Had the fish that first slithered up onto dry land to take a deep breath with its transitional lungs been a Southerner, it would have almost certainly looked back with longing at the sea. As I read reactions to North Carolina’s vote on Amendment 1, which declares that Tar Heels shall embrace a draconian intolerance for marital privileges for any unmarried heterosexual couple, I find myself thinking about the sea.
Actually, I have been emailing with friends about our upcoming plans to meet at North Carolina’s Ocracoke Island in less than a week for our annual vacation. This will be my 20th consecutive year traveling to the ferry-accessible bottom of the Outer Banks. We have rented six houses, where we will board three toddlers, five dogs, two senior citizens, some lesbians, a ski instructor, a vegan chef, an Episcopal priest, several gun owners and more than one Republican. We will travel from Virginia, Maryland, New York, Tennessee and Tahoe City, Calif. Not one person in this group would have voted in favor of Amendment 1. Nevertheless, next week, we will all still meet at Ocracoke, where the beach is a national park and the beauty is unparalleled. We will enjoy ourselves and spend a good bit of tourism moneyeven if some of the state, it seems, would prefer we stay away.
I used to wonder why Mildred and Richard Loving felt compelled to go back to the Virginia mountains, where they were felons for their interracial marriage. Why would they leave the enlightened tolerance of Washington, D.C., where they were lawfully married? Maybe it felt possible to leave home and not look back at first. Then children were born and parents grew old. The tolerant laws of a big city are a poor substitute for the mountain air of the Shenandoah Valley, especially while watching your kids play in the creek where you played as a child. The older I get, the more personal life feels.
My son is being raised with two mothers behind a picket fence in an ultra-liberal enclave of ultra-liberal Alexandria, Va. Without meaning to, we have crafted a life devoid of bigotry, at least on the issue of gay civil rights. We do not experience discrimination, not even from our neighbors who attend The Falls Church, the congregation infamous for breaking from the Episcopal Church over the ordination of gay clergy. Sure, only 100 miles separate us from Richmond, where Ken Cuccinelli and Bob McDonnell probably wish we would move to Maryland, but they are the proverbial existential threat, the Iran to my Israel.
But I am not hiding. I do not plan to avoid the state of North Carolina for my vacation, or to move to Maryland. I am at home in Virginia, and my federal tax dollars help pay for the beautiful spit of national seashore in North Carolina where I will sit with my friends next week. To the 61 percent of North Carolina voters who voted to amend their constitution to make sure that my partner and our son are not protected equally under the laws of your state, we will see you next week. Come out from behind your voting booth curtains to see us. Amendment 1 did not make us go away.