Amendment 1 Advances in North Carolina, Religious Homophobes Rejoice

On May 8, North Carolina will vote on a state constitutional amendment that would legally define marriage as between a man and a woman. North Carolina has a lot of strong religious communities, and so far controversy over and interest in the bill is high — so far the “turnout for early voting leading up to the May 8 primary election is on pace to top any other primary since the state began one-stop voting in 2000,” according to the News & Observer of Raleigh.

Right now, it would appear that Amendment 1 has more forward momentum than gay rights activists and their allies would like — the most recent poll puts Amendment 1’s support ahead of its opposition by 14 points. It’s not an enormous lead, and one poll isn’t necessarily decisive, but it’s above the 3-point margin of error, and the vote is only a week away.

Religious affiliations seem to be playing a large role in Amendment 1’s (projected) success — while some pastors, like Reverend William Barber, asked their congregations to oppose Amendment 1, many other religious leaders in NC are taking the opposite stance. For instance, there’s Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, which didn’t just urge their congregation to support Amendment 1, but also to physically abuse their children if they appear to be gay or gender nonconforming:

“Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok? You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male. And when your daughter starts acting too Butch you rein her in. And you say, “Oh, no, sweetheart. You can play sports. Play them to the glory of God. But sometimes you are going to act like a girl and walk like a girl and talk like a girl and smell like a girl and that means you are going to be beautiful. You are going to be attractive. You are going to dress yourself up.”

Religion and religious affiliation have long been discussed as a factor in major developments with marriage equality; it’s long been assumed that practicing (especially evangelical) Christianity and social conservatism go hand in hand. More than just a correlation between the two, however, a new study reveals that there may be a correlation between being “highly religious” and a lack of empathy:

“Overall, we find that for less religious people, the strength of their emotional connection to another person is critical to whether they will help that person or not,” said UC Berkeley social psychologist Robb Willer, a co-author of the study. “The more religious, on the other hand, may ground their generosity less in emotion, and more in other factors such as doctrine, a communal identity, or reputational concerns.”

If the results of this study are taken into account when facing the issue of marriage inequality, it may help explain why people like the pastor of Berean Baptist Church exist, but also raise questions about how the marriage equality movement should deal with “highly religious” states like NC. It’s been well documented that people who have personal contact with even one gay person are significantly more likely to agree that they deserve equal rights; that essentially, to know us is to care about us, at least a little. To that end, a lot of marriage equality activism has centered around the idea of visibility — making gay families seem familiar and friendly, creating a point of connection to the queer community. But if these findings are true, then there’s a large portion of the population for whom that tactic isn’t effective; people who value their religious identity as highly as some leaders in NC seem to may always prioritize what they perceive as religious truth over human connection. And religious doctrine isn’t something one can change with an advertising campaign.

The future of Amendment 1 isn’t necessarily politically urgent — same-sex marriage is already illegal in North Carolina by statute, and the day-to-day reality of living there won’t look much different regardless of its passage. But Amendment 1 might tell us something important about the intersection of the growing momentum for equal rights and America’s cultural stronghold of evangelical Christianity. North Carolina isn’t the only state where politics and religion are hard to separate, and if we’re going to achieve real equality nationwide, we’ll need to win them all over anyway.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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    • Same here. It’s insane to think that one’s religious values should justify physically and psychologically abusing one’s own children, or any child. It’s disgusting.

      • Well, since we know a pastor’s out there suggesting that physical and emotional abuse is the only way to deal with gay children, that qualifies as a hate crime, not to mention child abuse in general. That pastor could end up in jail for just making this suggestion. Furthermore, any parents that take him seriously enough to do so, could find themselves in a heap of trouble with police.

        So, I say, let him spout off like that. It’s one way to make sure he’ll lose his right to vote in future elections. Just hope someone has the balls to report him to his local authorities. Or to the state authorities.

        • Yes, you make an excellent point, and yes, I hope he hangs himself with his own rope on this one. BUT….. what also makes me mad is, what about the boy who does NOT have a “limp wrist” and is gay anyway? Or the pretty little girl who is nevertheless a born lesbian?

