Last evening, my wife and I sat in front of the television, watching the tallies roll in for North Carolina’s Primary. We grew more despondent as it became clear that Amendment 1, a measure banning same-sex marriage and civil unions in the state of North Carolina, was going to pass and be incorporated into the North Carolina Constitution. My wife was nearly physically sick at the thought of the level of bigotry and ignorance present in the Fundamentalist majority who voted to try to restrict the lives and relationships of those around them into the narrow definitions of their religious beliefs, while I started worrying about the financial and social impacts such a vote will have on the state of North Carolina in the upcoming years.
Before I went to sleep, I was flipping through a copy of Aesop’s Fables and I came across one that hit a little too close to home after the horrible results of the vote on Amendment 1:
One day, a Man went into a Forest and asked the Trees if they would be so good as to give him a handle for his axe. The trees readily granted his request and gave him a piece of tough Ash. But no sooner had the man fitted it into his axehead, than he quickly began to use it, and laid about him so vigorously that the giants of the forest fell under his strokes.
“Alas!” said a doomed Oak to a Cedar, “the first step lost us all. If we had not given up our rights to the Ash, we might have stood for ages.”
North Carolina (along with most of the rest of the South) is well known for its religiously conservative views, so it wasn’t a surprise to most that Amendment 1 passed. It appears North Carolina hasn’t changed much from the state that, in 1875, passed an Amendment to the former NC Constitution banning interracial marriage “forever”:
As Gene Nichol, Law professor at UNC’s Law School puts it:
[Amendment 1] secures no liberties, alters no decision-making structures, opens no doors to a broader swath of the citizenry. Instead, through its phrases, a powerful majority enshrines its supremacy over a small and disfavored minority. It expresses hostility in the most distinctive way available. It carves it into our constitution. It declares, in effect, that “in this foundational matter, thou shalt never be equal.”
In my opinion, issues of Human Rights should never be decided by a majority vote. I’m not saying that the incorporation of this Amendment into the NC Constitution is necessarily going to open to the door to additional laws oppressing the gay population of the state, but it certainly is a huge step in the wrong direction.
I’m not exactly sure we go from here. Are we going to have to wait for a Supreme Court ruling on the issue, like Loving v. Virginia in 1967 that finally invalidated the anti-miscengenation laws after nearly 100 years in the NC Constitution? I certainly hope not. I hope the population of North Carolina sees this as a shot across the bow to the liberties and rights of more than just a minority of individuals in the state. I hope people open their eyes and dispel their ignorance of what impact this Amendment could (and probably will) have on ALL unmarried couples, and change their minds. I hope the unregistered and apathetic voters sit up and take notice, and make it out to the polls when a proposition is raised to repeal this Amendment. I’ll be there doing my part, and I hope you will, too.