To almost no one’s surprise, last night North Carolina became the 31st state to ban same-sex marriage. This is the second time North Carolina has done this–the first time was just a state law; this one was a Constitutional amendment. This Constitutional amendment, though, does more than simply ban same-sex marriage. It cancels out all domestic partnerships that aren’t marriage, it could easily remove protections for people in abusive relationships and affect things like hospital visitation and child custody for even heterosexual couples in North Carolina. And it’s expected to harm the ability of North Carolina businesses to convince talented people to move into the state.
Some people angry at the outcome of last night’s election have started a petition to ask the Democratic National Committee to move their nominating convention out of Charlotte as a result. I don’t expect it will happen, given the incredible amount of money it would cost to do so, and the logistical challenge it would pose, but I do expect that the effort by some state Democratic party chairs to have marriage equality as part of the platform will get some more support than it might have otherwise.
Something I think is important to remember about the current state of marriage equality is that even the fact that this vote took place–horrid as this may sound–is a sign of progress. Forty years ago, the idea that a majority of people would support same-sex marriage (the way they do today) would have been a pipe-dream. These votes are happening because opponents of LGBT rights and marriage equality know that they’re going to lose in the long run, so they’re throwing up as many barriers as they can to stop progress. They didn’t happen before because no one imagined it could ever happen. But anti-marriage-equality people are scared now, and they know they’re on the wrong side of history.
Who would have imagined even ten years ago that a sitting president up for re-election would come out in favor of same-sex marriage, as President Obama has just done? Maybe a lame duck president, or one who’s out of office (as former President Bill Clinton did a while back), but a sitting president in the middle of a campaign? That’s a sign of how far we’ve come.
We still have a long way to go, though, and pointing fingers or mocking or saying stupid things like “we should have let the South go when they wanted to go” isn’t the way to do it. After all, there are 31 states (including mostly progressive California) which have done just what North Carolina did. If marriage equality means a lot to you, then work hard to make sure that you elect people who support it. Change peoples’ minds and get them to support those candidates as well. Vote, but don’t just do that. Voting is the bare minimum you have to do to be a citizen. Do more than the minimum.