Educating North Carolinians

On Being a Gay Parent

One of the adages I’ve passed on to generations of students I have taught since 1989 is this: All education is continuing education.

We are taught in modern society that education can take place in classrooms — and, now online courses. Since we were in pre-school programs and all the way through graduate programs, education in these contexts and programs is only part of what is education.Education can take place in workshops we attend at a community center or community of faith, going to a public lecture by an aspiring academic, continuing education credits for a job or reading a book or journal article. We can even go to an art museum, throw ourselves into music venues that we would normally side step, take a walk in a park and read about the different flora and fauna, take a cooking class, or…well, once the reins of a formal education are off of us, we are free to learn and educate ourselves as much as we want.

The importance of education is rising in Oregon, one of my adopted home states, where I am writing this column. Oregon, like North Carolina, is one of the 31 states with a constitutional ban against marriage equality. In 2004, Karl Rove and then-President George W. Bush singled out Oregon and a few other states to put anti-marriage equality bans in state constitutions in hopes of getting conservative votes out for the presidential election.Oregon, like North Carolina, is a state with a split personality: there are large pockets of blue-tilting and Libertarian cities and burbs in the state, surrounded by even larger red pockets of conservative voters tied tightly to institutional religion.

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Even though I feel more free to be a gay dad in Portland than I do in any city in North Carolina, the folks leading the LGBTQ group here — Basic Rights Oregon (BRO) — do not feel it is not quite time to push amending their state constitution. Says Jeana Frazzini, the executive director of BRO: “Our guiding principle is to minimize harm.” They will not be pushing for the amendment in 2013 because it is an off year for voting and the electorate skews more conservative. State leaders believe that Oregon can’t afford to fail again on gay marriage — politically, financially or emotionally. LGBTQ families would be hurt and outside donations for another campaign may not be there. So, while states like Illinois, New Jersey and others who don’t have constitutional amendments on their books make us all drool with envy, the facts are the facts, no matter how much we don’t like them.

To North Carolinians who care about marriage equality, here’s the educational lesson for the next few years: Oregon serves as a model for what we could and should be doing here and currently aren’t in regards to marriage equality. They’re purposefully educating the public about the issues of marriage equality and we here are not. LGBTQI and straight allies in Oregon are being encouraged to talk about love and commitment more than about rights and privileges.

Here, Equality NC seems to be more focused on making change happen legislatively than through grassroots education. In going onto the group’s website, I looked for “education” and found nothing. No one is leading an educational movement on a grassroots level here to reverse the hateful amendment and allow North Carolina to be open to marriage equality in the near future.

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In North Carolina, we should be doing what they are doing in Oregon, with LGBTQ people reaching out to cities, but also rural areas, faith communities and businesses, without vilifying opponents. LGBTQ people are sharing stories about ordinary people wanting normal things, like a family. Unlike Equality NC, BRO is pushing others to tell their stories, which is politically smart. Signature gathering for the November 2014 ballot initiative is beginning in 2013, with people spending time in farmers’ markets, summer concerts and other grassroots locales. LGBTQI people and straight allies are doing the long-term groundwork necessary to change a culture: they are educating the populace one person at a time, right where they live.

Friends in North Carolina: before I move out of North Carolina because of its shame-filled amendment, I’m ready to educate North Carolinians, reversing the amendment, replacing it with marriage equality in our state and ready to pop champagne glasses (or sparkling juice) from Murphy to Manteo for all who wish to marry. How does 2014 sound to you for such a change? Let’s try a new “ENC”: Educate North Carolinians…for change! : :

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