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The Real Lesson of North Carolina

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Everyone is outraged that North Carolina denied marriage equality last night. And you should be. However, what I thought was most important last night was that 39% of North Carolina voters support marriage between gay people. And not just hot lesbians either, but men with their icky anal sex or whatever. I say that last sentence because so much of the animus toward gay people comes from men (usually) with their over the top revulsion toward two men having sex. Homophobia has been such a dominant part of American culture for centuries (although there have been times and places that have accepted LGBT people more than the standard narrative of oppression allows) that I am absolutely amazed, flabbergasted in fact, that 39% of the people in a conservative southern state would vote to support gay people getting married.

Moreover, it is getting better every day. The widespread acceptance of LGBT people among those under 40 means that the day of equality is coming. We can be angry about the majority of people from North Carolina but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And when you decide that elections will determine civil rights, it’s going to bring out the worst elements in the racist and homophobic. But it also brings the debate to the table. We are going to start winning these elections and overturning these laws, and soon.

Also, I don’t think the anti-Southern stuff coming out last night and this morning helps. Just as people say they wish the South wasn’t part of the country, well, what about the 39% who voted for equality? Should we not want them? Because of the winner-take-all nature of our political system, we totalize our views of states, but even in Idaho and Utah and Mississippi, there are lots of good people. We should take note of that and not laugh at the dumb states from our liberal palaces on the coasts and in the cities.

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  • MAJeff

    Also, I don’t think the anti-Southern stuff coming out last night and this morning helps. Just as people say they wish the South wasn’t part of the country, well, what about the 39% who voted for equality?

    North Dakota couldn’t even muster 30%

    • rea

      Well, it’s all our country. North Carolina does not belong to the bare majority of North Carolinians who do these asinine things.

      • Holden Pattern

        Well, it’s all our country. North Carolina does not belong to the bare majority of North Carolinians who do these asinine things.

        Um in fact, it does belong to the majority of North Carolinians. Actually, everyone in the world is trapped in a cage with the wingtards and bigots who would rather blow everything up than let anyone else have anything nice. That’s how the system works (offer valid only to wingtards and bigots, because they really are willing blow everything up).

        • Malaclypse

          Cthulhu forgive me for quoting this, but “He who can destroy a thing, controls a thing.”

          Yes, wingnuts govern by pithy quotes from Dune.

          • Holden Pattern

            Just because it’s a pithy aphorism doesn’t make it false.

            • firefall

              are you taking the pith?

              • Holden Pattern

                Pith off!

    • Bill Murray

      When South Dakota voted on this it won 52-48 and had not an abortion banning amendment been on the ballot, I think marriage equality may have gone down. It’s tough to say — there wasn’t much of an anti-amendment advertising push, because all the money went to the abortion issue, but without the abortion amendment far fewer marriage equality proponents may have gone to the polls. But at least we beat ND :)

  • Steve LaBonne

    No worries, I live in Ohio. We’re plenty fucked up ourselves, so we don’t get to mock anybody else.

  • JohnR

    Of course, this wasn’t simply a vote – this was a vote for a constitutional amendment. Perhaps I’m naive, but it seems to me that these are not quite as easy to overturn after the fact as laws are (cf California and Prop. 13). Oddly enough, I understand that it was this very idea which motivated the forces behind this effort to amend the state constitution. Perhaps we’re all naive.

    • rea

      Well, but for exactly that reason, the national comapaign to enact these amendments is a recognition that those oppsoed to gay marriage are losing. While they still can, they want to put procedural obstacles in place to the eventual majority recognition of gay marriage.

      • proverbialleadballoon

        i agree 100% with your take on the matter, but JohnR raises a good point. the scorched earth that conservatives leave as they retreat is going to be one hell of a mess to clean up.

        • Holden Pattern

          That is in fact part of the strategy. Do so much damage that all of the energy of your opponents is spent in fixing the horrors you’ve wrought, then blame them for their lack of progress. Then, when you take power again (because there are only two parties in our system, do more damage.

          It doesn’t help that both parties are pretty well bought by the real ruling classes, so that the wingtards can be used to police both the Republicans AND the Democrats.

          • Hogan

            In the words of Butthead, “We’re just here to break stuff.”

            • proverbialleadballoon

              what better way to show that ‘government doesn’t work’ than to break the government?

