history of the United States? North Carolina.
The mastermind who perfected the art of amending state constitutions that denied my partner and me the right to choose to marry or be in a domestic relationship was the nefarious Karl Rove, e.g., “Bush’s brain,” “Turd blossom.” Rove used marriage amendments as a “wedge issue,” part of a conservative strategy, placing marriage equality on statewide ballots during a presidential year. In language that was non-offensive, but hate-filled, these amendments were meant to be a “get out the vote” dog-whistle among conservative voters whom he assumed were largely homophobic and of the “Christian right” variety, or what columnist/blogger Andrew Sullivan calls “Christianists.” My home state of Oregon was one of those states who amended their constitution to take away marriage equality in 2004. This same tactic was taken by the Republicans in the N.C. General Assembly as they originally tried to get the vote to amend the state constitution on Nov. 6, 2012, during the presidential election, thus getting more people to vote for the Republican nominee from both among the African American community, Republicans and Christianist party members. However, as a last minute agreement to get a veto-proof majority in the General Assembly, the legislators who drove this amendment without debate, compromised and let the vote be taken on the day of the primary elections, May 8, 2012. Again: North Carolina is the last state to amend its constitution, joining with the other states of the former Confederacy and beyond in denying people rights and privileges others can freely participate in and use.
What does this feel like to live in North Carolina now? U.S. Sen. John Kerry, then a young soldier, once asked, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam?” at the end of the war. As a citizen of North Carolina, I find myself living in a place that may be the very last state to amend its constitution with words of exclusion rather than inclusion, with homophobia and anti-“gay marriage” being the dying war. As a gay parent in North Carolina, I shudder in the knowledge that my state — the state that gladly receives my taxes without treating me as an equal citizen as a straight parent and denies me the right to choose to be married or be in at least a domestic partnership — is the last state to amend its constitution on the issue of marriage. North Carolina is not my home state. Those who voted to amend the constitution embarrass me, but more sadly embarrass themselves, driving away new businesses and cultural opportunities, let alone revenue from weddings, receptions and honeymoon locations. It most likely will take another vote of the populace to undo this mark of shame in the state constitution. It is a dark stain of hate locked in the very fabric, the very laws, of the state. : :