For those of you who don't know I am a born and bred North Carolinian. I decided to spread my wings and move to South Carolina for college where I have stayed for 10 years.
In case you have not caught the news, my home state voted to approve a very controversial amendment yesterday, Amendment One. This amendment, called (by some) the Anti-LGBT Marriage Amendment, damages more than just the LGBTQ people living in North Carolina. Not only does this amendment bar same sex marriages, but it also prohibits the recognition of any sort of domestic legal union outside of the bonds of heterosexual marriage. It has the potential to impact domestic violence protection for unmarried couples, child custody and visitation, end-of-life directives, and domestic partnership benefits for public employees.
Today, the day after this amendment was passed, I am sad and somewhat embarrassed to be a North Carolina native. I am privledged to have many homosexual friends and feel that love is love and the greatest gift of all. It is not our government's place to determine who we should love or how we should express that love (who says you HAVE to get married?!).
I am in awe of the strength some of my friends have today and their positive attitude to live their lives still to find equality. A good friend of mine growing up, Mitchell Danforth, I beleive summed it up best on his Facebook page today. I pray that others find comfort in Mitch's words and know that this is not the end all to be all for North Carolina.
"Heading into yesterday, I feared my reaction if amendment one were to pass. I thought I would want to pack up my bags, leave the state, and contribute my energy elsewhere. And I have a LOT of energy :)
But now, I want to stay in NC more than ever. I want to see my home state transform into a place respectful of differences - and then accepting of differences - and then supportive of differences - as the hearts and minds of its citizens change.
Yes, we are sad and hurt and rightfully so. This fight shouldn't have to be fought at all. But all this talk of war and hate and threats of ending relationships needs to stop. The point of the freedom we seek is the ability to love in an environment of acceptance. Building walls against those with whom we disagree doesn't pull them to our side.
4 years ago, I probably would have voted for the amendment because of the faith-based culture in which I was raised. But I can assure you that hate was the furthest thing from that culture. Misunderstanding? Yes. Fear? Yes. Misguided love? Yes.
I'm sure that hate played a role in yesterday's results, but I refuse to believe that 1.3 million people marked their ballots out of hate. Many, if not most, of them are people like me 4 years ago who haven't yet made the journey of faith and acceptance that brings about a change in heart and mind.
The number of people who voted for the amendment yesterday would have been severely diminished if they personally knew a gay man or woman...or if they understood that same-sex attraction is not a choice...or if they believed the free will given to us by our creator wasn't meant to be limited by our government.
Today I kick off another summer swim season in the neighborhood where I grew up. I recently wrote a letter to the board regarding my own sexuality and recent journey, stating that I was willing to either step down as coach of the team or continue coaching in openness. I love coaching the neighborhood kids and being a part of that community.
The board chose to support me by adding an anti-discrimination clause to the pool's by-laws and inviting me to return. That addition to my neighborhood pool's governing document trumps yesterday's defeat to our state's constitution any day. I don't know the people who voted in opposition to me yesterday, but I have loved for years the neighborhood families who have chosen to support me.
Success will come from a trickle-up effect where we create the environment in which we want to live. Let us love more strongly, lead more passionately, and educate more effectively than ever before as we encourage others along their journeys of truth and love." Mitchell Scott Danforth