North Carolina’s Amendment One - forbidding same-sex marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships - has passed. I can’t say I’m surprised at the vote - I expected it. One would be tempted to snark that this is the South, after all - and the vote passed in a state where first-cousin marriage is still legal. But Ohio passed a similar amendment in 2004. While acceptance of same-sex marriage has grown over the last eight years, I doubt Ohio’s amendment will be overturned here anytime soon. The sad truth must be told: North Carolina and Ohio are hardly outliers - there are only a handful of states where LGBT people have full and equal rights.
No matter how one wants to idealize certain areas as gay havens - whether it’s a gay ghetto like San Francisco’s Castro or a gay friendly state like Vermont - the truth is that prejudice and bigotry exist in every area of American life. Hate crimes occur in Provincetown every summer. The percentage of welcoming vs. unwelcoming people might be different, but bigots are everywhere - and I write from personal experience. This is not going to change anytime soon. Just as there are some Caucasians who use the N-word in private conversation with other Whites 48 years after the Civil Right Act of 1964 was passed, so too will there be people who make “fag” jokes no matter what gains we make legislatively or judicially. Of course, many will tell you that Tuesday’s vote does not reflect bigotry, but Judeo-Christian principles. The use of a holy book to justify bigotry, whether that book is the Christian Bible, the Torah, or the Quran, is the last refuge of the bigots - just as patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. These books have been used to justify slavery, the ownership of women, and holy war. The repression of LGBT people is no different. But whether bigotry can be “justified” is beside the point. For we are not seeking society’s approval or affection.
Ultimately, I don’t care whether someone “likes” or “approves” of me - although they are presumptuous to believe I necessarily approve of them. But as a citizen of the United States I demand my civil rights, and I will not rest until they are won.
*President Obama has just announced that he now supports full marriage rights for same-sex couples. More on this in another post.