On May 8, 2012, voters in North Carolina will head to the polls and cast their ballots in the primary elections. Along with picking candidates in the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial and presidential primaries and a host of local offices, Tar Heels will also have the ultimate say on Amendment One, a state constitutional amendment that purports to "protect marriage," but in reality does everything to destroy loving and committed families, both gay and straight. And, the day afterward, North Carolina's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and its friends, families and other allies will have a clear count of who among the state's elected officials can be counted as our friends and our foes.
This week, The Asheville Citizen-Times reported that two more local governments joined the anti-gay bandwagon in support of Amendment One. Elected officials in McDowell County and Spruce Pine joined those in Wake and Brunswick Counties who have put their official stamp of approval on a provision that writes discrimination into our state constitution for the first time since Reconstruction.
Aiding the governments in their misguided bigotry was Vote For Marriage NC, the referendum committee established to support Amendment One's passage. "Rachel Lee, a spokeswoman for Vote for Marriage NC, said she expects more governments to show their support soon," The Citizen-Times reported. "The group has provided sample resolutions to some local governments, she said."
With the support of Lee and her not-so-merry band of haters (her group is tied to organizations listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center), I, too, expect that other conservative-leaning local governments will speak out in support of Amendment One. The good news, though, is that several other locally-elected bodies have already spoken out against the proposal, including Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Greensboro and Raleigh.
Curiously absent from the list are the state's largest city and largest county, among other municipalities across the state. Activists and citizens in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have been asking their elected officials to speak on these issues publicly for some time. Yet, no public action has come. Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and several city council members and county commissioners have individually spoken about their opposition to Amendment One, but neither body has yet to debate and vote on resolutions to oppose the measure.
The harms of Amendment One couldn't be any starker. If passed, it will forever bar the recognition of marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples. It would also put an end to domestic partner benefits offered by local governments like Mecklenburg County and prevent cities like Charlotte, which do not yet offer such benefits, from offering them at any time in the future. Additionally, the vague, broad and untested language of the amendment could threaten child custody agreements, the enforcement of domestic violence statutes and any other benefits, rights or privileges currently received by both unmarried opposite-sex and same-sex couples.
With such a clear and present danger staring us in the face, it is crucial that those who oppose the amendment speak out now. To remain silent is to, in essence and effect, hand a free pass to those who would wreak havoc on our state and its people, including LGBT citizens.
For many years, a host of current officeholders in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have received the support and endorsement of the LGBT community. They say they are our allies, but are they? How do we really know? Their official deafening silence makes me doubt the veracity of their stated benevolence. Our foes are taking a stand. Why not our friends?
On the day after the May 8 primary election, who among the elected officials in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and other local governments across North Carolina will be counted as allies of LGBT Tar Heels? Will we be left with staunch supporters or fair-weather friends who stand by us only as long as the winds of political expediency blow their way? I'd prefer the former. No doubt, LGBT voters and citizens would prefer the same.
This is the third weekly edition of "Sex, Cash & Politics," my new weekly commentary and opinion column. It was distributed to North Carolina online and print publications on Tuesday and I'm again proud to publish it nationally here at Bilerico.com. Each week, the column is distributed to North Carolina media free-of-charge for use as op-eds and guest commentaries. If you live in and around the Carolinas and like what you're seeing, be sure to contact your local paper and send them to this link -- sexcashandpolitics.com/weeklycolumn -- and encourage them to learn more about, subscribe to and print the weekly column.