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North Carolina's constitution is under attack

Friday, February 04, 2005


My marriage is sowing the seeds of societal destruction in NC.

[UPDATE: I've added a "How to help with this fight" section at the end of the post.]

I was born in this state, moved away for many years, living as a New Yorker, but that time away never took the Tar Heel out of me. I missed it, so I returned. I also love the fact that my hometown, Durham is in a bluest of blue counties; it is not uncommon to see gay and lesbian couples out and proud walking in downtown areas. Major employers in the area include universities, medical centers, hi-tech, non-profits and municipal governments that offer partnership benefits to its gay employees. Neighborhoods are diverse and progressive, all seems well with the world.

However, once you drive outside of this bubble of tolerance (just a few miles outside, even), you encounter the harsh reality that this is a red state, where tolerance can be hard to find, the bible is beaten hard, and a sizeable amount of wingnuts are appalled by what they see going on in the bubble. This is what has created the legislative backlash that scares me.

A group of scared, middle-aged white men is so threatened by my relationship with Kate that they want to write discrimination into our state constitution. They have been elected to do so, and have made this their top priority. Here is the latest version. It is patterned after the highly restrictive Virginia legislation, attempting not only to define marriage, but to prevent civil unions and restrict contracts between same sex couples that would ensure legal protections.
GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF NORTH CAROLINA SESSION 2005
SENATE BILL 8
Short Title: Defense of Marriage.
Sponsors: Senators Forrester, Smith; Allran, Apodaca, Berger of Rockingham, Bingham, Blake, Brock, Brown, East, Garwood, Goodall, Hartsell, Hunt, Jacumin, Pittenger, Presnell, Stevens, Thomas, Tillman, and Webster.
Referred to: Ways and Means.

January 31, 2005

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED

AN ACT TO AMEND THE CONSTITUTION TO PROVIDE THAT MARRIAGE is the union of ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN at one time, and this is the only marriage that is recognized as valid in this state.

The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:
SECTION 1. Article 14 of the North Carolina Constitution is amended by adding the following new section:

"Sec. 6. Marriage. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman at one time. This is the only marriage that shall be recognized as valid in this State. The uniting of two persons of the same sex or the uniting of more than two persons of any sex in a marriage, civil union, domestic partnership, or other similar relationship within or outside of this State shall not be valid or recognized in this State. This Constitution shall not be construed to require that marital status or the rights, privileges, benefits, or other legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon unmarried individuals or groups."

SECTION 2. The amendment set out in Section 1 of this act shall be submitted to the qualified voters of the State at the primary election in May of 2006, which election shall be conducted under the laws then governing elections in the State. Ballots, voting systems, or both may be used in accordance with Chapter 163 of the General Statutes. The question to be used in the voting systems and ballots shall be:

"[ ] FOR [ ] AGAINST

Constitutional amendment to provide that marriage is the union of one man and one woman at one time, and this is the only marriage that shall be recognized as valid in this State."

SECTION 3. If a majority of votes cast on the question are in favor of the amendment set out in Section 1 of this act, the State Board of Elections shall certify the amendment to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State shall enroll the amendment so certified among the permanent records of that office. The amendment set out in Section 1 of this act shall become effective July 1, 2006.
Let's meet the fellows behind this "essential legislation", beginning with the man that submitted it:


Senator James Forrester (Rep)
Joint Republican Caucus Leader
2005-2006 Session
(919) 715-3050
Email: Jamesf@ncleg.net
District: 41
Counties Represented: Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln

Here are the sponsors of this hate legislation. What are they scared of?



Senator Austin M. Allran (Rep), Phone: (919) 733-5876, Email: Austina@ncleg.net
Counties Represented: Catawba, Iredell.
Senator Tom Apodaca (Rep), Deputy Republican Leader, Phone: (919) 733-5745, Email: Toma@ncleg.net.
Counties Represented: Buncombe, Henderson, Polk
Senator Phil Berger (Rep), Phone: (919) 733-5708, Email: philbe@ncleg.net
Counties Represented: Guilford, Rockingham



Senator Stan Bingham (Rep), Phone: (919) 733-5665, Email: stanb@ncleg.net.
Counties Represented: Davidson, Guilford
Senator Harris Blake (Rep), Phone: (919) 733-4809, Email: Harrisb@ncleg.net
Counties Represented: Harnett, Moore
Senator Andrew C. Brock (Rep); Phone: (919) 715-0690, Email: Andrewb@ncleg.net.
Counties Represented: Davie, Rowan



