Different Carolina, Same Old Bigotry on Marriage

By Don Rollins

And then there was one. One southern state without codified, constitutionally-crafted bigotry, that is. One holdout against the homophobes’ dream alchemy of religion, politics and general irrationality that has resulted in a boilerplate DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) in every other state in the region: North Carolina.

But now that this state’s Senate has likewise (by the minimum number of votes) been morally hijacked, the Tar Heel State is set for its very own DOMA referendum come May. I suppose the shocker is not that it’s happening. The shocker is that it took this long.

If you’re keeping score at home, 30 states currently have DOMAs on their books. Curiously, the only state to stop the referendum madness is that bastion of tolerance and hospitality, Arizona. So it’s 30 to 1 against. Hell, Custer wouldn’t take those odds.

Fresh off two years in the other Carolina – where you can marry your first cousin, but the “abominable crime of buggery” (a direct quote from the S.C. Code of Laws) can land you in the hoosegow for five years – I got to enjoy a couple of months in a Southern state where the legislature seemed more interested in a tapped out economy than yet another gay smack down. But as of Sept. 13, it got a whole lot harder to tell one Carolina from the other.

I can testify firsthand that if the God ’n Country conservatives here are as successful as those to the south, more than a simple reiteration of a bigoted piece of legislation is in the works.

Down there, the Fiery Furnace crowd that owns all three branches of South Carolina’s government keeps trying to strip public employees of unmarried partner benefits.

The conservatives and their handlers have managed to elevate a “pro- marriage” stance to one of the gold standards for office; and, anecdotally, I can cite more than one instance in which an out GLBT woman or man has been terminated from a job on trumped-up grounds.

And this is the prototype for what’s going down this side of the state lines. Under the old rubric that it’s not paranoia if they’re really after ya, North Carolinians, this thinly veiled, hate-filled horror show is coming to a polling booth near you next May. And it will matter. Not just for you or your gay family and friends, but for the generations.

Because the objective for every DOMA campaign is to seal the deal on one man/one woman marriage once and for all – to elevate brazen marital inequality to constitutional status.

North Carolina’s DOMA engineers know well that fixing a bad constitutional amendment is a whole helluva lot tougher than fixing a bad law.

To that end, millions of out-of-state DOMA dollars are pouring in. Senate Republicans have started exploiting cross cultural, religious-based homophobia, enlisting pro-DOMA ministers of color in the mobilization of their congregations and neighborhoods. And it should not go unnoticed that the referendum was coyly scheduled to coincide with the state’s primaries, not the general election.

As local Raleigh reporter Bob Geary put it, “Which party is likely to have hotly contested primaries next year with big voter turnouts? Why, that would be the Republican Party, with its presidential and gubernatorial primaries.

“The Democratic primaries, on the other hand, look to be sleepy affairs in which President Barack Obama and Gov. Beverly Perdue are renominated with little or no opposition.”

Contrast all this with an opposition that is thus far underfunded, short on religious counter voices and at an automatic disadvantage when it comes to turning out its base. Not so long ago, Republican Senators Strom Thurmond (S.C.) and Jesse Helms (N.C.) were party bosses in this neck of the woods. Together they legitimized, energized and mobilized hard-right constituencies that eclipsed longstanding Dixiecrat populism in both states.

Were they still walking the earth today, they’d be right proud of the stealthy but effective means by which their political heirs have legalized loathing in the name of the “sanctity of marriage.”

Their two Carolinas may soon share yet another dubious similarity.

Rev. Don Rollins is Interim Minister, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh, N.C. Email donaldlrollins@gmail.com.

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2011


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