Fri 11 May 2012
Having given myself a couple of days to digest Tuesday’s results and my own feelings regarding them, I have a few thoughts on the passage of Amendment One.
First, it was not at all a surprise. I gave money and had conversations with friends and with strangers and went running on the American Tobacco Trail wearing my bright blue “I’m Voting Against / Ask Me Why” t-shirt (and was, once or twice, actually approached by people but always to receive a message of support) and I bought yard signs for myself and for others including some people I didn’t even know. I talked loud and proud about it when walking in my neighborhood with brother and neighbor Pants Wilder in hopes maybe someone would overhear us and be given a reason to reconsider if they were in support of its passage. I knew it would pass, though. I wanted to make sure it would pass by the smallest possible margin and in all honesty I think we got that. Twenty points probably is the smallest possible margin for something like this. I know that sounds implausibly upbeat but I’ve realized this week that I got all my mourning out of the way before the election even happened and I am free of that now.
Second, this is not a loss. Oh, it will harm people and there has been plenty of jowly gloating already and the “Vote FOR” people had the tackiest possible victory party in the universe complete with a seven-tiered wedding cake and a plastic – glossy plastic! – bride and groom figurine on top, but what else do they have now? They beat us on this before the game ever started, way back in ’96 with the state’s Defense of Marriage Act. Tuesday was a victory lap and that stings – bitterly – and it damages real people and I am not immune to anger at that but it isn’t the end. It passed with 60% of the vote but that is significantly less than similar amendments have passed in other Southern states in recent years. Just take a look at the Wikipedia page for marriage amendments and you will see some horrifying percentages: 81% in Tennessee and Alabama, for instance. North Carolina was the last state in the South without an amendment and we passed it by the lowest margin in the South. Just stop and ask yourself what would have happened if this had been up for a vote ten years ago, or fifteen, or twenty; no, twenty years ago it wouldn’t have even been considered an issue because the possibility of gay marriage wasn’t even on the radar for people. Losing 60/40 beats the hell out of losing 80/20 or 90/10 and those are the percentages we easily could have seen in years not so distant from 2012. 60/40 means that four in ten voters on Tuesday knew what they were voting on and why and understood the ways an amendment such as this harms everyone and voted against it. Perhaps it speaks to my high degree of misanthropy to say this but 60% is surprisingly lower than the percentage of people I assumed would vote for it out of simple ignorance or knee jerk hate in the very best scenarios.
I know such talk tastes of ash but those numbers are part of a trend that has taken years to show itself and, projected years into the future, points to a time when days like Tuesday are spoken of as an embarrassing but instructive history.
Third, I have never been this energized for activism in twenty years of being varying degrees of activist. The haters won on Tuesday, sure, but all they’ve got left is to sit back, sip their tea and feel smug. I, on the other hand, have hands to work and energy to invest and a goal to attain. They have yet another
notch on the headboard trophy on the mantle notch on the headboard but we have new allies and a broad coalition of groups and interests who a year ago didn’t even know each other existed. They have nothing but time on their hands, time they can only spend watching Tuesday’s victory gather dust. I have friends and family and an army of lovers and we’ve all just been handed a great big kick in the ass to remind us that equality does not come to the complacent and the comfortable.
Progress is not a task that has an endpoint. Changing the world is not a task that will ever be done. If Amendment One had been defeated it would have temptingly easy to hang up my marching shoes, retire to a rocking chair and pretend that life has always been grand. Instead I have been given the sincere gift of remembering what it felt like to be a radical; of feeling a stir of joy on realizing there are still people whom my mere existence pisses off; of waking up on Wednesday to the realization that I have never in my whole life been so happy as I am when I have a bully to fight.
Fourth, I am an election judge. Monday night I had to take and administer my oath of office as chief judge for my precinct, an oath which includes swearing “that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the State of North Carolina, and to the constitutional powers and authorities which are or may be established for the government thereof; that I will endeavor to support, maintain and defend the Constitution of said State not inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States.” Tuesday I had to sit there and help people in my precinct vote in favor of an amendment that turned the state constitution against me. Do I believe the amendment is ultimately unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution? Yes, but I also think it will be a very long time before the courts rule that way, if ever, and in the meantime continued work as an election judge will require me to take that oath and swear to support the state constitution time and again, every election day, when in my heart I will know that I only mostly support that constitution and thus my oath will be a lie.
Is now a good time to point out that I consider myself Lawful Neutral? I’m not sure I can still take that oath. I’m not sure that if I can’t really mean it that I should take that oath. I’m considering resigning as the chief judge of my precinct because that seems in some ways the right thing to do and because a part of me thinks Tuesday after the first Monday in November might be better spent trying to get specific people elected rather than trying to oversee who gets elected overall. My precinct has other good staff who can sit inside and make sure the ballots are cast fairly. I have been reminded that I cannot sit on election day and get what I really want.
I have been given the gift of an agenda and a part of me is unspeakably grateful for that.