Why does my neighbor get a say over who is eligible to be my valid life partner?

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Photo by Aly Windsor.

Aly Windsor contributes to Offbeat Mama from time to time — reader faves include Parenting outside the gender binary and Parenting without gender expectations means accepting all outcomes. She and her partner, Elroi, live in North Carolina with their two sons. North Carolina is getting ready to vote on whether or not Aly and Elroi’s marriage, and the marriages of so many other people, are valid.

Aly’s addressed the idea that on May 8 anyone who lives in North Carolina is going to have a say about whether or not her marriage, and by extension her family, is legitimate today on her blog:

My partner and I have been together for seven years. We have two kids, and moved to North Carolina from Georgia last year after my partner finished a doctorate degree and was offered a professor position at a local college. Even though we left good friends and a comfortable-for-our-family social climate behind in Atlanta, we were so thrilled to leave the big city for beautiful North Carolina where the majority of my extended family lives. We’re now an hour and a half away by car from my mom and aunt whom our boys adore. We love being able to take a Sunday drive to see them, and do it often. Having nearer-by, reliably loving babysitters is another added perk. You can imagine our dismay then, when only a month after we moved here, the North Carolina legislature voted to put Amendment One on the spring 2012 primary ballot.

No matter how hard I squint, I cannot figure out what’s so threatening about this little life of ours. I believe in compassion and accepting people different from me so I have spent a lot of mental energy puzzling over the motivations of people who would vote to invalidate our family. I understand those who object to us mainly do so on the basis of their religious beliefs. I affirm that these people are entitled to their religious beliefs but I do not understand why my fellow citizens’ religious beliefs dictate how our government classifies my marriage and family. Why does my neighbor get a say over who is eligible to be my valid life partner? Why do other people get to vote at all on my access to the same legal rights and privileges they’re free to enjoy without a referendum?

If you’re a North Carolina voter, I want you to know that when you vote on this issue, real people and sweet families will be on the receiving end of the button you push. My family will be glued to the TV screen on May 8th, anxiously watching the voting numbers roll in. At the end of the day, or when the tipping point is reached, we will either be crushed or buoyed by your choice. Choosing to not vote is as good as voting for the amendment.

This is a strong piece of work — and one I definitely suggest you read in its entirety.

Comments on Why does my neighbor get a say over who is eligible to be my valid life partner?

  1. I believe our country needs something in place where we can choose a next of kin. That way it has mothing do to with “marriage”. Any two people can be in this arrangement. Bachelor brothers, cousins, lovers, mother and daughter. etc.

  2. I really hope the end of May 8th brings some hope and happiness to their family, and many others. It’s distressing to think that people are being asked to take away basic rights from others.

  3. I live in NC and it makes me SO ANGRY this is even on the ballot. You know it’s a cruddy initiative when even Republican politicians in the state are speaking out against it!

  4. It’s for families like this one that I am heading to the polls May 8th and voting against this amendment. Even though the entire rest of my “family” (only through blood–different discussion for a different day) is for the amendment, it’s because some people can’t see past their own noses.

    In my family alone, I’ve seen “one man and one woman” destroy the sanctity of marriage over 6 times. Yeah, so they are doing such a bang-up job with that. Not! Just know that there are people who live here who do NOT agree with this amendment and will be making their votes heard.

  5. I’ll make sure to let my brother and his wife (NC residents) know about this issue so that they can vote against this amendment. My hope is that open hearts and open minds prevail on May 8 so that your family can be recognized for what it is, a loving family.

  6. I live in NC. I’m gay. This amendment is ridiculous for a variety of reasons, one of which is that there’s already a law banning gay marriage. Republican lawmakers spent our tax dollars arguing to make sure this also got written into our state constitution. Because apparently they like to be ridiculous and cruel.

    The other thing about this amendment is that the wording of it is untried. It will likely extend to straight people in domestic partnerships and strip many children from being covered by their step-parent or non-biological parent’s health insurance.

    It’s an example of the religious right being cruel for no reason.

    • I`m sorry, I`m european and I don`t quite understand, if this law, or amendment goes through, will it work retrospective? I mean, would it have any effect on my family, if I was already married? I`m gay offcourse ;D

      • It would only effect you if you chose to live or work in any of the states with these amendments. They would not recognize your marriage (but then, neither would our federal government, either).

  7. It makes me so mad that the government thinks they have the right to tell people if they can be married or not. 🙁 I hope for all the best outcomes for your family!

