Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Monster in North Carolina

Behind the headlines of Amendment 1 in North Carolina - the Amendment to the State Constitution which bans same-sex marriage, partnerships and civil unions which passed yesterday - is the creation of a monster that would rival the ugliness and danger of anything conceived by Dr. Frankenstein.

Amendment 1 is that monster, filled with primal hate and reptilian rage.

It was created by fashioning together bits and pieces picked up from the church's toxic waste dump of sexism, heterosexism and homophobia.

North Carolina already had a ban on same-sex civil unions. So do 29 other states in the Union.  The wording of the language in this Amendment, however, makes it the most extreme of any state thus far, and modifies North Carolina’s constitution to declare “marriage between one man and one woman” as “the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized.”

In other words, the Amendment not only bans same-sex marriage in North Carolina, but also prevents state validation and recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships.

Will it be struck down as unconstitutional? No doubt. In time.

Meanwhile, the monster rages on, doing more damage to the fabric of this country and the various constellations of families who live here.

All thanks to "good Christian people" who created the monster in the first place. Little do they know that this monster will also do untold damage to the church, as people slowly begin to realize the broad, far reaching implications of this amendment.

A group of family law professors across the state called the language vague and untested, and warned that, in addition to applying to all variations of same-sex unions, it could also apply to the more than 150,000 straight couples in the state who live together but are unmarried. This could invalidate domestic-violence protections, undercut child custody arrangements and jeopardize hospital visiting rights, they said. 

According to a recent poll, only 31 percent of voters could correctly identify what Amendment 1 would actually do, while another 34 percent admitted they didn’t know its consequences. The poll also found that 28 percent of voters think the amendment would ban only same-sex marriage, and that 7 percent think it would legalize same-sex marriage (!!!).

Ah, ignorance may be bliss, but that bliss only lasts as long as people keep themselves ignorant of the value and worth of LGBT people and the families of love we create.

These "good Christian people" do not consider themselves 'hateful'.
“We are not anti-gay — we are pro-marriage,” Tami Fitzgerald, chairwoman of the executive committee for the pro-amendment Vote for Marriage NC, said at a victory rally in Raleigh, where supporters ate pieces of a wedding cake topped by figures of a man and a woman. “And the point, the whole point is simply that you don’t rewrite the nature of God’s design for marriage based on the demands of a group of adults.”
See? It's not their fault. They don't hate gay people. It's just that they are following God's Word as they read it in Holy Scripture.

I mean, what else are "good Christian people" supposed to do?

Well, except there's this: According to Chris Fitzsimon of North Carolina Policy Watch, Amendment 1 was authored by The Alliance Defense Fund.

The president of the ADF is Alan Sears, who along with Craig Osten, wrote a book a few years ago, “The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today.”

Fitzsimon writes:
The book is heavily promoted by the organization and many other zealots on the so-called Christian right.  I read it this weekend after seeing Stam’s comments.  It is disgusting.
The authors just don’t believe that same-sex marriage is wrong, they believe that it leads to “polygamy, endogamy (the marriage of blood relatives), bestiality and child marriage,” comments by the way that Stam himself made during the legislative debate last year.
They say that “pedophilia and homosexuality are intrinsically linked” and they see a conspiracy everywhere to promote the “radical homosexual agenda.”
Sears and the ADF believe people can be “cured” of being gay through religious conversion and they cite the case of John Paulk, who appeared on the cover of Newsweek as an “ex-gay” and became an activist for groups on the Christian right. Paulk resigned from the movement after controversy erupted after he was spotted at a gay bar in Washington.
The amendment that the Alliance wrote reflects their offensive philosophy that gay couples deserve no rights—not marriage, not civil unions, not employee benefits, not even privacy in their own homes.
That’s what it is really on the ballot, a referendum on the basic human rights of tens of thousands of people in our communities.
Ah, see how these Christians love one another!

Of course, scripture does not substantiate these wild claims, but they use the Levitical codes and parts of Pauline Letters to substantiate their revulsion and hate.

Will Amendment 1 be struck down as unconstitutional?  No doubt. In time.

Here's the thing. One of my friends in North Carolina - who happens to be a heterosexual woman - posted this on her FaceBook page. 
The NC State Board of Elections is reporting that voter turnout yesterday was 34.37% of registered voters (6,296,759 registered in an estimated adult population of 7,348,521).

