Duke Statement on Amendment One

Screen shot of email sent to all employees this morning. If you click it the resolution is better. Here is Duke web link on the topic.

I Love North Carolina

I am a proud North Carolinian, who has lived in this state for 40 of my 44 years (I was born on an Air Force Base in Mississippi, and did a post-doc in England). I am not surprised that Amendment 1 has passed tonight, since polls have shown this was going to occur for some time. However, as it has occurred, it makes me feel not angry, but sad, in the “we can do better than this” sense.

It is also the first time I have seen my kids be interested in politics, and my 11th grader especially has been passionately opposed to Amendment 1, and she is disappointed. It is hard to see her first interest in politics end in disappointment, but that is a part of life.

I wrote my reasons for voting against Amendment 1, and some gave me feedback that it was too nuanced. For my daughter it was a simple matter of being opposed to denying a particular groups’ human rights; no nuance whatsoever. That leads me to believe that the Amendment and its result won’t last very long.

As I reflect on recent politics in North Carolina, I realize that by far the more shocking election result was Barack Obama winning this state in 2008 (by ~14,000 votes out of over 4 Million cast). I was a late adopter of President Obama, in part because I viewed Hillary Clinton as inevitable, but mostly because I didn’t think a Black man with a funny name could be elected President, and I wanted my side to win.

Four years ago tonight, the North Carolina primary essentially put the President over the top, but even as I went to a celebration party that night, I was worried that he could not win. Even as I started going door-to-door canvassing in the Summer of 2008 for the Obama campaign, I just didn’t really believe that he could win in North Carolina. Of course he did, and I felt so proud of North Carolina on election night 2008 because I felt like we as a State voted our hopes, and not our fears.

Tonight I think it is just the opposite, and I feel sad, but I still love North Carolina. I know we can do better, and I think we eventually will.



Why I voted against N.C. Amendment One

I voted against North Carolina’s Amendment One last week during early voting,* and did so for the following basic reasons:

  • I think amendments to a state Constitution should be undertaken sparingly, and believe further that they should secure rights for persons and not limit them.
  • Because N.C. already has a law that bans same-sex marriage, I consider Amendment One to be mean spirited, piling on, and an attempt to introduce yet another wedge issue into the campaign.
  • Amendment One is broadly written, and its passage would likely do more than limit marriage options. For example, it could invalidate certain domestic partner unions that enable persons to get health insurance, etc. Duke University has been a leader in providing such benefits for its employees, and has taken a stand against the Amendment. The passage of Amendment One would likely have unintended consequences beyond the stated goal of proponents–to ban gay marriage–a goal that is already secured by state law as I noted (there are dueling commercials in the State saying this point is either true, or false).

I voted against the amendment for all these reasons.

More broadly, there has been a great deal of discussion within churches and other faith communities about Amendment One. I am a Christian, and within Christian communities there is a great deal of divergent opinion about the Amendment, with most mainline denominations urging defeat, while many independent, evangelical congregations and leaders urging passage. I grew up in a fairly conservative Church background, and rejected faith as a teenager. In college I discovered a faith of my own influenced positively by my upbringing, and have been working to understand what being a Christian means ever since (I understand this to be  a lifelong enterprise). I have changed my views on many things, and getting to know many gay and lesbian folks in school and work has changed my understanding on myriad issues.

My experience in faith and politics has been that as my faith grew, I became more liberal in most of my political views, even as I was part of Churches that tended to be more conservative politically. I was often the “radical liberal” at Church or other Christian groups, and sometimes the ‘fish out of water Christian’ in some of the politically liberal circles in which I ran, though this dichotomy has seemed to lessen over time.  I have experienced a fair amount of angst and pain over the years related to fellow Christians saying something along the lines of “how could you be for (fill in the blank) and be a Christian?” So, I try hard not to put this back onto others. I am a Christian, and I can tell you my views, but I am quite cautious about claiming to know the ‘Christian view’ on most issues.

I know there are some Christians who believe that voting for Amendment One is required for those who believe, in one sense as an act of defending God. I respect their sincerity, but disagree. My feeling is that first, God doesn’t need to be defended. Second, the clincher for me is the lack of love and dual spirit of pride and condemnation that I hear in religious appeals to vote for Amendment One; this just doesn’t represent my understanding of how we Christians are supposed to treat our neighbors, and I will not be a part of it.

*I realize this discussion is off topic for this blog, but several people have asked me how I voted on the amendment and why, so I thought I would just write it down.

Update: I realize this post doesn’t make clear that I also support marriage equality for same sex couples. That seems very far away for N.C. at this point.

N.C. Marriage Amendment

North Carolina will vote on an amendment to the state constitution on May 8, 2012.  A sample ballot is shown below.

The amendment has engendered a great deal of confusion, from what it is called (Amendment one, the marriage amendment, constitutional amendment) to what it will do (some favor the amendment because they think it will legalize gay marriage, when in fact it is designed to do the opposite). Further, it is quite broad, and even some who might favor a narrow limiting of same sex marriage are worried about what else this may do to contracts in North Carolina.

PPP polling’s latest has the amendment passing while an Elon poll suggests it will be defeated. A key issue is the sample frame used for fielding a poll: likely primary voters seem more likely to support the amendment, while broader swaths of the state are more likely to be opposed, so turnout will obviously be key. The Republican-controlled General Assembly passed the amendment with the support of enough Democrats to ensure that a veto by Governor Perdue (D) could be overridden, with the Democrats insisting the measure be placed on the ballot during the May primary and not the 2012 general election in return for their support. At that time it was assumed that Governor Perdue would be running for re-election, but she has since decided not to run, and a contested Democratic Governors race and the increased turnout that will bring may help to tip the balance against passage. A further unintended consequence from the perspective of the supporters of the amendment is that it has rallied liberal and progressive groups to be more focused on primary turnout than they otherwise would have been, in what amounts to a practice turnout opportunity for the November general election.

At Christmas, it seemed passage of Amendment One was inevitable. However,  it now seems an open question, and the outcome of the Amendment could provide some clues about the political climate in a crucial swing state won by President Obama by only 14,000 votes (out of 4.2 Million cast!) in 2008.