Same-sex marriage may be legal in the state of North Carolina, but it’s not on the Qualla Boundary, according to a resolution recently passed by Cherokee Tribal Council.
Though tribal code already defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, the newly adopted resolution further specifies that the “licensing and solemnizing” of same-sex marriage cannot happen on tribal land.
As predicted, North Carolina voters ushered in a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions in Tuesday’s primary election, joining a flood of states to pass constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage in recent years. Missouri was the first in 2004. This week, North Carolina became the 35th state to do so.
Statewide, the ban was passed by a 61-39 percent margin. The margin was slightly higher in Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain, with 70-30 percent margin.
Turnout was higher than normal for a primary election, driven in large part by Amendment One. Many voters showed up uninterested in voting for anything but that. In primaries, voters have to pick either a Democratic or Republican ballot when voting. Precinct workers reported many voters coming into the polls, when asked which party ballot they wanted to cast, simply answered “whichever ballot has marriage amendment on it.”
Religious beliefs clearly played a major role in those who voted for the ban on same-sex marriage.
Carlene James of Canton said her pastor at Center Pigeon Baptist Church has preached about it for the past two Sundays. And like so many churches all over the state, the signboard out front has been dedicated to the message “vote for the marriage amendment.”
“I think marriage is for one man and one woman, not two men or two women,” James said as she was leaving the polls Tuesday.
As the election results show, the idea of gay marriage is a concept that society as a whole has not accepted.
“I think that is the way it should be,” Richard Meyer, 28, of Sylva, said of his vote in favor of the ban.
Denise Gibson of Lake Junaluska fears same-sex marriage goes against God.
“I feel like history tends to repeat itself. In the Bible, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of gay marriage and I am worried we are heading that way,” Gibson said after voting in Waynesville Tuesday.
But, Francine Popular of Waynesville, a Roman Catholic, said she believe God loves everyone. Religion aside, she questioned the role of government in dictating people’s personal relationships.
“People say we don’t want the government in our lives, so why do we want the government to control people’s marriages — who they love and who they don’t?” Popular asked.
The live-and-let-live viewpoint was shared by many who voted against the amendment.
“If two people love each other and they want to start a family, who am I to stand in their way?” Korey Ramsey, 41, said on his way out of the polls in Sylva Tuesday.
Some who voted against the constitutional amendment out of fear it would have implications beyond gay couples and sends the wrong message about the state.
“It is really black and white, but we don’t live in a black and white world,” said Lauren Bishop of Waynesville on her way out of the polls Tuesday. “I think it would be more harmful than helpful, especially bringing businesses into the area.”
Reporter Caitlin Bowling contributed to this story.
A student club at Western Carolina University is defending its decision to pair a drag show featuring “kings” and “queens” from across the state with a get-out-the-vote drive aimed at defeating a proposed state constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages.
“We could open up a shelter for puppies and those who hate us would still hate us; that’s no matter what we do, drag show or no drag show,” said Katlyn Williams, 19, a WCU student from Andrews.
The drag show is an exclamation point on a day filled with educational events about Amendment One. Gay-marriage supporters believe an anti-gay marriage amendment would constitutionalize state-abetted discrimination in North Carolina.
This is not the first drag show at WCU. A drag show held last April at the University Center at WCU attracted upwards of 450 spectators, according to members of the student group UNITY!
“We have not in the past few years had any issues with the community at any of our events,” said club leader Zachery Reedy, 22, a former WCU student from Chicago. Reedy isn’t enrolled this semester. He said that he plans to return to classes at the university to complete a degree.
UNITY! members described the drag shows at the University Center as popular among homosexuals and heterosexuals alike. Audience members, they said, are from both on and off campus.
The shows feature men and women dressed as members of the opposite sex, usually with exaggerated personas, who dance, sing or lip-synch to music. Drag shows are becoming ever-more mainstream with the advent of performers such as RuPaul and the mind-bending, drag-queen imitating Lady Gaga.
But, drag shows historically have been a source of vehement disagreement within the gay and lesbian community. Some gays and lesbians believe the high energy, campy shows fuel stereotypes and further alienate many “straight” people from serious efforts to ensure equality for all. Drag show critics say that queens in particular underscore harmful stereotypes of women — similar to what blackface performances by white entertainers did to demean African Americans.
UNITY! club members reject that argument.
“The reason for the drag show is as an incentive to vote,” Reedy said. “Our goal for this day alone is to register 500 people to vote.”
Reedy and other UNITY! members said they do not believe coupling the drag show with the get-out-the-vote effort trivializes or dilutes the political importance of the event. Nor do they believe it might alienate more mainstream “straight” voters who are undecided about whether to vote against the same-sex marriage ban.
The event, coupled with educational efforts, “is a good opportunity to get all people to vote,” said Megan Bailey, 19, who is from Florida but more recently lived in Wilkesboro.
Bailey is leading the voter-registration portion of WCU’s “Race to the Ballot.”
UNITY! faculty advisor Laura Cruz supported students’ decision to hold a drag show in conjunction with a get-out-the-vote rally. She said her role with the group is to guide, not dictate.
“It is a student organization run for and by students,” said Cruz, who made her way to Western North Carolina from San Francisco. “If I think they are going in a wrong direction, I can steer them another way.”
In this case, however, Cruz said she didn’t perceive the decision to hold a drag show as troublesome. Though, she noted, “there is some controversy within the gay community itself about the meaning of drag.”
But UNITY! sponsors drag shows “all the time” at WCU, said Cruz, who is an associate professor of history. The events lined up for Jan. 27 met the club criteria “for support, social events and advocacy.”
Although the University Center is a building owned and managed by the university, its purpose is to serve as a venue for students.
Sam Miller, WCU vice chancellor for student affairs, said that he believes the get-out-the-vote event, coupled with a drag show, is an appropriate on-campus activity.
“I think the job of a public university is to provide both the intellectual framework for students to explore and learn, as well as the physical venues to do so,” Miller wrote in an email interview. “Learning happens in many surprising ways outside the classroom experience. It takes leadership, knowledge and organizational skills to pull off a successful event. The university has a responsibility to stand behind our students and facilitate their learning in their events and activities, as well as the classroom.”
Miller wrote that the University Center was built to help create and support a “broad range” of student-created programs. The University Center, residence halls and similar on-campus facilities are paid for through student fees, Miller noted.
Zero state or tuition dollars are used to pay for social or entertainment-focused student activities, though state funds are used to help support “unique learning opportunities” such as special lectures or other events created in support of curriculum, Miller wrote.
A few years ago, I received a letter from a reader that I have never forgotten. Upset over the suicide of a former student — who I knew had long agonized over dealing with his homosexuality due to various painful journal entries he had written on his struggles — I had written a fairly angry column denouncing homophobia and challenging the widely held belief that one’s sexual orientation is a “choice.” About a week later, a letter arrived from a gentleman in his 60s, who basically laid out the long, sad story of his own lifelong struggle with being gay.