The edges of the shadowy cloth started to edge its way over the state on Monday, Sept. 12, 2011. On this day, the N.C. House of Representatives voted 75-42, with point-person N.C. Rep. Paul Stam encouraging this vote to amend the constitution of the state, dictating that marriage between one man and one woman be the only domestic legal union recognized in the state.
This amendment, if passed, would not only affect lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) people, but straight couples who choose not to marry.
All North Carolinians would feel the gravity of this veil if this amendment were to pass. The amendment is oppressive of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation. The following day the N.C. Senate, fulfilling the long-held dream of state Sen. Jim Forrester, finished the necessary work, guaranteeing that the amendment would be on the ballot before state voters in May 2012. The Senate vote was 30-16.
On that very day, my partner and I were among the hundreds who rallied against this amendment while the N.C. Senate quietly voted.
Ironically, there was a story in the News & Observer that ran that day about local senior couples who are choosing not to get married but be in significant domestic partnerships, in which their benefit plans will not be hurt.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney and Mrs. Cheney voiced support for marriage equality on ABC television's "The View" on the day the N.C. Senate voted against marriage equality, showing how out of step N.C. Republicans are with the rest of their party nationally. And U.S. Sen. Richard Burr voted for the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" only a few months earlier, making it possible for out-LGBTQ people to serve their country openly in the U.S. military.
Never mind what progress is being made outside the state for equality for and among all. These legislators wanted to be sure that North Carolina would be ready when 1959 rolled around again. I got my rotary phone out for that day.
The corrosive effects of this veil are already being felt not only across the state but locally as well. After all, it is not like we were living in a state of equality in North Carolina before this.
The federal and statewide Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) guaranteed that my partner and I could not legally wed in this state.
If we were married in another state or country, our marriage or civil union would not be recognized.
We are second-class citizens, even though we pay taxes, are conscientious workers, vote, participate in civic life and communities of faith, and, like all gays, renovated our home and surroundings, raising the value of homes around us.
Being second-class citizens, my partner and I, along with our children, are already treated as lesser-thans in Chapel Hill-Carrboro.
Some friends of my daughter were not allowed to sleep over in our house because some parents were leery of their daughters staying in a home with two gay men, but they were allowed to go on sleepovers in her mom's house. And my son was teased and bullied by other boys at Carrboro High for having an openly gay dad.
If it passes, this constitutional amendment will further solidify the suffocating oppression LGBTQ people feel in this state daily, infecting our relationships with others in our families, among our friends, at work, in faith communities, in our businesses, and in civic and public life daily.
As other states quickly move towards equality, from coast to coast, many of us will leave North Carolina.
For our own health and well-being, if the veil descends fully and engulfs the land and the people, families like ours will no longer be "goin' to Carolina in our mind" (with apologies to James Taylor).
Carry on, for we will be gone, as will countless others, leaving the state poorer economically, educationally, culturally and in spirit.