In light of yesterday’s vote to add a discriminatory amendment about marriage to our state’s constitution, it is important to consider what was accomplished through this campaign and what it tells us about progress.
First, the fine work of a committed group of people has resulted in alliances and coalitions that hadn’t existed before. People with very different political beliefs spoke together against Amendment One. Secular and religious groups worked side by side to defeat it. Individuals who may not believe in gay marriage have come to realize that they also do not believe that the state’s foundational document, its bedrock of freedom, should be used to discriminate. These are not the results we sought, but they are ones we value.
It was just 1991, 21 years ago, when the North Carolina Council of Churches voiced its opposition to harassment, violence, and discrimination against people who are gay or lesbian. While that statement seems rather bland now, it was issued when some religious leaders in our country were proclaiming AIDS to be God’s punishment on gay men. It was a prophetic and controversial step for the Council at that time.
To come from that point to an election in which about 40% of a huge primary turnout voted against Amendment One is a clear reminder of how rapidly our society is changing. I suspect that Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, one of the architects of Amendment One, was correct when he said recently that this is a generational issue and that the amendment would be repealed within twenty years.
Sadly, we will live for those decades with discrimination written into our constitution, and we will have years of court cases to determine exactly what the manifestations of that amendment will be.
Christians sometimes talk about being citizens of two realms: the secular state and the realm of God. So I am a citizen of North Carolina, but I am also a citizen of God’s realm. Yesterday’s vote determines where the state of North Carolina is, at least for now, but it does not change my beliefs that God loves all of God’s children equally and that all of us are welcomed as full and beloved members of God’s family. Most Christian denominations profess those beliefs in their official statements. The task for all of us, during these interim years, will be to practice what we preach, to live in ways that manifest that we believe what we say we do.
Twenty years is a long time if you are one of the people being discriminated against, but it’s only a brief period in the arc of the moral universe about which Dr. King spoke. And we know that the arc is bending towards justice.
–George Reed, Executive Director