Diverse crowd gathers at vigil to protest intolerance, Senate Bill 106
September 22, 2011
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Walking onto the Guilford Courthouse plaza on Sept. 12 to participate in the Greensboro Vigil for Equality revealed to me a certain energy. It was radiating along Greene St. along with the soft chords of a guitar solo echoing from courthouse steps.
This was not an energy of fed-up frustration, though frustration was present. Nor was it an energy of protest, though protest certainly played a vital role as well.
The assembled crowd appeared instead to be more of a diverse but united family than anything else, a family consisting of both gay and straight opponents of Senate Bill 106. This bill seeks to further and more strictly define “marriage between a man and a woman” as the only recognized legal domestic union in North Carolina.
Most people are aware of how this bill will negatively affect the gay community.
However, when viewing the bill as a whole, one discovers it is not simply about obstructing gay rights, but also furthering conformity.
One Vigil for Equality speaker, Rabbi Fred Guttman, compared the origins of this amendment to those of the 9/11 attacks: “Both are acts of incredible intolerance, self-righteousness, closed-mindedness.”
While the majority of the attention that the amendment has garnered centers on its unjust infringement on gay rights, it should also be considered significant that this amendment invalidates domestic partnerships. Most notably, this includes the potential for eliminating the possibility of benefits for unmarried couples.
How is it possible that in this day and age when change is welcomed and equality championed, lawmakers still revert back to the rules of traditional social conformity when faced with a decision affecting the freedom of choice for the entire population?
The answer is fear.
“Even harder to explain is the abject illogic of the pro-amendment arguments,” said Allen Johnson in an editorial for News & Record. “And the bogus rhetorical trappings used to trump up this flimsy case, such as ‘protecting’ or ‘defending’ traditional marriage.”
By pushing for this latest violation of civil rights, North Carolina lawmakers are saying more than “You can’t be married because you’re gay.” They are also asserting, “Your relationship doesn’t mold to the traditional man-and-wife with a legal contract institution? Well, sorry, your validity as a union is subject to remain under question.”
The simple fact that this amendment exists shows the emphasis we put on this institution, this mold of marriage.
We all seek happiness in our relationships. And happiness, as well as love, comes in many different forms. This happiness and this love will not always manifest itself in a heterosexual marriage.
It is preposterous then, that one group is banned from entering the institution of marriage at all, while another group is forced to assume a union of marriage in order to have any chance of partnership recognition.
Where has the choice gone?
This question lingered and resonated in the Vigil for Equality crowd on Sept 12, reflected in the flickering of lit candles upon nightfall.
I could not help but notice that, like the voices of the people, these small flames, when faced with the threat of being extinguished by the force of surrounding wind, still retained their heat; shrinking momentarily to their blue base and rising up again with renewed fervor.
I and certainly an overwhelming majority of North Carolinians and Americans only ask that lawmakers retain their courage in determining the extent of freedoms allowed to their citizens, courage to look past their own values and judge love on its apparent existence not its supposed legality, courage to provide choice of lifestyle to all citizens, even if some of these choices may not adhere to those they might make themselves.
For everyone’s sake, stow away the fear and do the right thing. As Rabbi Fred Guttman said, “Let not fear conquer us. Let us not go there.”