  • BradP

    Just as people say they wish the South wasn’t part of the country, well, what about the 39% who voted for equality?

    You can’t please all the people all the time, and at some point you just gotta let people vote with their feet.

    • I think that is much easier to talk about than to actually do.

      And you’d gotta hope you can find a state that doesn’t have too many troglodytes. And you’ve got about half the country taken up by troglodytes.

      • Actually, less than half. Maybe half the states, but the federal system awards disproportionate influence to the troglodyte places. It sucks that it is taking this long, but it is moving a whole hell of a lot faster than race equality has to this point. Perhaps that may be due to the fact that race equality is so tied to economic injustice, or maybe it is because the odds favor having a gay family member more than having a family member of a different race. (Or maybe issues of economic disparity color both) but it is getting better.

        • Bill Murray

          Of course the troglodyte places were also big in the Progressive movement and the New Deal

  • Point taken about having care for the good people who aren’t going along for the ride in those Southern states. I’m a Hoosier, so I’m well aware of being in the minority.

    That said, I think a good bit of our national cultural struggles have their roots in the unfinished civil war. Where that is true, I think we should highlight when it’s the old Confederacy at it again. And, we should make it clear that the heritage of the Confederacy is treason in defense of slavery. If we don’t, I’m not sure the Civil War will ever be concluded.

    • timb

      Not only a Hoosier, but a fine blogger about state politics, if I do say so

      • Then as an ex-pat Hoosier, I’m going to have to start paying more attention.

  • Argus

    This lefty in Alabama thanks you for your final paragraph. You see that acknowledged far too rarely. The palaces’ knee-jerk dismissal of the South makes it harder for progressives to change people’s attitudes.

    • LuckyJimJD

      Another word of appreciation for Erik’s concluding thought. I’m a North Carolinian by choice & I love my adopted state, even when it throws an ugly temper tantrum. Eventually, we will win. It will just take a bit longer down here.

    • This. As a recent transplant to Texas who teaches, there are people out there who are interested in real progressive change, as well as some conservatives who are respectful, open to debate, and civil (though they’re also a minority at this point).

    • DrDick

      I agree. I am one of the most leftwing commenters here and I spent the first 35 years in Oklahoma. There are problems in the South, but they are not unique to the region.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    While I agree that public opinion is slowly headed in the right direction on this issue, I don’t think you can conclude that 40% of North Carolinians favor marriage equality. Amendment One is so extreme that if bans civil unions, straight and gay, too. The level of opposition no doubt reflects this fact.

    • Ronnie P

      This was certainly the “antis” argument. This isn’t just about marriage, it’s about more than that. Either that message didn’t get through or people didn’t care.

      • gmack

        If I recall correctly, among folks who actually understood the scope of the amendment, a majority opposed it. If so (I don’t have time to try to track it down right now), then I think Ronnie P is correct.

        • Scott Lemieux

          No, this can’t be right; as the sage K.C. Johnson has informed us, voters always understand the implications of every initiative perfectly.

        • Davis X. Machina

          PPP polling has the study.

          And Public Policy Polling includes a fun fact about that portion of voters who “weren’t sure what it did”: Among “voters who admit they don’t actually know what the amendment does … it leads by a 64-28 margin.”

          • Holden Pattern

            We don’t know what it does, but we sure hates us some fags, so we’re voting our bellyfeel!

    • Ben

      Yuhp. Plus a vote against Am. 1 isn’t a vote to allow gay marriage. There’s already an anti-gay marriage law on the books. Someone could think “this is superfluous”, “this is cynical manipulation of the process for no reason”, etc. and vote no while still not wanting gay marriage to be legal.

      What’s weird is that Erik acknowledges winner-take-all elections collapse analysis of issues into binaries that aren’t accurate with the point about good people living in Idaho / Utah / Mississippi. The same thing is at work here.

    • Charlie Sweatpants

      “I don’t think you can conclude that 40% of North Carolinians favor marriage equality. Amendment One is so extreme that if bans civil unions, straight and gay, too. The level of opposition no doubt reflects this fact.”

