May 10, 2012The marriage amendment to the North Carolina Constitution passed by an overwhelming margin on Tuesday night, May 8, leaving no doubt that North Carolinians want marriage in the state to be defined as between one man and one woman.
It is unfortunate for the state that the debate over the amendment was so filled with lies, scare tactics and vicious attacks.
Orson Scott Card wrote a compelling column in favor of the amendment last week, and I was shocked by the response. The column was picked up by the Huffington Post and linked to rhinotimes.com. The New York Daily News also wrote about the column and linked to rhinotimes.com. Other websites around the country picked up the story and linked to the column on our website. So the responses we got were by no means limited to North Carolinians, or for that matter even to Americans.
But I have to say that I was stunned by many of the responses, and I didn't see the worst of them. The hatred and the viciousness of the personal attacks were totally out of the realm of civilized discussion. The amendment was and is a political issue. It is matter for debate and discussion and, ultimately, for the people to decide. One of the arguments for putting it on the ballot in the first place was that the people of the state, not the elected officials, should make this decision. We should be able to discuss the pros and cons of the amendment without people being subjected to personal attacks for eloquently stating their opinion.
It is true that it would be foolish for most of us to get in a war of words with Card. He has written more books than many people have read. It would be like getting in a dunking contest with an NBA All Star; you're not going to win.
And of course most of the comments we received were pretty much what you would expect on a hot issue, but the few that went overboard really stand out.
We are no strangers when it comes to verbal attacks. When we printed the controversial Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad, we were inundated with calls and letters that were highly critical of us. But we didn't get the level of vitriol that we received from Card's column.
We also are the only newspaper in the country with a court injunction preventing the Ku Klux Klan from using our paper as a vehicle to spread their hateful, racist propaganda. The injunction was the result of a long court case, and we received plenty of comments from white supremacists who thought what we were doing was awful. They were not complimentary.
But in those instances, which also were national and not limited to responses from our regular readers, I don't remember the level of vicious personal attacks that came from Card's column.
It's easy to see why there were not more yard signs in favor of Amendment One. People didn't want to be attacked for having a political belief different from what is considered acceptable by liberals. It is amazing – so many liberals are all in favor of free speech as long as it is free speech with which they agree.
We had graffiti on the sidewalk in front of our office chiding us in rhyme for being in favor of Amendment One. I will have to say that whoever wrote the poem did it in chalk so it didn't cause any damage, was environmentally friendly and I enjoyed the poem. However, some people don't like things written on the sidewalk in front of their office critical of them, and I think people were genuinely frightened of being identified as being in favor of Amendment One.
The amendment passed even in Greensboro, which is a liberal city, but I remember seeing very few signs in favor of the amendment and a ton against. The city was evenly divided. It couldn't have been much closer, but the sign count was not even close. Which might be a lesson to candidates running for office that signs are not the same as votes.