The Know + Love Project is a joint effort of Equality NC and the ACLU working to defeat Amendment One (for more information on the amendment and its plethora of harms, visit Protect All NC Families). Know+Love is collecting stories of people who will be harmed by the amendment; our submission follows below.
My partner Mary Hill and I have been together since 2006. We are raising two teenagers (from my first marriage). We have all the joys of marriage: commitment, passion, laughter, challenges (teenaged drivers, college expenses, work commitments) and goals (good health, fulfilled vocations, shared well-being). We share deeply in our communities: our workplaces, our neighborhood, our church, our children’s schools. We have made and are making a life with little of the infrastructure heterosexual couples take for granted: legal status and financial benefits, societal approval and support.
I moved to North Carolina in 2009, and so I have had a few years of people coming to know me. When people know I’m gay, they are sometimes surprised to find out that I am also a Christian, a pastor and theologian. When it is my Christian identity they know first, or that I am Harper and Chandler’s mom, they are sometimes surprised to discover I am gay. This is evidence of people’s assumptions, and not of anything strange about me. My partner and I joke about this: “What was your Big Gay Agenda today, honey?” she’ll ask. “Let’s see,” I reply. “Laundry, grocery shopping, prayer group, teaching the Global Religion class, trying to make my book deadline … oh, and a few hours’ sleep. How about you?”
“Let’s see, got up at 4:00 am, commuted to work, put in a 13-hour day making things better for sick people, and yeah, going to sleep now.”
How exactly does this hurt anyone’s straight marriage? How are we undermining society?
Actually, our family does far more to strengthen society than hurt it. We pay more than our fair share of taxes, thereby subsidizing straight couples taking the married/filing jointly deduction. (You’re welcome.) We support two children without taking our full deductions. (You’re welcome for that, too.) When one of us pre-deceases the other, the survivor will not be able to claim social security benefits; those undistributed funds will just revert to the treasury. (Ditto.) She manages health care in a hospital because she wants to make things better for sick people, and is glad she can provide for our family. I preach the gospel every chance I get, teach young and old about religious traditions and innovations, and am lucky to get to spend as much time as needed parenting our kids.
This is hurting North Carolina how? We are upholding our part of the covenant of citizenship and then some. The state – and our nation – are not upholding their part.
The first time I visited North Carolina, my partner’s adopted home state, she took me to see some of her favorite places. We hit all of her Hillsborough haunts, Mama Dips in Chapel Hill, the Sarah P. Duke gardens, the Duke Chapel. When we stepped from the sunshine into the cool glow of the Chapel, she stood at the head of the long aisle and said, “Someday I would like to walk down this aisle with you.”
I stood for a minute, wondering … did she just propose? Yes. She did.
As the years have gone by, time has done what the law would not. Time and love and stubborn togetherness have knit us together in the way that every married couple experiences. It’s not the words or the law or the church that marry two people: it’s their commitment to each other – in their own hearts, and in the sight of God – that makes a marriage. And so I can tell you that Mary and I have been married for a very long time.
We’ve thought about doing what our friends have done: marrying in Canada or another state, having a church ceremony here at home. But my sweetheart loves this country, and expects better of it than a piecemeal approach. “This is a civil right,” she argues. “It will take a federal mandate to get it done, just like the civil rights movement. It’ll never get done state by state. You don’t leave civil rights up to a popular vote. Majority tyranny will continue to trump minority rights, just as it did in the South when segregation thrived until the Civil Rights Act passed.”
We want no special treatment, no elevated status. We want only what our neighbors have: to hold hands over dinner at the Gulf Rim, to know one of us will not be barred from an ICU when the other is dying, to purchase the family plot without challenge, to share a last name forever, and when the obituaries are written, to see these words, “She is survived by her loving wife.” Is that too much to ask?
Amendment One writes discrimination into North Carolina even deeper. What we should be doing is writing freedom: that space in which God intends us to live and love.
If you live in North Carolina, you are probably able to vote early; check here. If you can’t vote early, vote against at your polling place on May 8. If you do not live in North Carolina, but want to contribute to defeat this amendment, please visit Protect All NC Families and make a donation. Every dollar helps. Thank you.