Senator Harry Brown (Rep), Phone: (919) 715-3034, Email: Harryb@ncleg.net
Counties Represented: Jones, Onslow
Senator Don East (Rep), Phone: (919) 733-5743, Email: Done@ncleg.net.
Counties Represented: Alleghany, Stokes, Surry, Yadkin
Senator John A. Garwood (Rep), Phone: (919) 733-5742, Email: Johnga@ncleg.net
Counties Represented: Alexander, Ashe, Watauga, Wilkes


Senator W. Edward (Eddie) Goodall (Rep), Phone: (919) 733-7659, Email: Eddieg@ncleg.net
Counties Represented: Mecklenburg, Union
Senator Fletcher L. Hartsell, Jr. (Rep), Phone: (919) 733-7223, Email: Fletcherh@ncleg.net
Counties Represented: Cabarrus, Iredell
Senator David W. Hoyle (Dem), Phone: (919) 733-5734, Email: Davidh@ncleg.net
Counties Represented: Gaston


Senator Neal Hunt (Rep), Phone: (919) 733-5850, Email: Nealh@ncleg.net
Counties Represented: Wake
Senator Jim Jacumin (Rep), Phone: (919) 715-7823, Email: Jimja@ncleg.net
Counties Represented: Burke, Caldwell
Senator Robert Pittenger (Rep), Phone: (919) 733-5655, Email: Robertp@ncleg.net
Counties Represented: Mecklenburg


Senator Keith Presnell (Rep), phone: (919) 733-3460, Email: Keithp@ncleg.net
Counties Represented: Avery, Haywood, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Yancey
Senator Fred Smith (Rep), Phone: (919) 733-5748, Email: Freds@ncleg.net
Counties Represented: Johnston, Wayne
Senator Richard Stevens (Rep), Phone: (919) 733-5653, Email: Richards@ncleg.net
Counties Represented: Wake


Senator Scott Thomas (Dem), Phone: (919) 733-6275, Email: scottt@ncleg.net
Counties Represented: Carteret, Craven, Pamlico
Senator Jerry W. Tillman (Rep), Phone: (919) 733-5870, Email: Jerryt@ncleg.net
Counties Represented: Montgomery, Randolph
Senator Hugh Webster (Rep), Phone: (919) 715-0706, Email: Hughw@ncleg.net
Counties Represented: Alamance, Caswell

Passing this heinous amendment would deny equal rights to gays and lesbians by squashing any future legislative and legal efforts at the state level toward civil recognition of gay and lesbian families. This would affect health benefits and hospital visitation, inheritance rights, and child custody rights. It would also hurt unmarried heterosexual couples in the above areas as well. This is already posing a serious problem in domestic abuse cases in states like Ohio where amendments have passed.

It's clear that Tar Heel legislators behind this measure need to re-learn what the difference is between the civil and religious or ceremonial aspects of marriage. Achieving legal equality in the civil aspect of marriage has no bearing on a church's recognition of such a union. It is apparent that these lawmakers don't give a damn about any of this. It's going to be a long, frightening fight ahead for gays and lesbians in NC. One can only hope that the economic impact of enshrining hate into our constitution will carry some weight in this battle, since no appeal to their humanity or concern for their gay and lesbian constituents will reach them.

***

The latest edition of the local progressive paper, the Independent Weekly, has a great round up of people to watch in the new legislative session. Check it out, if you want a sense of North Carolina's local politics. I'm just going to share some of the bits related to the above legislation here on the Blend.


First, there is a profile by Blair Goldstein of Julia Boseman. Even though she's the first openly gay state senator, she's there to do the job for her constituents, a far cry from the all-gay, all-the-time hysteria that the Right tried to whip up in their bid to defeat her during the election.
When the General Assembly convened on Jan. 26, Sen. Julia Boseman became the first openly gay legislator in North Carolina. Her Senate campaign focused on her accomplishments while serving a four-year term on New Hanover's County Board of Commissioners. She pinpointed traffic and growth, education, a lottery, and economic development as her primary concerns--not her sexual orientation.

"I don't think (my sexual orientation) will affect my work," she says. "I plan to focus on constituent issues, not on my personal life." However, Boseman's path to Raleigh was marred by the Republican Party's anti-gay campaign in support of her opponent, incumbent Woody White. The ads, which claimed she would pursue "a liberal, activist homosexual agenda," caused The Star-News in Wilmington to revoke its endorsement of White.

...Boseman said she plans to concentrate on issues important to her constituents. One of her primary concerns is working to secure Department of Transportation funding for local highway projects, such as completing the Wilmington bypass. Boseman said she will try to get a seat on the Transportation Oversight Committee to ensure her projects are considered.

