The rights of a minority decided by a few of the majority

Senator Bill Bradley has been making the rounds promoting a new book, and much of what he is talking about has to do with Super PACS and the obscene amounts of money required to run a successful campaign. Bradley said “Democracy is not a vicarious experience. They (American voters) have to pay attention to public policy and to politics. It takes all of us acting together to make America better.” (emphasis added)

Last week, a small percentage (34.38) of  eligible voters in North Carolina (my home state) turned out and voted in support of an amendment to the state constitution which states that marriage is between a man and a woman. Period. Voters had already been to the polls to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Of the 6.2M+ voters who are eligible to vote, 1.3M showed up to say Yes to an amendment that now changes the North Carolina Constitution to not only deny marriage rights to same-sex couples, but also puts into jeopardy domestic partnerships between heterosexual couples. Just over 833K voted No, which would have left the Constitution unchanged but still kept same-sex marriage off the books. A fraction of North Carolina citizens, less than a quarter of registered voters, reduced the rights of their fellow citizens.

In 2008 voters turned out at rates of 70 percent to elect President Obama, making it one of the highest states for turn out. Then and now, we take much of what we have in our country for granted. Yet it is a privilege to live in a country where men and women, every day of the year, are willing to risk their lives in combat to protect our right to vote and be engaged in the course our nation sets. But this time less than 35 percent of registered voters bothered to show up. To be engaged. To exercise the right that fellow citizens fight to protect every day.

Who were the 61.06 percent of voters who decided on the rights of the majority and why did they choose to vote as they did?

The majority of voters were rural or from smaller cities, and did not have college degrees.   Voters don’t need a college degree to make an informed decision at the polls. Where they live shapes their opinions, but rural voters don’t live in silos, and they didn’t walk barefoot down a dirt road to vote.

But some people in the majority, a stunning 26 percent, were uninformed. According to Public Policy Polling, among voters who admitted they didn’t understand what the amendment would do, 26 percent supported it. That’s scary.

Which brings me full circle to my mini-rant about turning out to vote in this country; how many of those 26 percent have a friend, son or daughter, husband or wife, parent, or cousin serving in harm’s way every day,  and yet turned out with no clue on what they were voting for or against? And even worse, cast an uninformed vote to deny the right to marry for same-sex couples, as well as putting domestic partnerships and civil unions between heterosexuals at risk. Yes, they got there, but they didn’t do their homework. A third of the voters supporting Amendment One really had no idea what they were supporting.

So who can get married in North Carolina?

In North Carolina you don’t have to marry a stranger. Cousins can marry each other. That’s the case in over 25 states. But you can’t marry your cousin if you are the same sex, at least in North Carolina. last Tuesday’s vote cleared that up.

Married to someone who is physically impotent in North Carolina? Not really. The law says those are void. Which raises an interesting question; if an impotent spouse is remedied by something like Viagra, but otherwise impotent, is the marriage void? And why does the North Carolina think it needs a statute about anyone’s ability to “perform” in the bedroom?

In 1971 the state adopted a new constitution which removed the barriers to inter-racial marriages, but the champion of Amendment One, State Senator Peter Brunsetter, seems to have had race at the heart of his proposed amendment.

According to comments made by Jodie Brunstetter, the wife of state Senator Peter  Brunstetter, the REAL reason Amendment One was necessary is because the “Caucasian race” needs to be protected.

That’s right. Apparently Senator and Mrs. Brunsetter think that Caucasians making up 68.5 percent of the state’s citizens isn’t enough.

Where’s the logic in that? Do they think that with only one type of legal marriage in the state that white heterosexual couples will start reproducing like rabbits?

Unfortunately we all learned a lot and lost a lot last Tuesday. It was a hard lesson in hate and intolerance, made clear in the voting booth.


Faculty follows student leaders, reaches consensus driven by core values

A proposed amendment to the North Carolina (my home state)  state constitution defining marriage as being between a man and a woman will be decided on May 8. This amendment has made strange bedfellows of traditionally liberal and conservative camps who oppose Amendment One.

While I am not surprised that members of the Guilford College faculty are opposed to this amendment, they have taken an unprecedented action. Founded in 1837 as New Garden Board School, the faculty at Guilford has never taken action as a body in response to an issue. Guided by the Quaker (Society of Friends) values of equality and inclusiveness, decision making is reached by consensus. Reaching consensus requires thoughtfulness and respect for all concerns and ideas. The faculty at Guilford is diverse, and includes members of many faiths, as well as those who do choose a faith.

Archdale Hall, faculty offices, April 2012

Lisa McLeod, an associate professor of philosophy, said this about reaching consensus on a resolution, “The Guilford faculty coming to consensus to oppose this amendment should really say something to North Carolinians. We don’t always speak with one voice, and we almost never speak as a body about ‘political’ issues. We were able to make this statement because the amendment represents a backward step in the protection of human rights. The idea that such a regressive move could be enshrined in the state constitution is just intolerable.” (emphasis added)

The Community Senate, the body which represents traditional students on campus, also reached consensus in opposition to the amendment in February.

I hope Amendment One is soundly defeated next week. We are long overdue as a country on so many issues which impact our future. It is high time that we stop worrying about consenting adults who want to get married. Period.