I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to say in the wake of North Carolina’s primary election on May 8. You know, the one in which voters agreed to amend the constitution to ban gay marriage and civil unions (and any other legal domestic partnerships for any couples). It’s a terrible amendment. It shouldn’t have passed. But at 61% to 39%, it wasn’t even close.
I’d gotten more invested in the fight against this amendment than any political issue in my life. I wrote about it here, and here, and had countless conversations with people at church and elsewhere. I went to several meetings of faith leaders and watched as they worked tirelessly, for months, trying to spread the word and get out the vote. Rob and I went to a rally the Sunday before the election. The short volunteer stint I did at the phone bank earned me a t-shirt, which I’ve been wearing around the house, sadly, this week.
Many have noted the “historical inevitability” of gay marriage, and I think that was part of what got me so fired up about it. Jonathan and Harper will look back on this time the way I do on the civil rights movement, or apartheid, and I want them to know where I stood. I’ll tell Jonathan that he went to that rally with us, that he chewed on a “vote against” postcard while Dr. Barber challenged us to ask the right questions. I’ll remind Harper about watching the “Vote Against Amendment One” music video on youtube, over and over again until she almost had it memorized.
But it was mostly the inspiration of folks here who organized rallies, built bridges, signed petitions, talked until their throats were hoarse. On election night, I gathered with some of those faith leaders, a little self-consciously, since they’d all done so much more than I had. We met at a synagogue here in town, and watched the results come in. It was pretty clear from early on that things were not going to go our way. But there was still a lot of hope in that room. There was hope for future partnerships and continuing work, and there was the deep and abiding hope that all will be well.
My friend Julie, a pastor who led the charge here in Greensboro, said this:
“We have won in so many ways.. in the partnerships that we have formed and the conversations started. So many incredible stories, done for the love of neighbors and the sake of others. The state will be better for our work. We have a temporary loss, but we will win the battle. Our work is just beginning.”
I had to stay away from Facebook for a few days after the election. It was hard not to take some of the angry, snarky “North Carolina sucks” comments personally. I love this state, with its beautiful geography and beautiful and generous people. These are good people here, some of whom can’t quite get their heads around the idea of two people of the same gender loving one another, maybe because it’s awfully hard to get over what you were taught “the Bible says.” Or who didn’t realize, with the confusing language of the amendment, that there would be collateral damage to women and children and opposite-sex couples. Yes, there are the extremists and the mean-spirited, and those who haven’t even tried to understand. But I suspect most people were somewhere in the middle. There are good people here.
I wish it had not passed. We’re not there yet. We’ll get there. There’s work to do, but we’ll get there. History is long and complicated, and we’re right in the middle of it.