What Hath North Carolina Wrought?

9 May

New state motto: Get lost, homos.

The forces of bigotry have claimed another state. Yesterday voters in North Carolina approved Amendment One, using their constitution to remove rights rather than enshrine them. Even though state law already established a crude one-man-one-woman limit on marriage, that wasn’t enough for the forces of darkness. They wanted this much more stringent law worked into the fundamental document of the state. The people agreed by an embarrassing 61 – 39 margin.

Much like the amendment in Georgia (which drove my husband and me out of the South), this goes beyond the simple discrimination of blocking marriage equality. It states

Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.

This clearly blocks civil unions or domestic partnerships. While the law does provide a loophole for “contracts with another party” it is very unclear how these two components will balance. Legal experts are fairly certain that it will remove domestic violence and hospital visitation rights from LGBT couples at the very least. Where does a “legal union” end and a contract begin? Certainly not on taxation, so what will this mean for wills and other vital agreements?

Polling showed that when likely voters understood how nasty the law actually was, they became 20% less likely to support it. The right-wing disinformation campaign was powerful enough to muddy that message. Even though the NC NAACP, Bill and Chelsea Clinton, Gov. Bev Perdue, and many others campaigned hard to raise awareness, they were drowned out by things like Billy Graham’s full-page hate-speech ad in 14 newspapers statewide.

Way to go, North Carolina. Is it fun beating up a disadvantaged population? Too many gay couples already face not just societal discrimination but divisive forces within their own families. Without equality under the law, stressful situations like hospitalization, job loss, and death suddenly become battlegrounds of bigotry as well. This magnificent video makes that perfectly clear.

This is why civil rights should NEVER be subject to a popular vote. Such a vote simply allows a majority to re-express their clear opinion about a population against whom they already discriminate. How does that make sense? We need more leadership to reverse this trend, with brave voices like the Iowa justices who risked (and lost) their jobs to embrace equality. We need strong Federal laws, like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, to emphasize the equality of LGBT Americans under the law. We need the vile, hypocritically named Defense of Marriage Act to be overturned so that states cannot hide behind its filthy veil. We need the government of the people to stand up for ALL the people. Clearly, in North Carolina, most of the people are happy to turn their backs on their gay neighbors and walk away.  North Carolina, another state NOT SAFE for the LGBT community!


27 Responses to “What Hath North Carolina Wrought?”

  1. prideinmadness May 9, 2012 at 7:35 am #

    Ugh….this really needs to become a federal issues! The President needs to put his foot down and say NO! All citizens of this country can get married! Or all LGBT American’s can move to Canada. Total band aid solution but I’d be very welcoming as long as we can be forgiven for our Prime Minister and the Mayor of Toronto 🙂

  2. le artiste boots May 9, 2012 at 9:01 am #

    Michael, you always say it all. Amazingly stupid and should be challenged.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt May 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

      Thank you for the link and thank you also for being an ally. With that said, I’m afraid I cannot aggree with your friend. Here is just one of the sentences I took issue with: “And if you honestly believe that over half of North Carolinians are so prejudiced that they would refuse to open their minds to patient people who take the time to understand them and then lovingly educate them about the lives of LGBT people, well then I’m afraid you may be the prejudiced one.” The fact is that 1. Civil Rights should never be put to a vote and 2. Yesterday’s vote did in fact prove that over half of the population in North Carolina is bigoted and voted against people’s civil rights.

      • Labyrinth-Living May 9, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

        Michael, I appreciate your thoughts. I think sharing our differing perspectives promotes conversation and understanding. I know how long it took for me to see the light. It was a very slow evolution in my faith journey and my understanding of human nature.

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt May 9, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

        I agree. The more conversations we have the better. At some point, if you are comfortable, I would love to hear your story and how you became an ally for the LGBT community.

  3. Jay May 9, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    In a sense, North Carolina was the outlier in their region–my understanding is that all their neighboring states already had similar laws on the books. Other than voting with their feet, by moving from the region and refusing to travel there, and with their pocketbooks, by boycotting businesses from the region, and in the voting booth, by only voting for candidates who support equality, it is hard to know what friends and supporters and members of the LGBTQ should do in response. I suppose we can write checks to candidates or write letters to the editor, but it feels so ineffectual and puny.

    President Obama’s decision to announce that he “personally” supports marriage equality for same-sex couples, but acknowledges the “right” of states to pass their own laws on the matter is a classic glass-half-empty-glass-half-full. I’m pleased that he has personally evolved on the issue but can’t help but be disappointed that he’s still arguing that civil rights and human rights are subject to the whim of voters, rather than being universal principles inalienably endowed to all humans.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt May 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm #


      The item that really causes pain in my heart is what you so aptly observed: “that civil rights and human rights are subject to the whim of voters, rather than being universal principles inalienably endowed to all humans.” I wonder how many people who are not LGBT would approve of us voting on their civil rights?

      • Labyrinth-Living May 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

        Of course no one should “be able to” vote on anyone’s civil rights, but as the system IS working this way, it will take time for minds and votes to change. Look how many years it took for my right to vote or own property in my own name. Or for black people to have any rights at all (and this is still a problem). Is there a better way to change the system? It will take the Supreme Court, again.

