North Carolina is under assault by forces who would enshrine bigotry in their state constitution. Today their leader, Paul Stam, and his hate-fueled Amendment One, are On Our Radar.
In the beginning, God scratched his backside, and a carbuncle sloughed off, fell into a pile of elephant dung, and grew into the Republican Party. Legend says it is for that reason party members report themselves as “Created in the image and likeness of God.” But more often than not, scratch the surface and what you’ll find is pure carbuncle. North Carolina’s House Majority Leader Paul “Skip” Stam is of the festering kind.
The first time I came across Stam was in 2009, when he didn’t think the state was killing enough black people. North Carolina had just passed the Racial Justice Act, heralded by civil rights groups as landmark legislation. It is a law that addresses racial inequity in death penalty cases by allowing defendants to have their sentences reduced to life without parole if they can prove race was a factor in their charging or sentencing.
The idea that a black inmate might escape lethal injection left Stam seething. While North Carolinians waited for jobs, he spent 2010 campaigning for fellow Republicans, using racist “scare” tactics which made the Racial Justice Act sound like a Get Out Of Jail Free Card for every black man behind bars. His office put out talking points with the blatant untruth that the Racial Justice Act would set murderers and rapists free. Stam got his Republican majority and his repeal too. The Racial Justice Act was saved only by the veto of Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue. Unfortunately, she didn’t think to (politically) kill the beast that is Majority Leader Stam by driving a (political) stake through his cold and wormy heart.
Now it’s 2012 and it’s the LGBT community Stam has decided to menace.
North Carolina already has a law forbidding marriage equality, but that prohibition is not final enough for Stam. He obsesses about “activist judges” who might overturn it. With North Carolinians still waiting on those jobs, he pushed through “Amendment One” which will apotheosize Stam’s own virulent brand of unashamed bigotry in the state constitution. Until the day rational, reasonable people can wrest control of both houses and manage repeal, Amendment One will forbid not only same-sex marriages, but even civil unions or domestic partnerships for same-sex and opposite-sex couples. As a bonus, it would rip away and make illegal the protections and benefits that many North Carolina cities and state universities have granted to their gay and lesbian employees and students. All Stam needs now is to get Amendment One passed by popular vote and no Democrat (sic) Governor can rescue the “gay folk” (Stam’s term-of-art for the LGBT community) like she rescued the blacks! Once Amendment One is added to the Constitution, no judge can undo it, no matter how blatant the bigotry. Amendment One will secure Stam’s rightful place in history, as the puss stain blotting the North Carolina Constitution.
But wait! There is an organization with members who know exactly how to take on a bully like Skip Stam. Freedom to Marry to the rescue! Any minute now Freedom to Marry’s Executive Director, Evan Wolfson, is going see the video of a grinning Stam explaining to an audience why it is outrageous to label his promotion of Amendment One as hate speech. Mr. Wolfson is not going to let that stand! Any minute now he’s going to show up in his Superman cape with a pocketful of attention-getting TV ads. And any minute now, Marc Solomon, Freedom to Marry’s National Campaign Director is going to hear about Majority Leader Stam calling the LGBT community “things that can be treated differently.” Then watch out North Carolina! You are about to be snowed under by a direct mail storm. Vote No On Amendment One signs are about to sprout in every yard and on street corner. Raging bulls like Skippy Stam don’t scare LGBT community superheroes like Mr. Wolfson and Mr. Solomon! Any minute now. Any minute…
My mistake. It turns out Freedom to Marry has taken a pass on making an effort to defeat Amendment One. The advocacy group just announced their new $3 million dollar “Win More States Fund,” but North Carolina was not on the list of the “More States” they want to win. Wolfson said he has to use his limited resources where he thinks he can be successful. While on the surface that seems a reasonable statement, North Carolina is happening NOW. Many of the battles Wolfson has signed up for don’t happen until November. Surely there is enough time to replenish the coffers from a modest ad buy in North Carolina? Bil Browning of the Bilerico Project referred to the Freedom To Marry decision as “the big fuck you.” I am quoting him because, lover of words that I am, I can’t put it any better than that.
What makes Freedom to Marry’s decision all the more frustrating is a recent Public Policy Poll which asked North Carolinians about their feelings regarding Amendment One. At first glance, the numbers look daunting. 58% said they planned to vote yes, and only 38% plan on voting against the amendment. But here’s what the internals of that poll said: the voters are not informed on the issue. A full 34% admit they are not sure about the question. When the pollster explains passing the amendment would forever ban civil unions in the state, support drops to 41% and opposition climbs to 42%. That’s a fight that can be won with an education campaign!
The battle over Amendment One will go on without Freedom to Marry. Evan Wolfson may have pronounced the cause doomed and unworthy, but groups like Equality North Carolina and Protect North Carolina Families are in the trenches as I write this, determined to keep the infection borne by Skip Stam from permanently diminishing the quality of life and reputation of their great state. It’s a shame Freedom to Marry didn’t show up to help them.
May 8 will tell the tale. It is not hyperbole to say that nothing less their future is on the line for a great many North Carolinians. Until then, Paul Stam, Amendment One, and the efforts of the courageous North Carolinians who showed up to the fight, will remain, On Our Radar.
Jean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle. Follow me on Twitter at @uncucumbered.
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