I am bewildered already by the blizzard of emails I receive daily about the upcoming vote (May 8, 2012) on a constitutional amendment in North Carolina that would further restrict and solidify what it means to be married in this state. I’ve been talking about the vote since both houses of the General Assembly voted upon its passage in September 2011. It is an amendment that would not only outlaw marriage among LGBTQ people, but civil unions among LGBTQ and straight couples alike. Meanwhile, non-profit organizations waited until a few months after the vote to get the ball rolling in terms of publicizing the harms of this amendment. Perhaps, this was because it would be hard to sustain an eight-month long campaign or that the electorate’s attention span is so short that starting any earlier would reap little in terms of benefits. I was all for a statewide educational campaign right after the General Assembly’s vote. Educating people in small-town North-Carolina, visiting churches, schools and town hall meetings as an out gay Presbyterian pastor, dad and partner was what I offered. But, I found no venue or interest among other activists to make this happen.
It is now 2012, and the emails and mailings are offering opportunities to attend rallies, be part of dinner events and have photos taken of people proud to identify with the LGBTQ community. These events serve a purpose as they are meant to raise funds, passion and interest in defeating the amendment vote. However, my concern is not with the number of people attending the rallies, dinners, and photo sessions per se, but in two other areas: education and registering people to vote on May 8, 2012.
Educationally, outside the metropolitan areas (which will more than likely defeat this bill, albeit it by various margins), the people of this State tend to be social conservatives. This has been highlighted by people like Raleigh News and Observer’s Rob Christensen who point out the many ways that North Carolinians tend to be more conservative when it comes to the social issues of the day, like drinking alcohol, the lottery and the equality of women and African-Americans. The way real change comes about is through educating people as to what are the issues before all of us, both pro- and con. One way to educate straight people as to what it is like to be an LGBTQ person in North Carolina is to ask straight people to take this test, designed by columnist and blogger Andrew Sullivan. Try living one day without tipping anyone to the fact that you might be a heterosexual person or couple. You can’t mention your husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, kids, anything to do with them. No pronouns used, no social-life discussed that could reveal anything about your heterosexual orientation. Try it for a day or two. “And you’ll see what it feels like to be an LGBTQ person, and the psychological energy required to do that for a lifetime,” writes Andrew Sullivan.
After taking this test, along with grabbing or creating any other educational moments, it is imperative that we get people out to vote against the amendment. I, for one, am hoping that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will have already be voted upon as the Republican nominee for president by May 8. This will help depress the vote of some in North Carolina. But, it is important to not only be registered, but to get out the vote. The lives of many LGBTQ and straight couples in North Carolina are depending upon a “no” vote on this amendment. The test ahead is a matter of life out of the closet for many LGBTQ parents, couples, or individuals, or pushing more people deeper into the unhealthy environs of closet living. : :