A flabbergasted friend of my daughter shared her frustration that the preacher at her grandmother’s church in Cumberland County concluded his sermon last Sunday by encouraging his congregation to vote “the right way” on Amendment One. He didn’t want to spend any time discussing it because everybody knew what he meant.
That’s when 90-year-old Mi-Ma rose up. She said, “What do you mean the ‘right way’?” She didn’t think a penis and vagina mattered to God any more than the color of a person’s skin, but she did think she’d be hearing a little more about God and a little less about voting the “right way” in a sermon. Separation of church and state and all.Can I get a witness?
The preacher looked at her with puzzled horror. “Are you a Democrat? I thought you were a Christian.” Mi-Ma headed for the door, making a series of joyful noises before saving her soul from the church.
Until then, I had been wondering why our watershed coastal, entertainment-centered community doesn’t have a minor-league baseball team or power-generating windmills off the coast, or why it is considering a mercury-producing cement plant. About why a Yankee from Hell’s Kitchen would need to empty two clips into anyone to make a point about his leadership. About how another silver-spoon, white gazillionaire son-of-a-governor will be painted as more of a regular guy than a multi-racial man raised by a poor single mom. And about how 40 percent of us will vote for him. But Mi-Ma’s Sunday sermon got me thinking about a different issue.
At first I didn’t know why Mi-Ma was upset. Isn’t it about time NC joined the rest of the country and embraced the First Amendment? Freedom of speech? Freedom of association? What’s not to like? As long as we don’t let corporate entities share the protection of the First Amendment or put a pulpit in the polling place, I’m fine. Even my kids laughed. They explained that NC’s Amendment One has nothing to do with the First Amendment or reversing Citizen’s United. In part, it defines marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman.
Ignorance is bliss. Donald Rumsfeld may have said that, but I know he only knows what he knows he doesn’t know.
Knowledge of the purpose of Amendment One saddened me. Marriage? Merely between a man and a woman? Everyday I see people married to their money, their micro-processors, their medieval faiths and fears. Even Stevie Wonder can see that to define marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman is true blindness.
Some shortsighted folks may be married to Amendment One because of fear that legions of happy homosexuals will push gay marriage down every single God-fearing person’s throat in this Christian nation, destroy the fabric of society, bring forth the wrath of God, and maybe raise Cher, Madonna and Liza Minnelli from the dead pop-star past. I respect their fears, especially the fear of change, but I can’t see any reason to fear Madonna or any particular god.
I’m thankful these United States are blessedly secular. Back in Mi-Ma’s early days, many nearsighted politicians and preachers spoke to the same fears: interracial marriage (then, a felony here) was immoral, and would destroy the family and the fabric of society. Change was unthinkable. It took a while; fortunately, most of us saw then and will see now that justice is the very fabric of society, not fear. If we didn’t embrace that justice-driven change, then we wouldn’t have a multi-racial commander-in-chief.
North Carolina has no legitimate interest in defining marriage between a man and a woman any more than it had in criminalizing interracial marriages. Passing Amendment One will consign many citizens to continued discrimination. We will have squandered another opportunity to replace our medieval fears with more modern fairness.
I prefer to remain consistent with the U.S. First Amendment and guarantee the freedom of speech and association (such as marriage) embodied therein. On May 8th I intend to rise up with Mi-Ma. Can I get a witness? I say, I will rise up with Mi-Ma. I’m “Done with One.”