It started out a close race: 55/45, 53/47, back and forth. But it was early in the night, with few precincts reporting in. The balance shifted mightily to 60/40 and ended 61/39. Amendment One passed.
The citizens of North Carolina chose to embed discrimination in the state constitution.
I had already been embarrassed to have such a proposal on the ballot. Now I was ashamed.
As I wrote about Amendment One, as I spoke and made phone calls, as I stuck that AGAINST sign in my yard, I came to appreciate the battles that have been fought—that continue to be fought—for civil rights. My heart shifted from logic to justice.
I started to feel the impotent rage that many before me must have felt. Anger at the tyranny of the majority, anger at the institutional bigotry, anger at an unfair system.
Relief that it is not my personal life affected. Guilt that I didn’t do more. Guilt that I could so easily put it out of my everyday mind.
Guilt about the curious realization that I might not have been strong enough to fight for civil rights, for women’s equality, for mixed-race marriages.
How do you accept such a defeat and, even in the knowledge that the law may change in 20 years, how do you keep going in the fight? How do you channel the rage for a sustained battle?
I felt bitter, heavy, low.
My salvation came from the unlikeliest of places: the Greater Raleigh Chamber Economic Development Forum.
Joel Kotkin, “uber-geographer” and futurist, spoke for a half hour on where the Triangle ranks in a variety of categories that land it time and again near the top of “Best place to [live/work/your-verb-here]” lists. He spoke of geographic and generational trends. He showered the Triangle with praise.
During the Q&A session, the last question asked was “What will be the impact of passing Amendment One?”
His short answer: Probably not much. Thirty states have similar laws or amendments and we haven’t seen an immediate migration away from those states—mostly because it’s not practical.
His longer answer: Laws like this are an artifact of the past. They are remnants from a prior time. They will go the way of anti-miscegenation laws.
Two main factors tend to influence attitudes on gay marriage, he said: age and where people live. The younger they are and the more urban they are, the more accepting they tend to be of gay marriage. The older and more rural, the less accepting.
Kotkin was confident that anti-same-sex-marriage laws would be removed within his lifetime.
As he spoke, I observed many heads nodding in agreement.
Laws like this are an artifact of the past. That was my new touchstone.
I could tolerate this one step back because I knew the two steps forward would come…with time.
“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”
—Theodore Parker (abolitionist Quaker 1853)