As we move closer and closer to Tuesday’s upcoming vote in North Carolina on Same Sex Marriage Amendment One, which proposes adding a clause to the state constitution that would define marriage as being only between a man and a woman, this space is getting hot. Signs for and against the amendment are everywhere. Some signs have even been shot at and pissed on. Early polling stations did a brisk business. On Saturday 10,000 attended OutRaleigh 2012 filling Raleigh’s Fayetteville Street Mall with a message of inclusion: “All Families Matter.” This Sunday morning, I trust the words “Sin” and “Righteousness” were hissed from many a preacher’s lips. I also know that from others came words of love, such as in St. Mark’s Episcopal Church where the Reverend Lorraine Ljunggren explained: “We’ve taken the position, which is a legal position to take, that Amendment One does not respect the dignity of every human being” (1).
In early March in a post called Neighborly Relations, I explained what happened on my neighborhood list serve when someone posted information on the May 8th vote. Many in my neighborhood said that we should keep politics and religion off the list serve, but one valiant neighbor came forward to express sadness that we couldn’t trust ourselves to hold civil discussion in the community. He further pointed out that the path of isolationism is a dangerous one because when we live isolated from opposing viewpoints and perspectives we cease to be able to critically evaluate our own beliefs.
This weekend on the list serve a homosexual couple, who recently moved into a sweet little house a short block from me, wrote in to say that in the night someone threw an egg through their glassed-in porch. The crime was reported to the police, as it is assumed to be an act of hate, possible retaliation for two signs on their lawn, one saying “Vote AGAINST Amendment One” and the other saying “End Religious Bigotry.”
Unfortunately, what happened to my neighbors isn’t a unique incident. No, I wasn’t kidding about the defacement of signs. A seventeen year-old living in Kannapolis posted a YouTube video of himself firing a shotgun into his neighbor’s sign against the amendment (2). And Louis J. Marinelli reports on his blog that: “A supporter of the marriage referendum in North Carolina has recorded himself urinating on a ‘Vote Against Amendment One’ yard sign a day after another supporter gained attention for recording himself shooting a similar yard sign with his shotgun” (3).
But these acts, even the one involving a shotgun, pale in comparison to the rationale for the amendment provided by Jodie Brunstetter, the wife of state Senator Peter Brunstetter (R). As reported in The Daily Kos, Yes! Weekly writer and campaigner Chad Nance spoke to a poll worker who told him that Mrs. Brunstetter said, “The reason my husband wrote Amendment 1 was because the Caucasian race is diminishing and we need to uh, reproduce . . . . Caucasians or whites created this country. We wrote the Constitution. This is about protecting the Constitution. There already is a law on the books against same-sex marriage, but this protects the Constitution from activist judges” (4).
As I learned these stories that speak of an intention to divide, not only by sexual orientation, but by race, and the intense level of hate surrounding this issue, I can’t help but to think: “Are you freaking kidding me? In 2012?”
My other thought is that the hate seems to be one sided. It is those who are for the amendment who are turning emotion into negative action. The impetus for the amendment itself is division and hate. And this is a clue I must follow. I am, after all, a witch: and it harm none.
So I’m going to say this as plainly as I can:
Frankly I don’t give a rat’s ass what you believe. If you want to believe that man is inherently flawed and full of sin, fine with me. If you want to believe that homosexuality is a sin, fine with me. If you want to believe that marriage should be defined as a partnership between a man and a woman, fine with me. But when you act on your belief, when you act on your belief and cause harm to another, be it through intimidation, defacement, or the crafting of a law that tells me with whom I can form a union, that tells me how to define love, then it is not okay with me. It is not okay.
And yet still, despite how strong are my emotions — and believe me, I am sad, not angry — no matter how strong are my emotions, my reason for voting against the amendment remains a logical one. In truth, this vote isn’t about sexual orientation, it’s about liberty.
The Mountain Xpress out of Asheville explains the position of the North Carolina Libertarian Party, who opposes Amendment One because it is “badly designed” and “could harm millions of North Carolina families, women and children by potentially impacting contract agreements between individuals, stripping health care from children of unmarried couples and invalidating domestic violence laws meant to protect unmarried North Carolinians” (5).
Further, as Mike Munger, Professor of Political Science at Duke University and the NC Libertarian Party’s 2008 gubernatorial candidate, explains “through the amendment ‘government is making a choice about which kinds of arrangements families can raise children in’” (5).
Yes, as a mom, voting against the amendment is about protecting my babies.
Many, many moons ago, I shared a lunch with my colleagues. We gathered in my office around a tiny table. I was seated across from the department’s head of IT, a man I liked. I found him practical, hard working and easy to get along with. We both had young children and the conversation naturally flowed to discussion of them. I believe we each expressed a hope that our children would fall in love. And then I said something like: “Yes, may my son find love, with a man or a woman, we don’t know yet, but may he find love.” At this, the head of IT got very quiet. Then he said something like: “How can you wish that for your child?” And he went on to explain that homosexuality is a sin.
The entire room was at once charged and silent. I was stunned. I am certain my comment was delivered with light laughter, and I was shocked at how deep was his reaction, how deep and immediate and full of hate. It took me a moment to collect myself, and then, because it was my office, I said this: “I am sorry if I have offended you. I genuinely like you and respect your opinion. In this case, my viewpoint is large enough to contain yours.” And then I smiled and kept eating.
My sons are three and seven. Kissing to them is yucky, except if it’s a kiss from mom, dad or a grandparent. We have no clue if our boys will grow up to love men, women, both or neither. For that matter we have no clue if our children will grow up to believe that homosexuality is a sin, or if they will grow up to believe it is a natural, genetic disposition. But I love my boys. And I want for them a world that protects them whoever they may be. Whoever they may be.
When I think of the State Constitution, or the Federal Constitution, I envision it as a tent-like shell, or if you prefer, a carefully woven nest. It is our societal shelter. A contract we hold with each other. Our shelters may be leaking and drafty, but we need them. And we need them to be as inclusive as possible. Remember that this is an abstract shelter: the normal rules of space and time do not apply. There is room under here, or snuggled in here, for each and every one of us. And we must make sure that this remains so.
The Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Life at Duke hands out t-shirts every year on National Coming Out Day (6). The shirts bear the message “Love = Love.” Yes. Love is the bigger shelter. Love is the viewpoint that is large enough to contain all other views. Love will allow my neighbors to talk to the person who threw the egg about their differing opinions, civilly.
But look, I know that’s hippie hog wash to many. Forget for a moment whether you are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or anywhere here, there or elsewhere on the continuum that is the experience of human sexuality. Forget for a moment whether you are an advocate of peace and love or a proponent of violence and hate. Voting against Amendment One really isn’t at root an emotional decision. As a dear friend observed while our kids had a play date at a local playground: “Let me get this straight: they want to change the Constitution? The State Constitution? No. Nope. No. You don’t just go and mess with the Constitution.” I never did find out how she feels about marriage.
© Jennifer S. and harvestliberty.net, 2012.