      • Insane is right. I could rustle up some links but a quick search on google will bring up articles and studies linking religious fanaticism to certain mental disorders; bipolar disorder and schizophrenia come to mind. Some religious fanatics are really not worth arguing with.

    • I know a lot of asshole homophobic sexists think along those lines, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it so starkly articulated, esp. by a person with influence.

  1. this was a really good, albeit depressing, article, and gives me a lot to think about.
    but my main thought was that after coming back from camp, which was really the most perfect place I have ever been, it’s hard to believe that there are whole, giant communities of people who think like that pastor. like, I have seen paradise, and am now wondering why every place can’t feel so safe and affirming.

  2. Eh, it’s Hicksville, USA. What else would you expect to happen? Oddly enough, these are also the states with the worst teen pregnancy rates, the worst obesity, and so forth and so on.

    You could NEVER convince me to live in the southeast US, personally.

    • I totally agree, but what about all the babyqueers that live there and don’t have the means to leave? This just breaks my heart. That quote is appalling.

    • You need to watch it with the “hicks” comment. I’m from North Carolina, and I love my state. I’m also against this absurd amendment. Not all of us are as backwards as you think. NC has actually been one of the more progressive Southern states, Amendment One notwithstanding.

      • Right?!? I was born and raised in Alabama, and I still live here, and I promise that not everyone in the south is a hick. In fact, I happen to know a lot of people who are open-minded and tolerant and couldn’t care less that I’m gay. Sure, there are plenty of intolerant and super-religious people too, but don’t write us all off just because of them.

      • Did I say that everyone in these states was a hick? No. That’s just what, generally, that region of the US looks like to me. Given that most of the population doesn’t consider us (you, me, everyone here) worthy of having basic civil rights (which, sadly, I predict will be reflected in next week’s vote), I don’t think there’s any need to be PC, especially when it comes to homophobic religious fundamentalists advocating child abuse.

    • ummmm, a state’s “hickiness” doesn’t make public suggestions of emotional and physical abuse okay. it’s completely unacceptable to shrug off harassment at queer kids because LOL THEIR FAULT STOP LIVING IN THE SOUTH

      also obesity is not at all comparable to homophobia. just…no.

      • I was mostly bring the huge number of social problems these states have (horrible general population health, terrible schools, etc.) because it’s so strange with all these sorts of issues, their biggest concern is gays getting married (which is already outlawed). Yeah, I feel bad for the gay kids living there. I certainly wouldn’t want to. I don’t see why any gay person would live there, if they had means to leave, especially now that people are firing guns into others’ lawns ( ). Of course, I sincerely hope that the gay people there are safe. And I hope that, if it is within their means, they can get out of that place. Why would you want to live in a place where most of the population thinks you shouldn’t have basic civil rights?

        • well um…that’s not really the point. queer people should be able to live wherever the fuck they want without fearing their safety, at the very very least. instead of telling people to move, can we please put our energy into making ALL of the world less terrible for queers.

          • “well um…that’s not really the point. queer people should be able to live wherever the fuck they want without fearing their safety…”

            *looks at profile*

            Shutting shit down at 15?

            OMG yes, the future is saved with people like you!

            *claps wildly*

          • PS: I have been struggling with this whole issue a lot given to the different background/privileges that I do have and all that good stuff.

            I’m a non-believer and this makes go what(sometimes)? I also do not live in the south or in a place where being queer would put me in more danger. So like Michelle and others I was like, “well why stay a Christian or why stay in the south?” I said this assuming but really applying it to those who have the ability in moving. I also felt when it comes to religion my issues with it stems from well a lot of things (which are intense) but I am entitled to those views but MOST IMPORTANTLY allow those to believe (believers and non-believers) will not harm or compromise the dignity or other people.

