(c) by Mary Griggs
I woke up to the news that North Carolina voters, by a 61 to 39% margin, voted on Tuesday to enshrine discrimination into their constitution. State law already established a one-man-one-woman limit on marriage, but that wasn’t enough for the religious extremists.
Legal experts are fairly certain that the wording (Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State) will remove domestic violence and hospital visitation rights from LGBT couples at the very least, but also concede that it will result in a loss of rights for non-married straight couples.
North Carolina has one of the highest per capita non-married couples (as opposed to married couples with children) in the nation. Common law relationships in North Carolina have mostly been the rule, not the exception. All these folks have now voted to take away their own family related rights in an attempt to deny same-sex couples marriage equality.
Interesting fact: The last time North Carolina put an Amendment regarding marriage in their Constitution was 1875, when they banned interracial marriage. The measure wasn’t ever repealed—despite the Supreme Court ruling in 1967 invalidating anti-miscegenation laws in the Loving v. Virginia decision —it remained part of NC state charter until a new constitution was adopted in 1971.
Bill and Chelsea Clinton, Governor Bev Perdue, and many others campaigned hard to raise awareness about the ramifications of this law. In fact, on Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden said he was “absolutely comfortable” with the idea of same-sex marriage. However, other than a statement by President Obama’s North Carolina campaign spokesman of the President’s opposition to “divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples,” there was nothing else from the man who has been famously evolving on the issue over the past 18 months.
Later today, however, President Obama made history by becoming the American president to come out in support of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples while still in office. In an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts, President Obama said:
“I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”
While he has finally affirmed marriage equality, the timing is most unfortunate for all those families in North Carolina that will be negatively impacted by having bigotry enshrined in their constitution. We will never know if this statement, made in advance of the vote, might have actually changed the result.
That being said, I am very proud of the President for making this stand. A stand, I might add that is now in keeping with the majority of Americans. The latest Pew Research Center survey finds a 47 to 43 percent plurality favoring marriage equality, with as many Americans saying they strongly favor (22 percent) as saying they strongly oppose (22 percent).
Unfortunately, one in three Southern voters are strongly opposed to marriage equality. It is likely that he may lose North Carolina as a swing state because of this stand.
This isn’t the only brave stand that this President has taken for LGBT Americans. So far, he has stood for us when he signed the Matthew Shepard and James E. Byrd Jr. Hate crime Prevention Act and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He stood for us when he instructed the Justice Department to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act and by enacting all those executive orders extending protections for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender citizens including hospital visitation, expanding benefits to partners of federal employees and simplifying the process by which transgender individuals can obtain a passport in their current gender.
Now I’m standing with him. Consider doing the same at: Obama For America