April 30, 2012
For weeks, I’ve been debating whether or not to write about Amendment One. For those who don’t know, this amendment to the North Carolina constitution would make a marriage between a man and a woman the only recognized legal union in our state, forever and ever amen. The amendment is intended to target same sex couples, but it is written so broadly that it threatens the rights of unmarried heterosexuals, endangers domestic violence protections and could cause children to lose their health insurance.
There has never been a question about where I stand on this amendment. I am firmly, passionately opposed to it. But the voice in my head kept saying, “Who are you to talk about this issue?” I wasn’t raised by two moms, I don’t have a same-sex partner, and I don’t stand to lose anything if this amendment passes. And then I realized, that’s exactly why I need to talk about this issue. Because it’s time for all of us, no matter what we personally stand to lose or gain, to stand up and say that discrimination is wrong.
Nine years ago, my husband, Todd, and I were married by the Rev. Nancy Petty, a Baptist minister and a lesbian. Her sexual orientation had nothing to do with our choice; I just knew her to be a kind, genuine and understanding person. And in all the months we planned our wedding and wrote our vows and chose our wine list, I never once thought about the fact that Nancy was giving us something that the law did not allow her to have. In fact, it didn’t occur to me until last year, when Nancy publicly announced that she would no longer sign marriage certificates — not until all people had the right to marry.
I’m not sure why, but it was that announcement that snapped me out of my fog and made me realize it was time to stop thinking of gay rights as “someone else’s issue.” This is one of the great civil rights struggles of our time. It affects people we know and love, people who live in our neighborhoods, work in our offices, send their children to our schools. People who lead institutions, run businesses and volunteer in our communities. If we, the protected majority, are not willing to stand up for those people, who are we willing to stand up for? Who can we expect to stand with us when we need it? And if we are too blind to even know they are struggling, what does that say about us?
I wish I were writing to ask you to vote for some positive reform, something that would move us toward unity and equal rights. Unfortunately, all we can do right now is stop our state from taking a giant step backwards. But I hope this can be the start of a growing awareness that it’s time to stand up, in the way that people of conscience have done throughout history — people who spoke out against slavery, fought for the rights of women, demanded an end to segregation. Let’s not just vote on May 8. Let’s start making our stands publicly. And let’s start admitting to ourselves that silently allowing this injustice to continue makes us the perpetrators.