Retaining and attracting jobs to her district is also a top priority for her freshman term, Boseman said. As a member of the county board of commissioners she worked to bring filming of the TV series One Tree Hill as well as GE Nuclear headquarters and Verizon Wireless to New Hanover county. "So many people have had to move and lost their jobs because the film industry has had to move," Boseman said. "We have been lacking in local projects for over a decade with past senators who haven't been bringing home the bacon."

Boseman says she supports a lottery as a means of attracting capital to her district. Boseman believes a lottery would keep North Carolinians from spending millions of dollars in neighboring states and could help support education initiatives, such as smaller class sizes, and a prescription drug fund for seniors.

"I take it very seriously what my constituents have sent me to do," Boseman said. "Keeping my promises is most important. I guess that's also my greatest fear."

Also in the Indy roundup are some people I would deem "those to watch out for" during the marriage amendment debate. These are folks that range from the serious freeper-level wingnuts to centrist-left Dems -- all in support of an amendment. This shows you how much work is ahead for gay Tar Heels.


* Bill Faison (D). District: Caswell, northern Orange counties. Fiona Morgan reports, "Perhaps underscoring Faison's tobacco-country appeal is his position on issues relating to gay and lesbian rights. "As a general proposition, I think the concept of gay rights is a misnomer," he says. "It's not about rights at all. It's about public visibility, people wanting to make a statement. Rights are legal things and can generally be accorded without involvement of the state." When asked where he would stand on legislation banning the legal recognition of any same-sex relationships, including domestic partnerships, a bill gay rights groups fear will be introduced soon, Faison responds, "I would not support legislation to treat same-gender relationships as if they were a husband and wife."


* Carolyn Justice (R): District: Pender and New Hanover counties. The Indy's Barbara Solow: "That's not to say that the former Pender County commissioner, who works as business manager for Condo & Patio Associates, is liberal on all fronts. Equality North Carolina, a statewide gay and lesbian lobbying group, lists Justice as among those candidates who opposed gay-friendly legislation in 2004. For her part, Justice sees no contradiction between her support for issues like environmental protection and her own conservative values. "I think saving our children and the environment are conservative issues," she says.


* Paul Stam Jr.(R- strong wingnut). District: Wake County. Reporter for the Indy, Jennifer Strom: "When he served in the N.C. Legislature the first time, from 1989-90, Apex Republican Paul Stam Jr. occupied a slot on the political spectrum that fell pretty far right of right....In 2002, voters in Wake County's 37th district sent him back to Raleigh for a second term, and he won re-election easily last fall. His public stances really haven't changed that much--he's still crusading against abortion at every opportunity, and last spring asked his colleagues in the legislature to sign onto a resolution urging Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage..."His emergence as a voice of leadership in the legislature is an interesting commentary on how right the legislature has gone," says Chris Fitzsimon, of N.C. Policy Watch.

How to help with this fight:

1) Watch this blog. I keep House Blenders informed as things progress here, and if there are any action items that may help us out here, I'll let you know. Email me (pam at pamspaulding.com) if you've taken action or sent a letter that you wish to share on the Blend on this issue.


2) Support Equality organizations in your state, if it is at risk for an amendment challenge. Give your time and money, if you can spare. In North Carolina, the organization at the grassroots level is Equality NC.

3) If you are gay and if it is at all possible for you to safely come out, DO IT. No one ever regrets throwing open that closet door, even if the path is difficult for a while. The more that people realize we are your neighbors, co-workers, teachers, police officers and leaders in the community, the less effective the "fear and loathing" demonization campaign by the Right is. We're usually living average, boringly normal workaday lives like the average American and no threat to life as we know it.

4) If you are straight and an ally, COME OUT. Support your gay friends and loved ones when you hear intolerant conversation, politely engage ignorance with information.

5) Make the Democratic establishment get off of their asses on this issue. Too many are DINOs, ready to sacrifice all principles for a vote as a career politician. Courage is in short supply, apparently, so these losers need to be threatened with the electoral boot. Party hacks need to be held accountable. Write them and call them out in emails and in the blogosphere. So far, I've only heard Mel Watt (D-NC) make a persuasive case on how to approach gay civil rights in the public sphere. Where are all the other Dems? Let them have it. Don't give a dime unless they are willing to take a real position, not the punt of "marriage is between a man and a woman" so there's no need for a constitutional amendment, "unless the courts see otherwise."

6) The Raleigh News and Observer is the most influential paper, and covers the legislature in depth (registration is required for some things). You can send a letter to the editor here. They also have a forum/message board that will give you an idea of what a Tar Heel freeper is like.