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt May 9, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

        Yes, I suspect it will end up with the Supreme Court. Sadly, I have little faith in 5 of the justices.

  4. nevercontrary May 9, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    I would like to thank all of my friends who voted no. And say that I do not care how many states make my marriage illegal. I am married in the eyes of god and that is what matters. Just because you have a piece of paper saying you are married and I am not does not make me go away. I am here. We are here. And we are done being silent.

  5. Kim Robert English May 10, 2012 at 6:17 am #

    Thank you for penning the facts about the vote on Amendment One while more importantly capturing the deep subtextual emotions that this heinous vote embodied. It is vicious by its nature and was designed to be. It was unnecessary because NC already prohibited same-sex marriage. It was an intentional and deliberate attack fostered by a christian hate group, endorsed by entrenched right-wing political hacks, and promoted by predictable evangelical bullies and thugs. Welcome to the real underbelly of living in NC. I wish I could defend the population as simply uneducated. But as a seventh generation native of WNC, that defense is impossible to make. The marinade of deep prejudice, bigotry and hatred is the gravy that the people who have grown up here have been stewed in their entire lives. A portion of my own family is very much like Tom’s family in the video you reference. Nothing, no one, no evidence would ever be strong enough to “convince” them that anyone other than themselves has a right to live they way they want to…everyone else is condemned either by their faith or their lack of it. Like you and your husband leaving Georgia, my partner and I will soon leave my native state, moving to a state far North where we can marry and live out our lives without the fear of some shotgun firing blasts into our home because we’re different. There is no excuse for the ignorant bias of the people of this state. Of course, it can be rationalized and its sources identified and appropriately tagged/blamed… but ignorance is still ignorance, lack of compassion is still lack of compassion. And when trouble starts here, you can be assured it usually starts in the churches. It’s time that we named hate for what it actually is and let it stand in the light for all to see, hear, sense, taste and smell. It is foul at best and rotten throughout… but it is still the belief of choice by the majority as proved by this vote. It is not a great day for NC. But tomorrow, like old rotten produce, the stench of this vote will be hosed away as the state returns to business as usual. Like the old crimes against nature laws, this amendment and the ban against equal marriage will stand until they are struck down by a higher court and like you, I have no faith in the conservative 5 that will most likely rule on such laws in near term. We should have left this place a long time ago… we learned our lesson. Thanks for your profound understanding regarding the far reaches of the vote NC took.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt May 10, 2012 at 6:49 am #

      Kim Robert,
      You are a wonderful writer! Thank you for the very thoughtful and very accurate comment. Sadly, you have done a fantastic job of really explaining how hate works in the South; it is certainly why my husband and I finally left Georgia. I held out higher expectations for North Carolina, alas the power structure their full of hate and venom won out.

  6. le artiste boots May 10, 2012 at 8:47 am #

    Did you plan on such response? Good for you.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt May 10, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

      Can I tell you I cried while watching President Obama’s speech. Never have I been so proud of an American President in my lifetime.

  7. newsofthetimes May 10, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

    Yeah, way to go Obama! And shame on North Carolina and Colorado. By the way, I don’t know if you heard, but the Governor here announced yesterday that he is requiring the legislature to hold a special session as a consequence of their outrageous political maneuvering on Tuesday evening. So, yesterday was a big day for equality across the country, the hateful North Carolina vote aside. One thing I think was interesting from a purely political standpoint is that they chose to run the ballot initiaitve during the primary vote, when fewer people, and usually more extremists, go to the polls. So hopefully the true attitudes in North Carolina are not as ugly as the vote would suggest. I completely agree that civil rights should not be subjected to a popular vote. In fact, I have seen the disastrous consequences of ballot initiatives and think they make for terrible law on balance. Thanks for the great post!

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt May 10, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

      Thank you for the lovely and thoughtful comment. My aunt and uncle live in North Carolina and my aunt sent me a very sweet email today, letting me know that many people in NC did not really have all the information they needed.

  8. Susan Lindsay May 11, 2012 at 6:46 am #

    O Michael. It was a sad, sickening day in NC. And I also know some folks who will be leaving the state as soon as they are able. But I also want you to know something interesting about how this shaped up here. Some of the earliest and staunchest opposition to the amendment came from the business community. They organized early, publicly, and stayed on board throughout. They were fighting for their own people and in their own self-interest, from Duke Power to Self-Help Credit Union. So the rural parts of NC may have said “get lost, homo!” but the business parts said, “these are my people.” That change has happened over the past 20 years, even here. P.S. I agree with you that civil rights should NEVER be subject to a popular vote.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt May 11, 2012 at 7:54 am #


      Thank you for such a lovely comment. Your information certainly helped to mitigate my anger. That said, I still worry about friends like you and family I have in North Carolina–I worry there is increasingly less space for “liberal” thinkers in that state. On an aside, when are you coming out to visit us in Portland. You and your husband will have a guest room that looks out over Mt. Hood!


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