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Posts Tagged North Carolina

Letter to a friend about Marriage

Dear Thomas:

I wanted to give you a bit of food for thought in regard to something you said in our conversation the other day: that you support civil unions. At one point I did as well, until I made the statement in front of two dear friends of mine in San Francisco. Sean and David had been married during that window in time when same sex marriage was legal in the state.

David and Sean spoke forcefully about civil unions and marriage not being equal, arguing that the term has been coined to avoid the usage of “marriage” which is embedded in civil laws across America. I had to ask myself the question: do we as a society want a distinction- a carve-out if you will- for the loving unions of two people of the same sex as opposed to the loving union of a heterosexual couple?

In the middle of our conversation, David disappeared for a moment and returned with what appeared to be a framed photograph. To the contrary it was his and Sean’s framed marriage certificate issued by the State of California. David broke out in tears as he said to me “do you realize how important it is to us to be able to show this to our friends, to have a piece of paper that recognizes that we’re all equal under the laws of California?”

I couldn’t help but agree. Words matter. There is absolutely no compelling reason for a “separate but equal” definition of any loving union between two people. Today I’d say to you as I do to all: I don’t want a civil union. I want the same civil rights that you and Mary have and I want them defined in the exactly same manner as yours. That is the American way. At the same time I’d man the barricades to protect the right of secular institutions in America to marry whomever they wish according to their beliefs. That is also the American way.

Here are a few eloquent quotes I’d offer for your consideration:

“Marriage in the United States is a civil union; but a civil union, as it has come to be called, is not marriage,” said Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry. “It is a proposed hypothetical legal mechanism, since it doesn’t exist in most places, to give some of the protections but also withhold something precious from gay people. There’s no good reason to do that.”

Or consider the logical argument offered by Ted Olson, former US Solicitor General in the George W. Bush administration. During opening statements in the the landmark Perry v. Brown case he argued that recognizing same-sex couples under the term ‘domestic partnership’ stigmatizes gay people’s relationships treating them as if they were “something akin to a commercial venture, not a loving union”.

Thomas if you truly believe in equality for gay people, then there is only marriage. A civil union is a half-baked legal construction which will never satisfy me or my friends Sean and David.



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Why You Should Vote Against Amendment One


My views on North Carolina’s proposed constitutional amendment certainly have been informed by the fact that I am gay and have born witness to the struggles that many gay people from all walks of life have faced. However I am not Voting No Against Amendment One simply because I am gay. Secondly, you won’t find any partisan bashing herein although I am a registered Democrat who ran for statewide office on the party ballot four years ago. Thirdly, you won’t read any discussion about my personal faith: for the record I have served as a lay minister in a Christian church and both of my sons are Muslim. Fourthly, although I recognize the heartfelt intensity of feelings on both sides of this divisive issue, my bias is that North Carolinians have much more important issues that we should be debating than Amendment One. Fifthly, I am as staunch a defender of keeping government out of houses of worship as I am of keeping houses of worship out of government. And lastly, when I use the term “gay” I do so as shorthand for the broader LGBT community.

Caveats aside let’s move onto the main line item on the ballot in North Carolina’s May 8th primary election: the proposed constitutional amendment on which voters vote Yes or No:

Constitutional amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.

It is my understanding that the proposed measure would amend Article 14 of the North Carolina Constitution by adding a new section:

Sec. 6. Marriage. Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.

I Voted Against Amendment One today. And I’d like to tell you why.


I Voted Against Amendment One because history has taught me that more innocent people have died at the intersection of Church and State than any other corner in history. Passage of Amendment One will have noxious consequences for those who believe they can ignore red lights.

I Voted Against Amendment One because it demeans, diminishes and humiliates me as it does your gay neighbors and relatives and friends. Passage of Amendment One will have noxious consequences for gay people and the communities in which we live.

I Voted Against Amendment One because its passage would send a chilling message to gay youth, a cohort that already commits suicide 400% more often than their heterosexual classmates. A crucial lifeline for gay teens is compromised by fear: the fear of coming out to his or her circle of friends. As members of the “what’s the big deal” generation they enjoy the benefit of strong peer support across what is America’s most inclusive generation ever. Passage of Amendment One will have noxious consequences for gay teenagers (and if you vote Yes your kids and grandkids will think you’re a dork.)

I Voted Against Amendment One because its passage would send a chilling message to closeted gay people in North Carolina. Like all gay North Carolinians they have no legal protections from being fired from their jobs, denied a job, kicked out of their homes and denied housing simply because of their sexual orientation. Passage of Amendment One will have noxious consequences for those gay people who live anxious lives in the shadows of our communities.

And I Voted Against Amendment One because its passage has unintended consequences detrimental to children, senior citizens, economic development, victims of domestic violence and straight couples having entered into civil unions.

If you plan to Vote For Amendment One take a pause. Have you considered that its passage will harm all of us: those like you who Vote For Amendment One and those like me Who Vote Against Amendment One? Here’s why. On May 8th after all the votes have been tallied and the commercials and radio ads and emails and texts and Tweets have ceased, those who Voted For Amendment One will have done so for naught.

