So yesterday, the news came down that North Carolina voters voted for a state constitutional amendment that bans same sex marriage and civil unions. While I happen to think gay marriage should be legal, I'm somewhat indifferent to the news, since I'm not gay and have no friends or family members who are directly affected by this legislation.
I do have a lot of friends who were upset by the news, though. A couple of them, who live in North Carolina, decided they wished they could move somewhere else. There were a few moans from people who decried the bigotry of North Carolinians. George Takei posted a funny about how in North Carolina, one can marry their cousin, but not their gay cousin. One person even commented that the states that ban gay marriage are mostly the same ones that denied rights to black people, thus implying that southerners are Barbarians who haven't learned anything from their past sins of bigotry.
I had to stop and think about that one for a minute or two. On the surface, maybe the two situations seem comparable. But as I pondered that comment comparing gay rights to civil rights denied to people of color, I determined that the two situations really aren't comparable at all! In fact, it occurred to me that to compare the two situations was more than just ludicrous, it was offensive.
Thirty years ago, we didn't hear a lot about "gay rights". In fact, the topic of homosexuality was barely even acknowledged by the media. As a kid, I watched Three's Company, a sitcom that had the late John Ritter portraying Jack Tripper, a guy who pretends to be gay so he could live with two women. That was pretty much the extent of what I knew about homosexuality back then. Back then, I certainly didn't hear about people talking about gay marriage or domestic partnerships or the prospect that one day, they might be legal. There were no children's books dealing with a kid having two mommies or two daddies. Nobody seemed to want to "go there". But I did hear a lot about civil rights for black people, even as I attended integrated schools. I remember seeing PSAs about affirmative action. I remember people talking about it and there was (and still is) a lot of anger.
Nowadays, racism still exists, but people of color have their civil rights. And people are still talking about racism and accusing people of it at the slightest provocation. People are still discriminated against for any number of reasons, but I'm not sure most of those reasons are on the same level as racism.
The gay marriage thing seems a lot newer to me than racial discrimination. It's been a political issue for maybe ten years or so... or at least that's when I started noticing it. Of course it's a hot topic in this country. A lot of people in the United States are very religious. They take God very seriously. And yet, it seems that in the past ten years or so, we've seen a lot of people coming out as atheists and thinking the whole concept of God is ridiculous. The religious people tend to think homosexuality is a sin. Consequently, when they are asked to vote on the issue of gay marriage, of course they will vote against it. And those who are pro gay rights will vote for it.
This is Amendment One, which was proposed to North Carolina voters...
"The measure defines marriage in the state constitution as between one man and one woman, and bans any other type of "domestic legal union" such as civil unions and domestic partnerships.
Same-sex marriage is already illegal in the state of North Carolina. The measure, however, added the ban to the state constitution."
This proposal was approved, gathering 61% of the vote. That means close to 40% of voters voted against the measure. In my book, that hardly means that North Carolinians are ignorant, bigoted Barbarians. It's not like the measure succeeded by a huge landslide. Plenty of people in North Carolina and elsewhere in the South are in favor of gay marriage. And those who are against it, while I happen to disagree with them, are certainly entitled to their opinions and their votes. It's the American way!
It's going to take some time before people fully accept the concept of gay marriage. It's taken many years for many people to change their attitudes toward people of color. Some people are still struggling to change and some never will. The fact that gay rights has even become a political issue is a sign that Americans are becoming more forward thinking and open minded. This issue will be revisited again and again and voters will have the chance to vote the way they want to. I have a strong feeling eventually, gay marriage will be legal in the United States. But until then, we have to let people have their votes and allow majority to rule. And if you really expect an area to change laws you don't agree with, the answer isn't to move away, it's to stay and convince people that you're right and then vote your conscience.