I was avoiding writing any sort of post regarding yesterday’s elections in North Carolina. But I have thoughts, so I just thought I would write them down here so as to not annoy others and force them to listen to them. First, the good news…Walter Dalton was nominated to be the Democratic candidate for governor. That’s great news. He is the candidate that I supported and will continue to support going forward. He cares about education and jobs and those two things are the most important issues for me on a state level. I think he stands a good chance of beating Pat McCroy in the fall, and as someone who cares firmly about public education, we need to prevent at all costs a Republican legislature and governor’s office.
So now for the bad news. The stupid Amendment 1 passed. There are many problems that I have with Amendment 1. They range from the fact that I find it completely disheartening that a constitution can be amended with a simple majority vote to restrict rights for a class of people. That should be troubling for all people. This country shouldn’t be about “the tyranny of the majority” and we shouldn’t be able to restrict the rights of ANY minority group by a simple vote of the majority. As a member of a religious minority, I am particularly troubled by the role that people’s views of God played in Amendment 1. The U.S. Constitution claims to preserve for each American the ability to freely exercise their religion, but the moment we begin legislating based on narrow view of what supposedly “God” thinks, then we start to limit our religious freedom. Instead, we open the door to a pissing match of “My version of God is more right than yours, and therefore mine should be who determines how you live.” That troubles me tremendously. This leads into my greater concern, and larger point, if marriage was simply a domain of churches, then it would maybe matter what your church’s own doctrinal view is. But it isn’t. We afford civil rights and privileges to those able to enter a civilly licensed and approved marriage, and that is what this is about.
The problem with voting on these things, like what happened in North Carolina yesterday, is that no one comes to understand the other side better of reach out and try to find a middle ground. Instead, names get thrown at the other side, and everyone just digs in their heels and draws more sweeping conclusions about those who sit in opposition. Sadly, so much of our political discourse has turned into this in America. It is getting worse, not better, in my opinion. And that scares me. So in this day after the election, I hear people from outside North Carolina who don’t know anything about us calling us inbred, bigoted rednecks. That doesn’t do anything to open a civil discourse. I wish people on both sides would acknowledge where people on the other side of the debate are coming from. For those that voted for the amendment, some of them probably are bigoted rednecks, but there are also probably many others who didn’t understand what the amendment would do. Some people interviewed in favor of the amendment said that they supported civil unions, but not gay marriage, even though the Amendment in effect restricts the possibility of either. Some people fear that legalizing gay marriage will affect their ability to freely exercise their own religion. Instead of calling them names or casting aspersions on their religious beliefs which are also protected by the Constitution, wouldn’t it be nicer to come together and try to work things out taking into account the concerns of the other? I mean, didn’t they just do this exercise in the federal government where they wrote into law certain accommodations would be made for religious employers for certain portions of the health care law that could be read to violate religious beliefs of religious employers? Couldn’t we ensure the same could be done for people’s religious beliefs while still ensuring that the civil rights of millions of Americans are also protected? While there is still some good will among us, why is no one making any efforts to bring people together on this? At the end of the day, both sides (taking the crazy, bigoted people out of it) are arguing over essentially the same thing – the right to ensure their civil rights are protected – the rights of free worship and the rights of free association, privacy, etc. I also wish people would realize that tyranny by the majority is never a model for good governance. You won’t always be in the majority all the time, of course.
Look, I naively thought that the Amendment wouldn’t pass in North Carolina. It certainly didn’t in the part of the state where I lived. My daily associates certainly did not vote in favor of it. But if you look at the state as a whole, even though it passed in most other non-urban counties, in , there were still people who voted against it. Not enough, for sure, but the fact is there isn’t a monolithic opinion even in rural North Carolina. I know that some people voted a particular way too because they felt compelled to by their churches. I am Mormon. I know in the past, in California, some church leaders encouraged involvement in passing an amendment to ban gay marriage. They didn’t this time around. In fact, we were read a letter at church that told us to study the issues and vote with our own consciences. There was no direction about which way to vote. There was no encouragement to campaign for or otherwise support the amendment. So yes, progress is possible. But it just takes a little kindness and thought, in my opinion.