      That may be true, but it’s also worth noting that turnout yesterday was really low. Just 2.1 million voters (http://results.enr.clarityelections.com/NC/36596/80741/en/summary.html) cast ballots yesterday, compared with 4.3 million in 2008 (http://www.thegreenpapers.com/G08/NC.phtml) and even 2.6 million in 2010 (http://www.thegreenpapers.com/G10/NC). I don’t know about North Carolina specifically, but in general low turnout doesn’t help the good guys.

    • David B.

      yes, it’s not an endorsement. a no vote simply preserved the status quo of no marriage.

  • timb

    As a Hoosier, I hope you let us stay. Indiana wanted to avoid the 20th century, but thanks to everyone else we got there sometimes around 1990.

    • Anonymous Coward

      Is that when Dan Quale finally left?

  • Uncle Kvetch

    Hell, it’s not as if you can’t find homophobic assholes right here in Fun City.

    Now for a question I was going to post on the other thread, before it devolved into a troll-fest: does anyone know if the NC amendment has any possible bearing on domestic partner benefits offered by private businesses? I read somewhere that the extremely broad wording could conceivably “call them into question” but I haven’t been able to find anything more on this. Can a state prohibit private businesses from offering benefits to whoever they want?

    • LuckyJimJD

      This is part of the problem with the amendment, beyond the core problem of cementing discrimination. The language is unclear, and potentially broader than the similar enactments in other states. Most likely, the state courts will interpret it to leave private contractual benefits alone. But the uncertainty invites protracted legal contests.

    • I don’t know the answer to your question. But I’m going to guess that it’s yes. The whole point of “States Rights” has always been as a mechanism for maintaining discrimination.

      Racial discrimination has slowly been wrenched away from them (though there is still a long way to go.) At least to the point where blatant virulent racial discrimination has been driven underground.

      So blatant, virulent homophobia takes center stage.

      Right out there in the open.

      Some day it will be driven underground, too.

      That is not the same hing as making it go away.

      JzB

    • Murc

      does anyone know if the NC amendment has any possible bearing on domestic partner benefits offered by private businesses?

      My guess would be ‘no.’

      I know a little (only a little) about insurance law and private businesses have enormous leeway in the amount and kinds of benefits they offer once they clear the minimum bar necessary to get the tax benefits and comply with other laws, and they can be completely arbitrary in this as long as they don’t violate equal protection. They could literally offer a benefit in which they’d pay for veterinary services for all tortoiseshell calico cats owned by their employees.

      As far as I know, there’s nothing in the new amendment that prevents a company from saying “here are our privately-designed criteria for whether you have a domestic partner or not; if you do, said domestic partner may claim this set of benefits through you, which just HAPPEN to be exactly the same as those benefits we are obligated to provide to people who the state of North Carolina says are married.”

      That said, I’d like to not rely on our corporate masters for this sort of thing, please and thank you.

      • Malaclypse

        While this is true, what employers cannot do is change the tax status of a benefit. Here is what that means, using something relatively simple like health coverage provided in accordance with Section 125:

        If your marriage is recognized by both state and federal governments, then your health care is a tax-free benefit.

        If you have a domestic partnership, then the employer portion of the difference in cost between single and family coverage is a taxable benefit.

        If you have a marriage recognized by the state, but not the feds (such as gay marriage in MA), then the employer portion is taxable income for federal purposes, but not state purposes. *

        I believe, but am not sure, that if your employers screw up with this, that the tax penalties fall on the employee, not the employer.

        * Fun fact: if you are a gay couple who are married, you need to file married joint (usually) on your state return, then file two separate single returns (have fun with the home mortgage deduction there). You almost certainly need to find a tax accountant that specializes in this sort of return, and you will pay accordingly.

        • Holden Pattern

          This is a problem several friends of mine have. Every April, they’re reminded of how they’re second class citizens, who pay more in taxes and accountants’ fees just because they’re gay.

  • catclub

    So it looks even more surprising that Mississippi killed the personhood amendment.

    Could this NC Const. amendment be overturned the same way it was imposed? By statewide vote? Just curious.

    As to the future, it would be interesting to ask what percentage of NC voters in say – 1970 – would be in favor of the 1965 Voting rights act, or integrated schools ( yes I know they have since re-segregated many school districts, so maybe not a good indicator), as a guide to
    the size of opinion that needs to be overcome for gay marriage.

  • Jason

    I appreciate the last paragraph, but it isn’t just southern states that have amendments banning gay marriage. Backwards people live everywhere, even in places where homosexuals are allowed to get married.

