It’s a misguided effort, needlessly punishing Charlotte businesses and their employees counting on the revenues the week-long event will generate when it begins on Sept. 3. Thankfully, the Democratic National Committee agrees.
“The convention is staying in Charlotte,” said Kristie Greco, communications director for the DNC.
Still, the North Carolina vote demonstrates that equality has never come easy in America even though it’s one of our bedrock principles.
It took nearly 200 years for African-Americans to attain the same rights as white people. It is taking far longer for gays and lesbians to reach the point where society will allow them to legally marry the person they love.
The ugly persecution of gays and lesbians is a smear on America’s reputation as the Land of the Free. Homosexuality was once considered, and remains for many, a shameful vice. Gays and lesbians have had to hide and often paid criminal penalties for who they were. Many were ostracized, lost their jobs, were humiliated, bullied and beaten. Some, like Matthew Shepard and Harvey Milk, were murdered.
Today, social conservatives claim same-sex marriage threatens the institution of marriage although they’ve never explained exactly how. Marriage, after all is a private contract between two people. Most all of a marriage’s joys and tribulations are played out behind closed doors where it’s nobody else’s business. So where’s the threat to my marriage or yours?
Marriage does afford couples legal rights and benefits not otherwise available to the unmarried. This is why President Obama finally voiced his support for gay marriage to the delight of his base.
“I’ve always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally,” Obama told ABC News. “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”
Polls back the president’s position, according to PollingReport.com. Some 50 percent of Americans support gay marriage while 45 percent oppose it.
Nevertheless, religious conservatives were quick to pounce on Obama’s announcement.
“God is the author of marriage,” said Brian Brown of the National Organization of Marriage, “and we will not let an activist politician like Barack Obama who is beholden to gay marriage activists for campaign financing to turn marriage into something political that can be redefined according to presidential whim.”
But what if one doesn’t believe in God or agree with Brown? We Americans have that right because we live in a civil society, not a theocracy. So framing the debate on religious grounds is specious, providing an excuse to discriminate against a group of Americans some don’t like or understand.
For his part, the presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney says, “This is a very tender and sensitive topic, as are many social issues, but I have the same view that I’ve had since — since running for office.”
Romney’s understandably squishy on same-sex marriage because, as a candidate for Massachusetts governor in 2002, he supported state-sanctioned same-sex marriage-like relationships. He also refused to sign a pro-marriage constitutional amendment petition in Massachusetts he called “too extreme.”
In the end, the Constitution guarantees every American the same rights. States can try to change that, but discrimination will never be left to stand.
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.