There is much to talk about with respect to Amendment One, but the most important thing to do is to talk about it. If you don’t join in the conversation, you may not realize what you are missing about the implications of your vote until it is too late.
I predict that some people will walk into the ballot box on May 8th without ever giving the marriage amendment a second thought. They are likely to vote “for” the amendment because the “for” answer feels most natural to them. They will do so without any idea of the real consequences of their vote.
Some people will sprint to their precinct to vote for the amendment because they have strong religious beliefs about homosexuality. They will do so because they know they are right. Their vote will be cast without thinking critically about the other tenants of their religion.
Some people will saunter in to pull the lever with narrow-minded views. They will vote for the amendment because they have a prejudice against the gay and lesbian community which is no different from the prejudice that fueled the Jim Crow laws in the old South.
And yet, this cross-section of the voter population is not the least of the problems for opponents of the amendment and those to be affected by the amendment.
Rather, in addition to this ignorance, religious intolerance and prejudice, there is a wave of momentum headed into this vote. The South has been riding this wave of traditional marriage euphoria, with NC being the last of the Southern states to consider a marriage amendment. Other states in the South have all adopted marriage amendments, including Virginia which is the most restrictive (prohibiting same-sex marriage, civil unions and other contracts), and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida (all of which ban same sex-marriage and civil unions, but not other contracts). Thirty U.S. States have adopted some form of marriage amendment.
So, with all this momentum from our sister states and the country at large, how do opponents of the marriage amendment reach these three groups of voters?
Unfortunately, May 8th will come too soon to reach the group with prejudice in their veins. Like the civil rights movement of the 60s, the law prohibiting discrimination will have to come first, followed by their acceptance.
As for the religiously intolerant group, this will be a hard group to reach, particularly if we go around calling them religiously intolerant. I submit that the best hope for this group is to encourage them to understand that it is not what is in the particular passages of their sacred text that counts as much as what their sacred text stands for as a whole. Most religions, and Christianity in particular, have a strong message about love and tolerance. In the Christian context, we might ask HWJV (How Would Jesus Vote?).
This leaves us with our last group, the uninformed group, which is the group with whom the opponents of Amendment One have the best chance of success. This group harbors no prejudice. This group is not being guided by a religious position. This group is just going through the motions. They will either stay home and not vote or they will show up on May 8th wondering why they are being asked what appears to them to be an easy question. Yet, if they are given a chance to understand how the vote could affect real people, they may choose to show up and they may vote to make a difference.
The more people learn about the impact of this vote, the more they can share what they learn with others. They can do it on Facebook, Twitter, email, a phone call, or just through a good ol fashion face to face conversation. We know that when a human face is placed on or alongside an issue, and when the meat is put back on the proverbial bone, opinions have a way of forming in a way not previously thought possible.
If you are a person of prejudice but your prejudice is against injustice, I encourage you to get educated on Amendment One and then speak with your friends and neighbors. This is not about telling people they are wrong. Rather, this is about telling people that you care.
I will close by sharing a recent experience. Earlier this week, I spoke to a civic club about the facts relating to Amendment One, including the injustice of the amendment and the harm it will impose on the gay and lesbian community. Someone who was not in the club and not even in the room, overheard the conversation and unbeknownst to me, he listened to my entire presentation.
When I got back to my office, I had an email from this person. He found my email address on the internet. Included in his note were these heartfelt words:
“I would like to thank you for all you said. I really appreciate how energized you are on the issue and wish more people were as informed on the issue as you are (such as my parents). It means a lot when someone stands up for your personal rights, so I wanted to say thank you, and please keep it up.”
Need I say more about the importance of getting involved.
This email taught me that I will never know how far my words can travel until I open my mouth and speak the truth. Help me speak the truth.