  • William Burns

    I live in gay-marriage friendly, black majority DC, and when it comes to the fact that NC gets congressional representation and we don’t, I reserve the right to say fuck ’em.

  • Davis X. Machina

    Reply not working — and no edit.

    Loverly combo.

  • Jamie Mayerfeld

    Great post, Erik!

  • joe from Lowell

    Harrumph, harrumph!

    Just so, Erik. Every word.

  • howard

    Of course there are plenty of good people in the former confederate states and plenty of jerks in the rest of the country, but I trust erik isn’t making the argument that social policy wouldn’t have been considerably better if we hadn’t allowed the traitor states back in.

  • howard

    Of course there are plenty of good people in the former confederate states and plenty of jerks elsewhere, but I trust erik isn’t making an argument that american social policies wouldn’t be better over the last 147 years if we hadn’t let the traitor states rejoin.

  • Joe

    Well, sure, we can spin things. Some guy on Chris Hayes compared this to a drunk stumbling along before finally falling head first.

    Still, the expert against SSM in the Prop 8 case noted this went too far. The language didn’t just ban same sex marriage (which was not like recognized or anything — thousands of same sex couples were married in CA and they had domestic partnerships and they still only got 52%) and could negatively affect more than same sex couples.

    NC is also not Mississippi. It has purple state qualities. This was a shame. Of course, there are nice people in MI. The new book on Lawrence v. Texas showed there even are some sane judges down there.

  • David Kaib

    “Our liberal palaces on the coasts and in the cities” mostly don’t allow marriage equality. And many don’t have employment protections for gays and lesbians either. As always, there is plenty of work to be done in the blue states. The beating up on supposedly unusual backwards states obscured how far we have to go in the places progressives have the most leverage.

  • mike in dc

    I think Nate Silver once looked at demographic trends on gay rights and concluded that it’s likely that SSM will be legal in all 50 states around 2026 or so(with the Deep South being the last to come around).

  • MAJeff

    Looks like Amendment One is already working as intended.

  • Anonymous

    And not just hot lesbians either, but men with their icky anal sex or whatever. I say that last sentence because so much of the animus toward gay people comes from men (usually) with their over the top revulsion toward two men having sex.

    Citation? There’s just as much if not more ire directed at lesbians who are transgressing the normal cultural rules by not shacking up with a dude or devoting her life in pursuit of one. Liberation from that part of male domination is deeply offensive. And the “revulsion” towards gay men has its origins in misogyny, a hatred and fear of any one who would “choose” to feminize himself.

    Lesbians (the real ones, not the actors in straight dudes’ porn), are frequently forgotten, subconsciously erased, or intentionally written out of well-meaning liberal discourse on this subject, just as gay men and gay male couples are touted as the face of gay rights and as the real victims of homophobic oppression in this country.

    • Oh come on Annonymous, we aren’t talking about real live breathing lesbians here. We are talking about people’s fertile imaginations.

      • Anonymous

        Right, in which, surprise! Women remain fluffy objects for, erm, manual consideration, and not actual people who’ve got a stake in anything.

        All I’m saying is, gay men are the Default Gay Persons in these theoretical discussions by straight people, wherein lesbians are either ignored as aberrant offshoots, or, when they’re considered at all, wank fodder for the boys in charge in repayment for all their hard work helping out their fellow (gay) dudes.

        Erasing the misogyny inherent in homophobia by suggesting it’s all derived from straight men’s fear / curiosity about butt sex does nobody any good.

  • simple mind

    Chapel Hill + Triangle = 39%

  • Coming from OHio as the guy says up thread it is hard to criticize. Still it looks like Eric is a “glass is 40% full” kind of guy.

    • It’s important to place this in the historical context of change. The gay rights revolution is moving at an incredibly rapid rate.

  • Pingback: N.C. Amendment One reactions (part 2)()

  • One of the most aggravating things about this was that they scheduled a vote on a constitutional amendment during a Republican primary.

    Talk about stacking the deck.

  • Joel Dan Walls

    Personally I’d be fine with letting the wingnuts have some chunk of US territory to run their fascinating little experiments in “Christian” theocracy. The reason is simple: I’m worn out with the way that we non-wingnuts have to expend so much time and money battling the craziness.

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