There were 1,303,952 votes FOR Amendment One. If I did the math correctly, that means that 20.7% of registered voters (and only 17.7% of adults of voting age) were able to chisel bigotry into our state constitution yesterday.

The next time someone tells me they don't vote because their vote "doesn't count," I'm going to hit them with a clue-by-four.
Amendment One is a monster created by "good Christian people" who are sore afraid.  Ignorance can do that to a person.

Fear then breads prejudice.

Prejudice destroys brain cells.

It was also created by apathy. Only 20% of the registered voters in North Carolina set loose the monster of Amendment 1. Which begs the question: where were the other 80%?

Probably running away in fear from the monster known at Amendment 1. 

Here's how to create a monster: Place equal parts of ignorance, fear and prejudice in the voting booth, stir together with a large dose of apathy, and season to taste with Seven Clobber Verses of Scripture (which can be purchased inexpensively - even obtained freely - from the pulpits of many conservative, evangelical or fundamental churches). Cook to a full boil over a hot political stove for several months.

Voila! There is the perfect recipe for creating an Amendment 1 Monster of your very own.

Will Amendment One be struck down as unconstitutional? No doubt. In time.

Everyone who has ever watched a horror movie knows that -  in the end, good or bad - the monster is always killed. The shark in Jaws was blown up. Godzilla was shot to death at the Empire State Building. The good citizens of a small town in Bavaria rose up and killed Frankenstein's monster.

Eventually, the monster of Amendment 1 will be overturned. My concern is more with the lingering effects it will have on young people who may be turned away from religion because of the hate they saw coming from "good Christian people".

My hope is with those bishops and clergy and laity in churches who organized against Amendment 1 who were, thanks be to God, vocal and visible and present.

That includes all three of the state's bishops, Curry, Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel III of East Carolina, and Rt. Rev. G. Porter Taylor of Western North Carolina, who signed a joint letter condemning the proposed amendment.  Part of their letter reads:

“We oppose Amendment One because the love of God and the way of love that has been revealed in Jesus of Nazareth compels us to do so. We oppose Amendment One because every time we baptize someone in The Episcopal Church, the entire congregation vows to ‘strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.’ We oppose Amendment One because it is unjust and it does not respect the dignity of every human being in the State of North Carolina. If passed, it will harm not only law-abiding gay and lesbian citizens but other men, women and innocent children in our state.”
They were not alone. Indeed, there were at least two organizations I know of, Clergy for Equality and Pastors Against Amendment One who fought the good fight. 

They will prevail, eventually. And, because of them, the church will live on to continue and usher in the Realm of God because of their witness and activism.

How can I make that claim?

I have been a Christian activist for the greater part of my life. My earliest memories are as a child, sitting 'round my grandparents' kitchen table, listening to my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and older cousins as they worked in the labor union movement in Fall River, MA to bring fair wages and safe working conditions to the mills and factories in that town.

We also met in Parish Halls and our priests stood on the picket lines with us while the church helped to feed and clothe the children of families who were on the strike lines.

I've spent the greater part of my ordained life as an activist for People With AIDS, for the ordination of LGBT people and the liturgical rites of blessings in the church for the covenants they make before God. I have also worked for parental rights for LGBT families in the church and court systems, and continue to work to fight against racism everywhere.

Here's what I've learned: When monsters like Amendment 1 are created, it invariably wakes up the sleeping giant of apathetic people who simply can't - won't - believe that "good Christian people" are capable of such hate and rage, all in the name of Jesus.

As Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch wrote this morning:
And yet, despite these handicaps, the “against” vote was surprisingly large. Had just a couple hundred thousand people — a tiny fragment of the state’s adult population — seen the light and changed their minds, the amendment would have failed outright. If you think about it, it’s really quite remarkable.

Indeed, if the experts and Public Policy Polling are to be believed – and when it came to the actual vote, they were just about spot on – a large majority of North Carolinians oppose the actual substance of the amendment, but simply couldn’t connect the amendment to its actual impact. Many voters didn’t actually understand the amendment at all!

Twenty years ago people picketed and pilloried Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh for performing “holy union” ceremonies within its own walls that had no legal effect. Last night, voters in the county where Pullen is located voted against marriage discrimination for everyone by a large majority.