Why? There are no winners from a law that threatens all and protects none. That’s the dirty little truth that cheapens an imbroglio hoisted upon us by politicians and pundits who generally don’t give a rat’s ass about us or the state of our State. I for one have much bigger fish to fry and have no interest in excluding anyone from the picnic table.

Admittedly I am an idealist who believes that we all have vastly more in common than we do traits and beliefs that distinguish us. I believe it is possible for the people of this state to demonstrate they can come together, give thanks and enjoy the fellowship that’s best accompanied by a down home meal of hush puppies, coleslaw, banana pudding, sweet tea and BB-Q regardless of their differences.

I don’t know a single person in North Carolina who doesn’t desire to pass along a better condition to the next generation- their kids, your children and grandkids and my sons. The campaigns being waged in opposition to and in favor of the amendment have made me harken back to that a proverb that my mom repeated to me time and time again as I was growing up in Greensboro: “North Carolina is a valley of humility situated between two peaks of conceit.”

Only the cynical man would choose conceit over humility.



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In July of last year I posted Gasland- in my backyard on this blog. I fired a missile across the bow of those who treasure the world’s most precious resource: water. Water is a resource under assault and increasingly the source of regional conflict and inter-community squabbling. In North Carolina, the vast Falls Lake Reservoir which provides drinking water to two of our largest urban areas- Wake and Durham counties- is polluted. That’s right, the source of drinking water to hundreds of thousands residents does not meet the minimum requirements of the Clean Water Act. Cleaning up the mess will cost ~$1.5 billion.

Given North Carolina’s  was concerned grave at the prospect of  Big Oil & Gas interests using their political and financial power to upend North Carolina’s ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a toxic but profitable technology used by natural gas companies to extract natural gas from shale deposits. Here’s a telling excerpt from last year’s post:

Though fracking is currently illegal in NC, speculators are betting that will change. My concern is that politicians in Raleigh- consistent with our Legislature’s bipartisan refrain for economic growth and the GOP’s aversion to regulation- will fall in line with Big Oil. Experience has shown that any sort of perceived economic growth prospect for NC- like keeping cigarette taxes absurdly low at the expense of responsible public health and fiscal policy- prevails over concerns about irresponsible public health and fiscal policy. It’s the old growth at any cost argument.

I’m curious just how toothy the NC statute banning fracking really is. I don’t want to awake and discover that some lobbyist for the Oil & Gas industry is drafting its own Halliburton loophole.

Best get fired up before it’s too late to turn the spigot on.

Yesterday my concerns became reality. The North Carolina State Senate passed a bill entitled The Energy Jobs Act (SB 709) on a bipartisan basis. The spigot is ready to flow.

For interested North Carolinians here’s a link to which Senators voted in favor of the oil & gas industry.

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Paul Ryan is right: America is Broke

We are a broken nation.

We do not engage in critical examination. Most Americans are bereft of the ability to distinguish fact from fiction. Repeat something enough in America and most people will accept it as truth.

We haven’t the humility to learn from the successes of other nations, preferring to indulge on their foibles in order to boost our vapid sense of exceptionalism.

Few Americans stop to care for their neighbors who have stumbled and can’t raise themselves without a hand.

We have lost respect from an international community that once admired us.

We are less educated than other industrialized nations and are falling behind further each year.

We are sicker than other industrialized nations and some third world countries. Despite spending nearly twice as much per capita on health care than any nation, we die at a younger age and more babies born in America die at childbirth.

We do not read as much as we once did. We gather information from self-selected newstainment personalities.

We have surrendered the wealth and power of our republic to a small cabal of plutocrats.

We are a nation of the poor. Nearly one out of six Americans lives in poverty. Twenty-six percent of black Americans live in poverty and 22% of American children live in poverty. The number of Americans living in poverty (44 million) is the highest in the half-century since the US Census Bureau began publishing poverty data.

Yes Mr. Ryan we are going broke- and your Roadmap for America’s Future will accelerate that journey.

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Right then and right now

Most times I’m not invested in being right so much as getting it right.  But there are exceptions of course.

I got it right in 2008. Congress got it wrong- including then Senator Obama.

I’m referring to a law passed in 2008 that amended FISA (“Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.”) That law  retroactively legalized President George W. Bush’s program of wiretapping certain terror suspects without a warrant- and provided immunity from prosecution to telephone companies that cooperated in the Government’s surveillance program.

Then as now I felt that amending FISA gave blanket immunity to telcos that had acted in violation of federal law and at the urging of the Bush administration. I was hot as a firecracker over an eavesdropping program that ran amuck over Constitutional protections afforded by the First and Fourth Amendments.

However, a federal district court judge allowed the law to stand.

Thanks to a ruling yesterday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second District the district court judge’s ruling was vacated, paving the way for a review of the warrantless wiretapping statute.

Here’s a video clip of my objecting to the FISA amendment during the NC Democratic Senate primary in 2008. I think I got it right then and I’m sticking by my guns. My bet is that justice will prevail. We all should hope so.

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