"Build a great big, large fence - 50 or 100 miles long - and put all the lesbians in there, fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals, and have that fence electrified so they can't get out. Feed them. And you know in a few years, they'll die out. You know why? They can't reproduce."
These words were spoken from the pulpit by Charles Worley, a preacher in the town of Maiden, NC this past Mother's Day. This sermon was given after the citizens of North Carolina voted to approved Amendment 1 which dictates marriage is only between one man and one woman. Now, this type of amendment is nothing new and has been passed by a number of other states, but what makes this one a little more hateful is it also disallows civil unions and domestic partnerships of all kinds, gay or straight, while terminating those already in existence.
During the weeks leading up to the vote on Amendment 1, a number of disgusting things were preached from the pulpits of many North Carolina churches. However, this quote was the worst. Calling for the internment until death of all LGBT people is effectively capital punishment. This statement comes from a man supposedly preaching God's love for all people. Of course this statement raised tremendous alarm and outrage.
The organization, Catawba Valley Citizens Against Hate, decided to plan a protest for the following Sunday to show that the citizens of North Carolina will not stand for such hate speech, especially from within the church. By chance, I was lucky enough to be in North Carolina the weekend of the planned protest, and come Sunday morning, I was driving east on I-40 toward the Newton Governmental Center in Newton, NC.
I did not know what to expect. North Carolina isn't exactly known as a hotspot of LGBT activity. I have been vacationing there since I was born and have always loved it there, however, I have never viewed it as being all that accepting of LGBT individuals. Perhaps that is a short sided observation as I have mostly only spent time in the western part of the state.
This was only the second protest I have been a part of. The first being a protest in Orlando, FL for a stop of the National Organization for Marriage's "Summer of Marriage" tour. They were driving up and down the east coast of the United States and holding rallies to encourage people to support "traditional marriage," that of a man and woman only. I drove up from Fort Lauderdale and recruited some friends of mine who lived in Orlando to join me. We made signs and stood in front of the Church where they held their rally within. There was probably over a hundred people protesting in support of marriage equality, and at most about two dozen people who attended NOM’s program. It was a very moving, emotional experience for me and really motivated me to get more involved in the fight for equal rights.
When I arrived in Newton, I found a very well organized group of people directing me where to park, where to find restrooms and water, and where I could and could not protest. To say the least I was impressed. Catawba Valley Citizens Against Hate is to be commended for their ability to pull off such a large, smoothly run protest on such a short time frame. Due to the fact I was traveling and did not have the time or ability, I did not have a sign to hold, but I figured just being there to show my support was doing far more than merely watching a news report of the event. I also had my camera and figured I could document my experience to share it with the people who could not make it.
The protest was planned from 11a-2p, and I was there for all three hours. I am not good at estimating crowd numbers, but I know there was a far larger turn out then I expected. The other thing I noticed was the large number of straight allies who were there showing their support for the LGBT community. This was a very moving thing to see. I even saw, on more then one occasion, straight allies going toe to toe with members of differing church organizations who were trying to use the Bible to support their opposition to equality. I saw many families, both straight and gay, all showing their love, support, and acceptance of the LGBT community.
I must say, after attending this rally I have a much different view of the citizens of North Carolina. Sure there are a lot of them who still oppose our equality, but there is a rapidly growing number who fully support us. It gives me hope that someday their discriminatory amendment will be removed from their State Constitution, and protests such as this one will be a thing of the past.
Just by doing something as simple as standing along the street holding a sign in support of gay rights, you can make a difference. The more we put ourselves out there and let our friends and neighbors know who we are, the closer we will come to truly being equal. If we all came out, there is not a person on earth who would not have a loved one or a very close friend who is LGBT. Once people have a close relationship with someone who is LGBT it becomes near impossible for that person to continue with their narrow minded bigotry. The more events like this I am a part of, the more and more I am a firm believer in that message.