The proponents of the Amendment may have won the battle last night, but it will ultimately prove to be a Pyrrhic victory. Amendment opponents would, obviously, never have chosen this path, but now that it’s been thrust upon them, there’s no denying the following: 1) the day on which North Carolinians will no longer tolerate marriage discrimination is coming sooner rather than later, and 2) the last eight months have only served to expedite the process.
I believe Mr. Schofield is right. I believe that because I have seen this kind of turn-around over and over and over again. I frequently thank God for Anita Bryant.

I know how this is going to sound, but I'm going to say it anyway: without Anita Bryant, I don't think we'd have Marriage Equality today in as many states as we do.

It has taken more than thirty years, but I do believe that when General Convention ends on July 12, we will walk away from Indianapolis with a process to authorize liturgical rites of blessings for the covenants made by LGBT people.

And, we will begin the process to change our "marriage canons" to be pronoun neutral. 

Will Amendment One be struck down as unconstitutional? No doubt. In time.

But, don't pick up your pitch forks and torches. Instead, put on the armor of love.  It's the only thing that can kill the monster of rage and hate, born of ignorance and prejudice and fear.

Roll up your sleeves, kids. The hard work has just begun.



IT said...

Over at Friends of Jake we have some updates--including the latest, at least one county commissioner is already moving to eliminate health benefits for same sex couples. Because nothing says "family values" like children without medical care.

Commenter Dr Primrose also tells us, It arguably makes it illegal to extend domestic benefits to non-married partners in the private sector and almost certainly does so in the public sector.

The only exclusion is for "contracts." Many of the methods that same-sex couples have used to protect themselves -- wills, trusts, deeds, and power of attorneys for medical care -- are not contracts. Does this now mean these legal documents are now invalid for same-sex couples?

Same-sex couples in North Carolina are now totally scewed. But this can have significant effects on non-North Carolina same-sex couples, particularly in the health-care area. Any member of a same sex-couple should think very seriously about entering the state -- if you have designated your partner to take care of you if you become incapacitiated by any document other than a "contract," that designation very well may not be enforceable. If something happens to your partner while in the state, not only may you not be able to make health care decisions for him or her, you probably won't be allowed anywhere near your partner.

And yes, I think the Christian "brand" has suffered mightily from this. Already polls showed that a large fraction of the young associate "Christian" with anti-gay bigotry. how many young people will admit to being Christian when to their friends, "Christian" means THIS?

Wormwood's Doxy said...

It's hideous and heartbreaking.

IT is right about it sewing suspicion. Unless they've talked to me about it directly, my friends who have never responded or "liked" any of my Facebook posts (and there have been dozens...) are now getting the side-eye from me.

What is is that Desmond Tutu said? "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

My 11-year-old daughter--who talked about marriage equality on the playground with her friends, who did a show-and-tell presentation on how bad it was, and who spent the afternoon yesterday sitting in the parking lot of our precinct with a sign asking people to vote AGAINST--got up this morning and told me "Mommy, I will NEVER give up!"

She (and her brother, who was also very vocal about his opposition) are the future. They will end this at some point--but the damage done in the meantime is incalculable.

Nevertheless, I will follow her lead. We will roll up our sleeves and get back to work. Bridges have been built. People who are usually on the opposite sides of nearly every fence came together to oppose Amendment One. Something has started here, and the haters won't be able to stop it.

I invite your prayers--for those of us who are so disheartened...and for those who voted for the amendment. May God give us strength and perseverance, and give them the eyes and hearts to recognize the hurt they have caused and the will to rectify it.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Lindy - I inadvertently deleted your post. Please do send it again. My apologies.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

IT - I think the challenge is now on the feet of the Alliances that worked to vote against Amendment 1. There are lots of "good Christian people" in NC who worked hard to be real Christians and oppose this. They need to get their message out.

I do believe that, in the end, love wins. I'm old enough to know that this is not pablum. It's real. It's something I've witnessed with my own eyes. Thank you, Anita Bryant.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Doxy - You have to know that you have been in my prayers all along and I have no plans to stop.

Much love and big warm hugs coming your way.

whiteycat said...

This is another defeat for equality that was strongly promoted by the RC bishops. Meanwhile the trial in Philadelphia reveals a new horror on a daily basis where each horror of priest abuse surpasses the horror of the day before.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Whiteycat - I can't believe this isn't going to come back to bite them.

MarkBrunson said...

Fear then breads prejudice.

I think you mean "breeds."

And I'm only nitpicky when I think what someone has to say is too important for typos.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

MarkB - I know you're right but I sorta like this typo.