On Tuesday, voters in North Carolina will go to the polls to vote on Amendment One, which will amend the state's constitution to ban any relationship recognition for unmarried couples, same sex or otherwise. If Amendment One passes, then partners whose unions are recognized as civil unions will lose all legal protections provided by law, including employee benefits granted to same-sex and unmarried male-female couples. The amendment will block any future legislature from giving partners some or all the rights granted automatically to married couples in matters such as inheritance, child custody, property ownership and health care decision making.
To add fuel to the fire, GLAAD recently publicized documents uncovered by the Human Rights Commission in which the National Organization for Marriage developed a strategy for defining marriage between a man and a woman that requires "fanning the hostility" (see page 12 of the court document) between the LGBT community and the black community. In the tradition of dividing and conquering people of color, conservative organizations have decided to make this a religious issue instead of a civil rights issue, hoping that blacks will be too blinded by religion and vote for an amendment that will have major consequences for a minority population.
While some North Carolina pastors support the amendment, others, like the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP chapter, are squarely opposed to it. Barber has been at the forefront of championing the fight against Amendment One, because he understands that equal protection under the law should not be confused with religious interests.
Barber is not the only clergy member of color fighting against Amendment One. In April, a group of 15 interfaith African American clergy in Greensboro, N.C., took out a full-page ad in the Carolina Peacemaker, a well-known black newspaper in Guilford County, opposing Amendment One. In the Greensboro-High Point-Winston-Salem region, 100 black clergy have come out against the amendment, so many black Christians in North Carolina are against the erosion of civil rights for certain people.
How sad is it that many who would have voted against giving black folks civil rights in the past are now using said black folks to take away the civil rights of another marginalized group? To think that black folks are that weak-minded and stupid or have forgotten how blacks were scapegoated for the failure of Proposition 8 in California is insulting. Plus, in a stunning example of hypocrisy, the same types of folks who are worried about Muslim lawmakers invoking Shariah law in America want to conflate our laws with Christian values.
What is even more insulting is the failure of the national media to cover this amendment with the same vigor as Prop 8 and Maryland's HB 48. North Carolina is a state that went to Obama in the 2008 presidential election, is hosting the 2012 Democratic National Convention and is one of the few Southern states not to change its constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The state already has a statute that says marriage is between a man and a woman, but clearly that isn't enough for Amendment One proponents.
Conservatives are waging a religious war in North Carolina, and according to the Wall Street Journal, it looks as if they're winning, based on early voting returns. The far-reaching consequences should matter to those who live outside the state.
The stakes are high because if this amendment passes, many will suffer, even unmarried opposite-sex couples. More important, what about the children of these couples who will be cut off from health benefits, inheritances and such? What will this amendment mean for them if it passes?
Read The Root's interview with Pam's House Blend blogger Pam Spaulding, an Amendment One opponent, here.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., a media scholar, is digital editor in chief at Grady Newsource and a faculty member of the Cox Institute of Journalism, Innovation, Management & Leadership at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. She is founder and editor in chief of the award-winning news blog the Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter here or here.