            I really try to follow my own advice and honestly at the end of the day all the beautiful queer people in the south or anywhere will have my solidarity and not dismiss this issue as a “location/religious” thing, regardless on how intensely I feel about it, full-stop solidarity.

            I don’t think that’s too hard, yeah? Yet, I forget sometimes because I tend to rage (a lot)and after a sobering comment like yours milo reminds me that shit, it is not *about* me. I will have my views but in situations like this I am better off shutting the fuck up and listen and help in any capacity that I can.

            So know your shit, for real.

            Rainbows and unicorns dancing in glitter, <3<3<3

          • Look, as you get older, kid, you’ll learn the world isn’t really a friendly place to queers in general, and the southeast US is less friendly than some other places. And that’s not going to change. Sadly, I predict this will pass. Similar legislation passed in California of all places; what chance do we have of equality winning in the Bible Belt?

            In an ideal world, of course queers would be able to live wherever. But it’s not an ideal world (you’ll learn that as you get older too).

            And I never said anyone had to move. Don’t put words into my mouth. You have a lot to learn, kid.

            Well, if you’re going to save the world, you better get to it; there’s a lot of world to save.

          • “In an ideal world, of course queers would be able to live wherever. But it’s not an ideal world…”

            “And I never said anyone had to move. Don’t put words into my mouth.”

            So you’re saying queers can’t live in certain places, but you aren’t saying they have to move? So they should what, disapparate?

            Patronising someone for being younger than you is charming in itself, but before you start doling out factual inaccuracies (“And that’s not going to change” — because all the gay rights advances of the last few decades are a figment of our collective imagination?) you probably want to learn some basic reasoning skills yourself. “Kid.”

          • Relatedly,

            “And then one day that child might open a paper that say ‘Homosexual elected in San Francisco’ and there are two new options. Option is to go to California, or stay in San Antonio and fight.”

            It’s the people who fight that change things. Good luck milo.

          • I figure if others are entitled swear coarsely at me, I can respond however I like.

            Certainly, it would be nice if there were no homophobia. But, I’m not naive enough to believe that clapping my hands will bring the magical faeries back to life so that they can make it disappear.

            Look, you can do whatever you want (though, unlike you, I think it’s a shame that young gay people have to endure living in such climates). I’m just being honest. It’s the world that’s awful.

          • Oh, and if I need reasoning lessons, then you need some work in basic reading comprehension, kid, as well as some basic life lessons.

    • I’m from Fayetteville, NC where this church is located. We may be in the south, but Fayetteville is also home to Fort Bragg, the second largest military base in the nation. You know all those gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers who are now allowed to serve openly in the military? Odds are they’re making a stop through this city.

      Ignoring the south and allowing rampant homophobia to go unchecked does nothing but feed into the cycle that keeps systemic oppression in place.

      • Sadly, I think it’s going to pass, given the history of these sorts of bills. And that sucks. I honestly would be surprised if it failed; from what I’ve read, these sorts of homophobic bills pass by huge margins in the southeast US.

  3. This article misses a LOT about this amendment.
    For one thing, any skimming of the latest blogs and news outlets following the polling will reveal that so far the Pro-Amendment side has been steadily losing support. Check TPM, Pam’s House Blend, even the Charlotte Observer. Additionally, it’s important to note the incredible self-motivated opposition at the local level that has taken place across the state, with local governments and city councils issuing statements of opposition to a state-level ballot initiative in a way that we really haven’t seen before in NC.

    Second, this Amendment won’t change much for the legality of gay marriage in the state, but it WILL change a lot for day to day life. An amendment similar to this one was previously passed in Ohio, and it created legal havoc, rendering domestic violence laws unenforceable against offenders who weren’t married to their victims; causing children and widows/widowers to lose benefits; effectively “divorcing” heterosexual couples who held common law marriage by living together for so long; and further completely eliminating the future possibility of ANY sort of union for LGBTQ couples and unmarried heterosexual couples.

