Georgia Supreme Court has upheld an amendment, passed by Georgia voters,
to the Peach State’s constitution, stripping full civil rights
away from a whole bunch of LGBT Georgians.
On Nov. 7, South Carolina voters are poised to do the very same thing — passing
a very similar amendment — and having Georgia’s high court
uphold theirs doesn’t bode well for ours.
This makes a concerted, cooperative effort among all concerned folks in
South Carolina, gay and straight, who believe in extending the same rights
and privileges of citizenship to all, regardless of who they love, all
the more important.
A recent editorial cartoon that appeared on the editorial page of the Greenville
News depicted two men dancing on an implied Broadway stage holding a newspaper
with the headline announcing the recent court setback to gay marriage in
New York. The caption of the cartoon was, “If we can’t make
it here, we can’t make it anywhere.”
Offensive? Possibly. True? Most likely and unfortunately so.
The LGBT community in the midlands and lower part of the state seem to
have their act together. They are pulling together, sharing resources,
giving time and energy and money to the effort to defeat the “dumb
amendment.” One Charleston resident has even offered a matching grant
of up to $100,000 to aid in the effort to stop the amendment.
But when it comes to the Upstate of South Carolina, the same dedication,
concern, effort or rallying to keep our state from stealing our rights
as citizens doesn’t seem to be visible.
Recently, the South Carolina Equality Coalition (SCEC) put together a bus
tour of cities in the state as part of its Fairness for All Families campaign.
In Greenville, the small but dedicated group stood on the corner of South
Main and Augusta with signs urging people to vote for fairness. Where were
A search of MySpace.com profiles for males and females, ages 18-65, within
10 miles of my zip code, who identify as gay, lesbian, bi or not sure,
resulted in 961 profiles.
Surely, some of those 961 people, who have a vested interest in securing
equal rights for all South Carolina citizens, could have joined in that
effort. Where were we?
Are we simply content to go to the Castle, Red Moon or Sugar Shack, drink,
have fun, have sex and then never consider what’s being done to us
in the name of family values? Where are we?
Now, granted, there may be some reasons for doing nothing, for staying
in comfortable little closets and keeping one’s “good name” in
the neighborhood or the business community. Fear and loathing come to mind
Maybe we’ve lived in the shadow of that phallic symbol at the gate
of Bob Jones University for so long we just can’t get it out of our
collective consciousness. Maybe the power of the religious right in the
Upstate is only what we, in our fear, give to them.
Maybe we’re just so used to wallowing in the self-loathing guilt
and shame that for so long was a part of our lives (thanks to parents,
friends, schools and churches). After all, we southerners do love our guilt.
Maybe some of us still really do feel dirty because we have sex with members
of our own gender.
I understand both the fear and the loathing. They are difficult to throw
Gay, lesbian, trans, bi, queer and questioning; straight but not narrow,
PFLAGers, progressive church members — all concerned need to join
with the SCEC and Fairness For All Families and the Alliance for Full Acceptance
and other groups behind this campaign if there is even to be a ghost of
a chance to defeat the proposed amendment. More than 600,000 votes are
needed to do so.
The fight ahead will be a tough one. The political director of the Palmetto
State’s GOP has made it clear that this amendment will be an issue.
Oran Smith’s Palmetto Family Council and that organization’s
South Carolina Marriage Project are formidable foes.
But guaranteed success has never been the overarching reason to fight for
a cause (The Art of War not withstanding).
Win or lose, South Carolina needs to know that the state’s LGBT residents
would not be happy to have their rights stripped away.
Win or lose, South Carolina needs to know that families come in all shapes
and sizes, that committed relationships (whether or not they are sanctioned
by the church) are valuable and good for the state.
Win or lose, South Carolina needs to know that discrimination and oppression
are tools of evil men and women who have their own internalized fears and
insecurities to deal with and have no place in the life of the state today.