A Love Letter to LGBTQ Families from NC
This blog post is part of Blogging for LGBT Families Day at the Mombian blog. To participate, click here.
May 8 marked a difficult anniversary for many of us in North Carolina. It was the date one year ago when our fellow North Carolinians voted to enshrine discrimination in our state constitution by passing Amendment One defining marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman.
It was the date when North Carolina became nationally known for intolerance just at a time when the tides of justice were surging forward and bringing marriage equality to so many other states. It was the date when too many of our friends, neighbors, and colleagues felt their families rejected by the state we love so much.
That night I sat and cried as the returns came in, shaking my head in disgust and reaching out to those I love in solidarity and support. I was furious and sad all at once. One year later, I’m still sad and more than a bit angry.
But I want the rest of the country to know that the passage of the amendment is not the whole story. Something much more beautiful happened here, too.
Organizationally, we saw groups building new alliances with non-traditional partners, churches taking stands in support of their LGBTQ neighbors and organizing phone banks in opposition, and businesses voicing their support for LGBTQ rights. Those gains have endured and the movement for equality is stronger.
Individually, we saw people like Jen Jones who literally ran across the state stopping in small towns to have conversations about the impact of this amendment, and folks like Pearl Berlin and Lennie Gerber, a lesbian couple of almost fifty years who shared their story with their communities and with the nation, personalizing this issue and reminding people that their love is not a threat to anyone else’s marriage.
And personally, we saw ourselves and our families change for the better as we stood on the side of justice.
Anyone with kids knows that they are sponges. Even when you think they aren’t paying attention, they are listening and absorbing. And so it happened, after weeks of listening while my husband and I discussed the amendment, that my six-year-old son came to me and asked, “Mama, what are we doing about Amendment One? This is going to hurt our friends, and we need to do something.”
His question hit me hard. I had been thinking a lot about how my husband and I could fight the amendment-donating, phonebanking, etc-but I never thought of it as a family effort. And, yet, here was my son, asking to get involved. It only made sense. He was seeing his friends, other kids that he cared about and adults that he admired, being targeted by something he understood to be wrong. I was proud, but baffled by what we could do as a family.
So I started talking to other moms. In families led by same-sex parents, talk about the amendment was having a profound effect on the children, with some kids even expressing tearful concern that if the amendment passed they wouldn’t be a family any more. For other allied families like ours, there was a deep desire to show their kids what it meant to stand up for justice and stand with their friends.
So, two weeks later, a crowd of very diverse women gathered around my kitchen table and emerged with the “Love Wins” dance party, a public love letter to all the families who were feeling attacked in this debate and a family-friendly way to raise money for the fight.
We planned for months and right around Valentine’s Day threw two sold-out parties celebrating love. Families and couples of all different types flooded in to dance and celebrate love in the face of hate. LGBTQ, allied, multi-racial, foster, and grandparent-led families -- some of whom had driven hours to join us -- danced the night away. For one night, we were able to escape the mean-spirited dialogue that had come to dominate the public discussion and focus on the love bringing these families together in the first place. One older couple who drove in from a rural county to join us came up and hugged me saying this was the first time in years that they had felt comfortable dancing together in public.
That night we held a photo booth to create a video from our families to share with our communities leading up to the vote. The powerful video that emerged can be seen here:
From the wedding cake and public vows to fight the amendment to the flash mob, it was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of and the feeling of that night will stay with me as we continue to work for equality here in North Carolina and in our country.
And it made a difference. Not just to the families affected by Amendment One, but to my family as well. My son was reminded to stand up for what he knows is right and that even kids can have big, powerful ideas. And his four-year-old sister internalized the idea that families come in all different types and that is good. How do I know? We spent rest of the week recreating the dance with her dolls, and she created every kind of family you can imagine.
Kids, and all of us really, learn by example. When you see and show love, you can’t help but be better for it. While we may have lost on Amendment One now, we are better for the fight and I have faith that one day North Carolina will, too, join the states on the right side of history.