The voters of North Carolina have done it. They’ve returned to the mindset of the 1870s and allowed the narrow-minded, the hateful, the fearful and the ignorant to define the argument against civil unions, domestic partnership and gay marriage. Against equality and civil rights. They’ve retreated from the openness, fairness and leadership that they showed during the Reconstruction. As Rachel Seidman, a historian at UNC-Chapel Hill, told the News Observer, “I’m really disappointed and outraged that we even had to go to the polls to defeat this.” Yet, North Carolinians, in following the lies and vitriol of the religious right and the tea party and passing Amendment One — banning same-sex marriage and pulling the rug out from under gay and straight couples in civil unions — have become sheep.
The religious right and the tea party, masters of hate, lies and spin, have out-talked and outspun folks like former President Bill Clinton, Vice President Biden, and more moderate voices like President Obama and Not Right NC (Republicans Against Amendment One). They created a mob mentality — albeit in a scaled back form from some of the worst examples in history — that resulted in the passage of Amendment One and a giant. Leap. Backwards.
I have never had any doubt about the lengths the right would go to spread their brand of hate and bigotry. But, Amendment One has shown once again that, at least in North Carolina, the past is not so far from the surface and, using 21st century tools, the right knows exactly how to access it.
What Amendment One means for gay couples is clear — no marriage, no civil unions, no domestic partnerships. What it means for the children of gay couples, in terms of rights, benefits, access (etc.), or for unmarried straight couples with or without children is not so clear. Additionally, what it will mean for businesses, the government or others remains to be seen, in terms of what it will mean… or cost.
What is clear, however, is the precedence this sets for the rest of the country. Minnesota has a similar vote coming up, as does Washington. I’m hoping these states are watching carefully, and that the reasonable and the fair-minded get together to outspin — out-shepherd — the right. Look at the facts (that gay marriages do not affect straight marriages…a bad marriage is a bad marriage, no? etc.) and make the right choice based on facts and evidence. Don’t fall for the lies and hateful rhetoric of the right. Get the word out: speak up for the truth and encourage others to do the same. Be a shepherd. Don’t be a sheep.