    NC may be a “highly religious” state in some respects, but it is also a hub for banking (Charlotte) and education (Piedmont-Triad), among other economically important industries. It also has an historic tradition of setting the liberal precedent among the states of the south. This amendment will have a huge impact if it passes, and also if it is defeated.

    • I’ve been lurking around here for roughly a million years. Finally commenting to say: THIS! This isn’t even about LGBTQ rights at this point. Same sex marriage will still be illegal in NC if this doesn’t pass, and this amendment would hurt so many people. Basically I just have a lot of feelings about it.

  4. That pastor’s speech actually made me a little bit sick in my mouth.

    Best of luck, NC, I hope common sense prevails.

  5. can’t wait for the national poetry slam in Charlotte this summer. Time for a glitterbomb.

  6. Came across this blog through a link and what saddens me the most is not just that this pastor made the statements, but that it’s become ‘assumed’ that anyone who calls themselves a Christian is associated with this kind of thinking.

    There are many, many Christians here in NC who are actively fighting against Amendment 1, I am one of them. Yes, there are many right-wing / evangelical churches here who are pushing their congregations to vote for passing the amendment, but as Cat stated above, there are many groups rising up against this, churches included.

    The biggest challenge is funding. Groups like “Vote FOR Marriage NC” are boasting that they’ve raised $1.2MM in support – and so they can blanket rural areas with TV commercials that scare people into the voting booths. Those of us who are opposing the amendment can’t match that kind of money – and we know they’re getting support at a national level from other right wing groups.

    Yes, there is a lot of bigotry in the church today – but there are many, many of us fighting inside the church to change that.
    Please don’t lump us all in with people like this pastor.

    • hey, it’s really horrible and unfair that people are assuming christians are all bigoted, but (and i say this as a christian person too), i’m kind of concerned that you think having to prove that you aren’t a bigot because of your religion is worse than pastors suggesting physical abuse to queer kids.

      • Hi Milo – sorry if the way I phrased that would lead you to believe I am more concerned about defending my faith than someone who made these hateful remarks.

        This pastor was wrong – no question and his statements prove that, and yes, that troubles me very, very deeply. What I was attempting to say is that what also troubles me (not more than – poor wording choice on my part, and I apologize for the confusion) is that because of individuals like this, many outside of my faith make broad assumptions that “all” who call themselves Christian share these views. We do not.

        This is a blog post from my pastor responding to what this man did and I think reflects where many Christians are – we just don’t tend to make the headlines like this pastor in Fayettville did.

  7. This is so discouraging. I feel like we make a ton of progress, but then I leave my liberal bubble full of all kinds of accepting people. And I remember that there are people who are teaching others to hate. And it makes me so angry and sad.

    Looks like we’ve got some work to do…

  8. What that pastor said is horrendous. I personally am a religious studies and political science major so this hits home for me on both accounts. First of all everyone deserves equal rights. This is our last civil liberties battle and we need to use common sense and understand everyone deserves equal rights. On the religious account Jesus and God teaches love for ALL. Not love for few or certain people but love for all. The bible may mention homosexuality but it also says disobedient children should be killed and women who are not a virgin at the time of marriage should be stoned. I think this matter is very black and white. Equal rights for all and God loves EVERYONE!

  9. I’m here to tell you that you can’t beat the gay out of your children…trust me…I know from experience. I was beat with just about anything my parents could get their hands on…guess what…still queer

  10. God. The “walk like a girl, talk like a girl, smell, dress, etc….” I swear, my father said that to me not three days ago. (I nearly cried at the dinner table. It was ridiculous.) (I mean, he didn’t mean I’m too lesbian, I think… just too… bordering masculine? Not uber-femmy enough??)

    This is… a problem. It’s not a… it isn’t a thing you can get rid of. You’d think people would realize that by now.

    • My stepfather is the same. People like that just aren’t worth listening to.

      • Okay. I actually talked to him today about it– apparently he didn’t mean it at all the way it sounded. He wants me to expand my wardrobe, and wants to pay for it.

        …I like this version much better than the first.