    • Okay, I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate here. The government defines “marriage” because marriage is currently a civil, legal matter in addition to the social and emotional constructs. Two people are declared a new legal family and given certain legal rights and responsibilities that stem from society’s view that, since you now operate as a single unit, the law should treat you as such. When you get married, you basically tell the government “this person is my new #1, so if I’m brain dead, she/he gets to decide to pull the plug rather than my parents”.

      It’s in the government’s (and frankly, society’s) interest to limit who these rights and responsibilities go to, which is why there’s restrictions on minors signing up for marriage. That’s why the government also banned polygamy when the Mormons were practicing it: in religious fundamental and/or backwards societies, polygamy is a way to reward powerful men and keep women on par with cattle, setting up inherently abusive “family” situations. It was bad for most of the people involved, which is why the government, in an effort to protect those people, banned it.

      Now, when government (and the citizens voting for it) get involved with civil affairs, you can get the tyranny of the majority and the legal oppression of minorities. The good news is that as society evolves, that oppression becomes less and less acceptable. Which is why gay marriage will be legalized eventually. Opponents, possibly seeing the writing on the wall, are currently fighting it with everything they have, but they WILL lose.

      • While I agree with most of your comment, many Mormons do NOT agree with polygamy and those who are found to be polygamist are often excommunicated. Most Americans believe that the majority of Mormons practice polygamy, and it’s an outdated idea that needs to be clarified.

        On the other hand, some people practice polygamy and polyamory. When two or more adults consent, there’s no reason to say it is wrong or amoral. Again, ONLY when the adults involved give their consent. In the 1800s, when women were basically property, I can see why laws would need to be in place to protect women from a life little better than slavery. These laws need to change, and need to allow consenting adults to do what they want with whoever they love.

  8. I am a NC voter, a christian and I am against this and the wording is so narrow it excludes many types of families and it is sad. It reads:
    Constitutional amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.

    I will vote against this and I hope many others will ban together and do the same.

    I believe you should love your neighbor as you love yourself; I would want my family to be recognized and safe guarded. I would want my children to have health insurance and I would want the same rights as anyone else. I think that is the right thing to do and hopefully the rest of NC will feel the same way at the polls.

  9. This is so sad. Anytime I hear this is a state issue I get sadder. You shouldn’t be aloud to vote on other peoples rights! I hate when this is compared to civil rights of black Americans (ahem Chris Christie) in that it’s been said that people should have been aloud to vote on those as well. NO! This is not right! You shouldn’t be aloud to have a deciding vote on whether another couples union is legitimate, although if this were true I’d ban a couple relatives that have been working on making a mockery out of marriage for some time now.

  10. This hate-legislation is not only aimed at tearing apart loving homosexual partnerships and families, but also non-traditional pairings, such as domestic partnerships. If anyone you know and love lives in NC, please urge them to vote against this amendment on May 8, even if they have never voted before.

  11. Another NC resident here… This amendment is powered by hate, nothing else. There is absolutely no reason for it, since as others have mentioned, gay marriage is already illegal here (barf). When Republicans* took over both houses in the State Assembly in 2010, they claimed they were going to be bipartisan. Instead, on the taxpayers’ dollars (which they are supposedly so concerned about!), they pushed through a panoply of Tea Party-fueled legislation like they were going over some checklist. (Actually, I think they were…) There is no consensus among state surveys regarding where the voters stand on this amendment, so it’s hard to say which way it will fall. There is a pretty active “Vote Against” movement, but I live in a more progressive area… Anyway, long story short, this thing is rotten to the core, and we need to stop it! How is government-sanctioned discrimination ever a good thing?

    *No offense to Republicans! I have no problem with Republicans–just liars and hatemongers…

  12. wow…..ive always been for equal rights and gay marriage, but ive never been SO struck but how absoloutly important this is and how stupid it is that anyone is fighting over this when i read the part that said: ‘No matter how hard I squint, I cannot figure out what’s so threatening about this little life of ours”


  13. I’ve been following the issue of marriage equality since I was a freshman in college, partly because I went the school in Vermont, and partly because I was a nanny for two amazing kids (now in their teens) and their two wonderful mothers. Its heart renching to see what this country is doing to families who are commited to being a cohesive unit. I have simply never understood what a parents gender has to do with loving their children, and have always felt that having two parents in a household is always better then one. Shouldn’t we be protecting the children by helping their families, instead of making it harder?

  14. I just wanted to come back to this post, because the other week I saw on the news NC had their vote, and I wanted to just say I feel deeply about being able to love whoever you love, and be together in marriage, no matter if you’re marrying the same sex, or the opposite. It’s unfortunate to say the least that we are forced to see these decisions made by people who just cannot understand. I love your story, and I hope someday this can change.

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