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Gay Marriage: The Politics Of Spite

Andrew Sullivan eloquently responds to the results of last night’s vote in North Carolina which saw the state pass an amendment to its constitution banning gay marriage:

“It’s a generational issue. If it passes, I think it will be repealed within 20 years,” – North Carolina State House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican.

So there you have it. A key Republican leader concedes this amendment will one day be repealed and backed it anyway. The only word that comes to mind in the face of such cynicism is spite.

Absorbing the blow from last night is hard. If a victory for marriage equality happens, straight couples can go about their lives and nothing will change. If a defeat occurs, gay couples must live in fear of retaining joint custody of children, access to hospital rooms, health insurance, and on and on. Our families and friends, our children and nieces and nephews, come to realize that their family members are beneath civil equality – and that their inferiority is written into their very constitution. Listening to Maggie Gallagher this week, you may be struck by how she sees herself as the victim. Let me kindly suggest that that is not exactly an expression of human empathy.

Remember how meretricious this assault on gay couples was. They are already banned by state law from marrying. Now their own state constitution bans them from any civil rights as couples whatsoever: no domestic partnerships, no civil unions, nothing.

It’s an act of pure punishment of citizens who are gay, a deliberate psychological blow to their self-esteem, their sense of citizenship, their core equality as human beings. A 60 percent majority decided that 2 percent of their fellow citizens are and must remain inferior in law. When gay rights advocates seek recourse in the courts, is it so surprising?

All I can say to my fellow gays and lesbians in the great state of North Carolina is: do not allow these people to get into your heads; do not begin to doubt your worth as equal citizens, equal spouses and an equal parents. What we’re seeing is the strategy clearly laid out by the National Organization for Marriage: divide blacks from whites, create confusing amendments that do not just ban marriage for gay couples, but any recognition or rights at all, and use the churches as your main organizing tool. This had, for me, an added wound: seeing some African-Americans celebrate marginalizing another minority in the South is heart-breaking.

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