        (Sorry! Wanted to clarify. My dad sometimes says things that sound bad, without realizing it.)

  11. Agreement with everything above. I got back from A-Camp to see someone had stolen the sign re Amendment One from my, as well as many of my neighbors’ yards. It just made me sad that people would do that, but they can’t take our vote.

  12. If there’s a silver lining to this, it’s that Amendment 1 has gotten a lot of people, who were asleep at the switch before this was put on the ballot, thinking about gay rights. A lot of these people have gone from undecided to pro gay rights. Whether this passes or fails, that bodes well for the future of gay rights and marriage equality in NC.

    Not sure how the poll numbers break down in NC, but nationally, 18-29 yr olds favor marriage equality almost TWO to ONE (65% to 33%). People over 65 oppose marriage equality by roughly the same margin (66% to 30%). The opposition is literally dying off one closed-minded voter at at time, while the voice of fairness grows stronger every day. Time is on our side.

    With a little luck, even before equality is inevitably voted into law, the courts will recognize this for the HUMAN RIGHTS issue it truly is. One way or another, we WILL win this fight and when we do, maybe we should thank the boneheads behind Amendment One for speeding things up a little!

  13. Did no one else find it offensive that the author of the article says that the passage of Amendment One “isn’t necessarily politically urgent”? He believes not much will change if it passes. He has completely missed the point about the amendment making civil unions and domestic partnerships targets for removal of rights.

  14. that pastors comments are sickening, especially since i grew up 30 minutes from that church. when i was back home for spring break a couple weeks ago, i saw at least 30 signs in people’s yards/all over the place that said “Vote For the Marriage Amendment/Amendment 1/Protect Family Values” so based on that it’s not looking so good. Hopefully, more openminded people in the bigger cities will vote against to counteract the small town vote. Also, I saw only two “Vote Against Amendment One” signs next to a shopping center and when I passed it again a couple days later, someone had taken the signs of their metal stands and replaced them with the others. so depressing.

  15. That pastor’s speech is horrifying. The people listening to him and laughing/agreeing with him are just as bad.

  16. Why is it that comments like that (telling parents to physically hurt any apparently nonconformist/queer children) are not considered hate speech or incitement to violence? Why does our legal system tolerate this kind of hate speech as long as it is fashioned as instructions to parents, referring to their children? So wrong, so dangerous.

    • I feel like what I’m about to say might be controversial, but it really needs to be said.
      THIS is exactly what Christians are afraid of when it comes to gay rights. I was raised in a deeply Christian home, and I held those beliefs for many years myself. I know exactly what they fear. And what they fear more than anything else is that people will try to shut them up and take away their right to proselytize, evangelize, or otherwise spread their beliefs.

      Now don’t get me wrong, I find evangelization as annoying and presumptuous as hell. But freedom of speech and freedom of religion and freedom of expression are pretty serious. And as much as it infuriates me to hear people taking advantage of those rights and freedoms in such an ugly way, I know that they have the right to do it.

      So as to the statement at hand, I think that for sure that it was way wrong in encouraging parishioners to punch their potentially gay children. And I am in no way defending the man. But do you really think labeling such a thing hate speech is going to stop it from happening? No. It’s going to enrage the Christian base to such an extent that it will push back LGBT advancements even further.

      There are already laws against actually hitting your children for any reason, whether they are gay or not. Talking about hitting your children is not the same as hitting your children. I am against child abuse, and I think encouraging child abuse is stupid and morally bankrupt, but I don’t think that anyone gets to tell a preacher what he can and cannot preach from a pulpit, regardless of how disgusting I might find it. It’s like the KKK. Why are they still here? Why are they allowed to assemble, and hold rallies, and talk about how people that aren’t white are less than human? Oh yeah, because of freedom of speech. It cuts both ways, even lets the crazy extremists in, but in the end, it applies to everyone, including us. It gives us a chance to say, “Hey, you are a creepy and stupid person, and just because you have the right to say something doesn’t mean you should. This is why you are wrong.”

