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It’s frequently the case with last-ditch efforts in politics that the groups or individuals trying to stave off the final chapter in an inevitable drama — the classic example would be the last days of a corrupt regime like, say, Richard Nixon’s — are forced to turn to a rather motley cast characters for support. Think about it: when the handwriting is on the wall and there’s dirty work to be done in order to cling to power or to fan the dying embers of a discredited belief system, one can usually expect some troubled (and troubling) souls to emerge looking for their brief 15 minutes of fame.

And so it is in North Carolina right now with the last-ditch efforts of state House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger to block marriage equality in the face of an irresistible tide of court rulings. Faced with abandonment by responsible mainstream lawyers and advocates, Tillis and Berger have scraped the bottom of the barrel by turning to the rabidly anti-gay haters at a group that calls itself the National Organization for Marriage.

As the good people at the Human Rights Campaign explain here, NOM is an ironically-named outfit whose real goal is to marginalize LGBT people throughout modern society. Moreover, John Eastman, the NOM lawyer who slithered into handle the dirty job is a champion hater. This is from a Human Rights Campaign profile:

Eastman has a history of speaking out against homosexuality, and not just marriage equality. Back in 2003, Eastman pushed a very anti-LGBT/pro-”ex-gay” column penned by noted extremist Scott Lively (Google “Scott Lively” and “Uganda” and prepare to be mind-blown). In 2000, Eastman positioned homosexuality as, along with abortion, one of the twentieth centuries’ “twin relics of barbarism.” In that same year, he referred to gay-straight alliances as “incubators of moral relativism.”  He also defended the Boy Scouts’ gay-exclusionary practices in court, applauding the organization for standing against the “currently fashionable view that homosexual conduct is just another legitimate lifestyle choice.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has more on this scurrilous group and some of the people behind it here.

Commentary

In case you missed it, this Charlotte Observer editorial puts things very succinctly and accurately when it comes to the narrow-minded, wasteful and just plain pigheaded stances of North Carolina’s House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem on the inevitable and impending  legalization of same-sex marriage in North Carolina:

Write the check, Mr. Tillis.

If you want to continue North Carolina’s defense of its same-sex marriage ban, even after the U.S. Supreme Court implicitly rejected it and other bans Monday, have at it. If you want to keep fighting a fight that for all practical and legal purposes has been decided, go for it.

But pay for it.

Don’t spend North Carolina’s money doing so. Don’t waste tax dollars on outside attorneys that N.C. lawmakers have said you can use to intervene “on behalf of the General Assembly” in legal challenges of state laws.

That’s apparently what you’re planning, given your reaction Monday to the Supreme Court’s decision to let stand lower court rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans. One of those rulings, on a Virginia law, came from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. That decision applies to North Carolina, too.

The editorial concludes this way:

In other words, Mr. Tillis: It’s over. You can disagree with the Supreme Court, but you should follow the lead of your attorney general Roy Cooper, who recognizes the legal futility of fighting. Better yet, look to your governor, Pat McCrory, who told reporters Monday that while he didn’t like the justices’ decision, he believes he must respect it.

Any other course is a waste of time. It’s an irresponsible use of state resources. It’s a cynical play for conservative votes in your U.S. Senate race. It’s one last slap at homosexuals in North Carolina.

It’s not, however, something that N.C. taxpayers should sponsor. If you want to keep up the battle, feel free. But write the check yourself. Or maybe your campaign can pick up the tab.

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Lennie and Pearl

Lennie Gerber and Pearl Berlin — Photo credit: ACLU of North Carolina

Michael Biesecker of AP has a wonderfully heartwarming story this morning that’s available in several news outlets about one of the couples leading the legal fight for marriage equality in North Carolina. Pearl Berlin and Lennie Gerber have been together for 48 years and the notion that they might taste victory in the near future as Pearl battles health problems is a very cheering notion.

(As an aside, it should also be pointed out that, in addition to being a plaintiff in the legal challenge to North Carolina’s marriage discrimination amendment, Gerber (on the left) was once one of North Carolina’s finest consumer rights attorneys — she managed the Winston-Salem legal aid office for years and helped save countless people of modest income from various financial predators.)

All that said, it should also be noted that when marriage equality does come, the fight for justice will be far from over. As a our panelists eloquently explained at last week’s Crucial Conversation luncheon on the subject (watch the video here), LGBT North Carolinians can still be summarily fired by their employers because of who they are.  In other words, if same sex couples get the chance to be married in the near future, many will still have to remain in the closet for fear that placing their wedding photo on their desk at work will still get them fired.

And rest assured, even if the courts soon order marriage equality, Paul Stam and the other theocrats in the General Assembly will be doing their utmost to prevent passage of a law banning discrimination in the workplace and/or public accommodations. In other words, there’s a heck of a lot of work still to do.

 

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Gay marriage 3It’s been less than two years since North Carolina officially enshrined discrimination in its constitution by passing the execrable Amendment One. Now, less than 24 months later, just as Speaker Thom Tillis famously/infamously predicted, the law seems fast on its way to obsolescence and, ultimately, the dustbin of history.

Yesterday, lawyers with the ACLU of North Carolina asked a federal court to block enforcement of the law on behalf of three same-sex couples seeking recognition of their marriages – a result that developments in other states makes increasingly plausible.

Now, today, new polling shows that a sizable majority of North Carolinians opposes the substance of the discrimination amendment. According to one of the nation’s most accurate polling shops, Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling, not only do 40% of voters (62% of young voters) favor total marriage equality, but:

“There is increasingly little division among voters in the state about whether gay couples should at least have some sort of legal rights in the form of civil unions. 62% support either marriage or civil unions for same sex couples to only 34% who think they should have no legal recognition at all. 68% of both Democrats and independents support at least civil unions, and even Republicans narrowly do by a 50/48 spread.”

The discrimination amendment, of course, bars even civil unions for same-sex couples. All in all, it’s hard to see how the amendment survives the decade — and maybe even the year. Stay tuned.

Yield: Love conquers everything; let us too, yield to love

This is the final piece in a series of videos by Mimi Schiffman on North Carolina’s Amendment One:

“You know, everybody says it’s just a word, but there’s more to it. There’s a feeling of belonging,” said Jeff Enochs of Charlotte, N.C. “I wanted my state to recognize that we are going to spend the rest of our lives together.”

Watch Jeff and his partner Brian Helms travel to Washington, D.C., the closest place they can legally marry.

The wedding is set to take place just weeks in advance of North Carolina’s primary, in which voters will decide whether to amend the constitution to read: “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”

Production: Mimi Schiffman
Music: Phil Cook & His Feat
Additional Camera: Ben Berry

Mimi Schiffman is a photographer, videographer and multimedia producer pursuing a master’s degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This work is a part of a documentary project she is producing on marriage equality for her thesis. The work is being released in the lead-up to the 2012 North Carolina primaries on May 8, 2012, where voters are asked to decide on a constitutional amendment which could render many established same-gender couples and their families legal strangers in the eyes of the law.

Mimi’s work is being posted on Huffington Post.