A couple of weeks ago, Steve Ford, editor of the editorial page of the Raleigh News & Observer, wrote an excellent piece about Amendment One. As I commented to him, I was really impressed with his column even before I saw that he had affirmed the NC Council of Churches and quoted me! You can read his column by clicking here.
That same N&O included a death notice for John Neves, who had passed away following a few months with cancer. My wife and I had been church friends of John and his life partner Steve and have known them for twenty years. They had been in a committed relationship for almost as long as Susan and I have been married (33+ years – a long time!). On at least one occasion, we exchanged anniversary cards.
John and Steve’s commitment “til death do us part” has been something they have taken seriously and something they fulfilled more completely than many of our straight friends. Sadly, not many of our peers have stayed together for 33 years.
John and Steve were among the first gay men Susan and I knew as friends. They were also among the first about whom we said to each other, “You know, our son Joe would be as well off in their care as with anybody else we know.” Twenty years ago, with a young son, that acknowledgement was a big step in our process of getting away from the phobias and stereotypes we had grown up with.
John’s passing came at the end of the week in which North Carolinians voted to put discrimination against him and Steve into the state’s constitution. Some Amendment One supporters said that people like John and Steve were a threat to straight marriage. Of course, none of the people saying it knew John and Steve. Because you couldn’t know them and say that. Maybe the people who said it don’t know any people who are gay or lesbian. Or, to be more precise, maybe none of the gay or lesbian people in their families, churches, workplaces, or neighborhoods have felt comfortable coming out to them. How sad!
As John’s obituary noted, “Through his faithfulness to his partner, John showed and taught many around him what a long-term, committed, loving relationship between two men could be.” And as Steve said to me when I asked his permission to write this: “Yes, please tell the story. I loved John so completely, I chose him every day for 33 years. As I told John knowing he had cancer, ‘I just want to be with you, no matter what.’”
Susan and I join with Steve and Don and Hope (John’s parents), and with John and Steve’s fellow church members in celebrating his life, but mourning his premature passing. We also grieve our state’s recent decision on Amendment One, which writes into our constitution that John and Steve are second-class citizens. We who know John and Steve know that there is nothing second-class about them.
–George Reed, Executive Director