      • Can we possibly not have ‘christians’ generalised as one big group please? I’m sick of feeling like i am in some way responsible for these peoples views through that association and being pulled apart inside by both sides of the argument essentially claiming i don’t exist quite a lot of the time. This makes me sad. It may not be the intent of comments but it can damn well feel like it, I can assure you i would both like nothing more than marriage equality/ LGBT rights in general and that i have faith in Jesus Christ. These have never been mutually exclusive and continue not to be. Please don’t make me feel like they should be, I can’t lose either part of me.

      • Heather, don’t you think that the pastor’s comments count as ‘threats’? I’m sure threats can’t be legal. It’s hard to see how advising adults to seriously hurt children can be OK, even under freedom of speech laws.

  17. The quote from that pastor made me feel physically sick. Can’t imagine what it would be like growing up somewhere like that to be honest.

  18. I am aware of religious zealots who preach hate from the pulpit and repression, I have been within their proximity, being that I used to be a devout christian (before I realized I couldn’t lie to myself any longer). But, nonetheless what the pastor of that baptist church preaches from the pulpit is, in light words, degrading and backwards, completely the opposite of what Jesus taught.

    “also to physically abuse their children if they appear to be gay or gender nonconforming:

    ‘Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok? You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male. And when your daughter starts acting too Butch you rein her in. And you say, “Oh, no, sweetheart. You can play sports. Play them to the glory of God. But sometimes you are going to act like a girl and walk like a girl and talk like a girl and smell like a girl and that means you are going to be beautiful. You are going to be attractive. You are going to dress yourself up.'”

    To physically abuse and destroy their child’s individuality, to trump their natural desires, wherever they may incline, is to set them up for a life that, honestly, of agony and pain.

  19. On a more positive note, I would just like to share that I have several friends from North Carolina who are straight and are posting a lot of things on facebook encouraging people to vote against this amendment, which makes me very happy! I don’t live in NC anymore, but if I did I would go hug all of them!! :) And vote against this amendment, obviously.

  20. I live in Charlotte, and I’m happy to report I’ve seen a bunch of “Vote Against Amendment One” signs in people’s yards. I think the smaller towns are where we need to worry, but hopefully the larger cities will cancel out the smaller towns’ votes. What frustrates me is that I don’t feel like there’s enough coverage on WHAT this amendment is about–I had to Google it to even understand what it encompasses.

  21. I’m from NC, and this amendment is truly appalling to me. For instance, I got an email from my mother, forwarded from the church, to come pray that the amendment passes in exchange for a free bagel. It’s more common that you’d like to think. It also majorly sucks. The Raleigh/Durham area is a great place to live- while a lot of NC is just rednecks, it also has UNC, Duke, Wake Forest, ect. as well as some of the best Special Education programs in the nation. As someone seeking higher education and hopefully one day a job teaching early special education, it really really sucks that it’s looking like if I ever want a family I’m going to have to find a new state to live in. And yes- this bill is SO much more than just gay marriage. That’s what’s so upsetting. It will allow domestic violence, and rip children from their parents and take away children’s healthcare. However, people who would usually be against those things, can’t see past the sin of all the gayness and are avidly against the bill, when they don’t truly understand the implications. Or even worse, they think it’s worth the consequences of the bill if it keeps gay marriage away. It’s very hurtful to have everyone I love see who I am as so sinful that beating on your girlfriend is better than me finding love.

  22. Most of the time, I love my state, but right now, I’m so fucking sick of it. That being said, it’s been great to see people connect and unify against this amendment.

  23. I just voted against this yesterday! I went to a very empowering rally at the club cabaret raising awareness for this hateful, discriminating amendment.

  24. I keep kidnapping the “VOTE FOR AMENDMENT 1” signs from the front yard of a nearby house. They keep putting up more and I have a bunch in my room now. It’s an awkward thing to explain to guests.

  25. Im ashamed to live in Nc…they’ve already voted for the ban…It’s in place..but now they’re saying it’s all up to some judge possibly…

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