Dear Mr. Governor,
In the past, I’ve suggested ways to stay out of controversy. This time, I’m suggesting you invite controversy, but in a good way, particularly if you take the long view.
Come out in favor of the repeal of the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. This could be your Branch Rickey moment.
That’s right. But before you call me a crazy, hear me out.
We — you and everyone else — have seen the courts shred state laws and amendments that prohibit same-sex marriage. This week, it was Texas — TEXAS! And when I say shred, I mean shred, in six states so far. And of course there is Arizona, which became the poster state for discrimination (and ignorance) when it tried to pass a law allowing businesses to discriminate against gay people. It has done nothing except to show people the lengths that power and money will go to be unfair to fellow citizens.
Why would you want to stand on that side of the line? You know that North Carolina’s time in court is coming. You know the polls of North Carolinians show that nearly 60% of people support legal recognition of same-sex couples.
And you certainly know that sooner or later, North Carolina, if not the nation, is going to recognize same-sex marriage. If not now, certainly when the Millennials get the power and nudge us old farts out.
I suspect you’ve heard about the protests by some students at Duke about living in a dorm named after a governor who supported racist policies. Same thing happened with a school in Greensboro. I bring that up because I know you don’t want your grandchildren to look back on your time as governor and wonder how you could have allowed the state to treat gay people as second-class citizens.
It’s not right, and I have faith that you know it’s not right. That’s why you scarcely talked about it in the campaign. You supported it because you wanted to get elected.
So, here we are. Now, you’re thinking, OK, but it’s bad politics. The people have spoken. Yes, some of them have. But here is why it’s good politics to call for the repeal of the amendment.
First, it puts you on the right side of history. You would be able to stand tall and say you are doing the right thing for all of the state’s citizens. Voters like courage in their politicians. We don’t see that often. That right there would win you a lot of votes.
Second, it shows you have the backbone to stand up to your own party. Yes, I know you say that you do, but the evidence just isn’t there. This will set you apart from politicians on both sides of the aisle. Show that you’re your own man.
Third, it moves you toward the center. Not to the center — that would be too much for the GOP to take — but a step closer to the center. That would remind all the Independents and Democrats who voted for you why they did — that your service as mayor of Charlotte indicated you would be a moderate. Your work with the legislature didn’t show many of us that, but you have time before 2016 to pull us back.
Fourth, it’s not personal, it’s business. The backlash in Arizona shows what business and chambers of commerce think of discrimination. You’re about jobs — the state’s amendment against same-sex marriage is not getting us any jobs, and it could be costing us jobs.
Fifth, it positions you well for your next elected office. I know you’re not talking about that, but I’m betting you’ve thought of it. The Senate or the vice presidency. Maybe even president? I know that FoxNews and your advisers would tell you I am wrong, but America is not going to elect anyone who is staunchly against same-sex unions. Look at the polls. And the support for same-sex unions is only going to increase as young people grow older.
Sixth, you’ll lose some votes, but not that many. Who are the Democrats going to put up against you? There are no strong candidates out there. Hardline conservatives will have no choice but to vote for you. Will you get challenged on the right? Possibly, but it won’t be a substantive challenge.
Seventh — and this is the cynical view, but we are talking politics, right? Ultimately, this isn’t your call. Both houses in the legislature have to call for its repeal and put it on the ballot. Chances of the conservatives in the House and the Senate doing that are slim. So, in a sense, you can have your cake and eat it, too. The General Assembly can be the people who favor discrimination, not you.
Eight, it takes the attention away from the Duke Energy coal ash spill.
When I suggested this on Facebook, people mocked me. But I think you’re smart. I think you can read the tea leaves.
Do the right thing and get on the right side of history.
A Democrat who voted for you