Guest Blogger

The (Gay) Jury Is Out: The Power of a Single Voice

Filed By Guest Blogger | May 24, 2012 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Amendment One, civil disobedience, jury duty, lesbian citizen, North Carolina, statement of conscience

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Lori Hahn is an essayist, activist, and observer of human nature who resides in California with the last of her three beautiful multi-racial adopted children, two dogs, and a manageable mortgage payment. She operates a donor prospect research firm, working with non-profits to help them connect the right donor with the right cause.

From the "I really needed this to keep from bigstock-The-Jury---258885.jpgbecoming completely jaded and cynical" file: A member of our LGBT community showed up at the Forsyth County Courthouse in Winston-Salem, NC today for jury duty. I'm sure there's one of "us" there every day. What doesn't happen every day is the individual who showed up performed a small act of bravery.

Diana Coe, of Winston-Salem, decided last night that she would peacefully protest against North Carolina's recently passed Amendment One, the constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriages as well as any domestic partnership or civil unions. With little time to plan, she prepared a statement and this morning, headed off to the courthouse, intent on following her conscience.

She reported to the Clerk of Courts and read her statement: "As a lesbian, I am no longer considered a full citizen of the state of North Carolina due to the recent passage of Amendment One and therefore I decline to fulfill my civic duties until my civil rights have been restored to me in full."

According to Coe, while the clerk indicated she was sympathetic, she was told she needed to "Tell it to the judge." The clerk went away, indicating she was going to "check on it," but returned with no information about Coe's status.

Coe stated that she further told the clerk, "Just by sitting in the jury pool I was fulfilling my civic duty and that I was here under duress, now registering in peaceful protest." The jury duty film was shown and the clerk fielded questions. Coe stood before the crowd of strangers in the jury room and again read her statement to the entire group, adding, "Only citizens may serve on a jury." Coe refused to be sworn and was advised again that she'd need to speak to the judge. The clerk again asked for her name.

Lunch break came and other jurors were sent for screening for an upcoming trial. Soon, two trials were pushed back and Coe was released from jury duty. It was over just like that.

Coe added, "I have a very strong feeling that the clerk was told this morning that I was not to be sent before a judge. Because I had refused to be sworn in, seating me on a jury would have resulted in a mistrial anyway so sending me into a courtroom would have just been a political hassle that no one wanted to deal with. They just wanted to leave me in the jurors' room, sitting quietly until everyone was dismissed and then be done with me and that's exactly what happened."

This was a small act of protest and one that could potentially have found Coe in contempt of court - we'll never know how it would have played out. But, what I find the greatest lesson here is that we don't need a room full of media, press releases, or an organized protest to make a difference. I'm quite sure that the court employees and the other potential jurors in the pool are home tonight, talking about what happened today for better or worse. Even a voice alone has power and impact. Would that we all took that moment to have the power of our voice heard.

(Jury image via Bigstock)


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