Monday, April 23, 2012

Good Neighbors

When we lived in West Virginia we were blessed with two wonderful neighbors next door, Donna and Julia.

They rejoiced with us when, after years of waiting, we were finally matched with our daughter, and we toasted in their kitchen.
They welcomed us back from our adoption trip with a big basket of groceries and goodies.

They warned us when a particularly lax babysitter let our toddler get too close to the road.

They were neighbors and friends in the truest sense.

They have a wonderful, loving relationship and have been together for years. I’ve never asked them if they’d like to get married. But like every other couple who love each other, I believe they should have that option.

It is already illegal for same sex couples to marry in North Carolina. But there is a movement to codify that as part of the constitution. In 1875 North Carolina last elected to amend the constitution on marriage.
This is a shameful part of North Carolina's history and one that I hope we will not emmulate 137 years later.

Marriage is already illegal for gay and lesbian couples, who, like the rest of us, just want to have the freedom to be together and raise our families. Amendment One would further hurt those it intends to, as well as countless others
I have listed just a few of the ways Amendment One could harm gay and straight North Carolinians from children to seniors. See where I excertped this information, for more details:
1) A child of an unmarried parent could lose their health care and prescription drug coverage, putting the child’s health at risk.
2) A child could be taken away from a committed parent who has loved them their entire life if something happens to the other parent.
3) It could threaten existing child custody and visitation rights that are designed to protect the best interests of a child.
4) It would prohibit North Carolina from ever recognizing civil unions and domestic partnerships-- legal protections that thousands of North Carolinians rely on.
5) It would interfere with protections for unmarried couples to visit one another in the hospital and to make emergency medical and financial decisions if one partner is incapacitated.
6) Amendment One could take away domestic violence protections for all unmarried women.
7) A single or widowed senior couple could be forced to marry to keep their legal protections, which would cause them to lose benefits such as pensions, health care, and social security.
As a Christian, I'm encouraged that faith leaders across the state have banded together to oppose this movement, which could harm so many. 
Welcome Home, a support and discussion group on LGBT issues sponsored in part by Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church is holding an informational session on Amendment One at First Presbyterian Church (Asheville) Monday, April 23rd at 7:00 p.m.

Donna and Julia don't live in North Carolina, but a lot of other wonderful people who would be adversely impacted by Amendment One call North Carolina home. On May 8th I will have the opportunity to be a good neighbor to all North Carolinians by voting against Amendment One. I hope you will join me. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hospitality Over Hate

On a recent episode of Finding Your Roots, Henry Louis Gates mentioned that free blacks in the 1830’s in New Orleans had to carry papers to prove they were free. While it’s not especially shocking that was the case then, it is shocking to me that 180 years later that is becoming more and more the case for many immigrant—and non-immigrant—Hispanics in certain sectors of our country.  

As an Alabama native who has lived around the country, I have gotten a variety of reactions when talking about my birthplace, most of them negative. Sadly, rather than being known for its Southern hospitality, Alabama holds a special spot of disdain for many who know it only as a place of racial prejudice and hatred. I have felt the need to point out the good in my home state many times, even to other Southerners.

Arizona’s debut of the recent crop of harsh immigration laws shows this is not a uniquely Southern phenomenon. Yet Alabama seems driven to out-do Arizona, with the passage of its own discriminatory law, HB 56, in June of 2011.

As a Christian, I’m pleased to see an ecumenical group of religious leaders speaking out to oppose HB 56, the legal attack on immigrants in Alabama.

The ad, which is being aired in Montgomery in hopes of reaching Alabama’s legislators, features Rev. Steve Jones, a pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Birmingham saying “Under Alabama’s immigration law we could be prosecuted for following God’s call to be good Samaritans. Farmers’ crops are rotting in the field because there aren’t enough workers for the harvest. Teachers are forced to act like immigration agents instead of educators….”

I don’t understand the hatred some Americans seem to have for immigrants, legal or illegal. The hypocrisy of this is amazing since only our Native American brothers and sisters can truly avoid the label immigrant.

And more to the point, how can you claim to cherish American ideals and not have empathy for those who were born in a country without the freedom we cherish, or the opportunity for prosperity that freedom represents? And how can you risk those two cornerstones of American culture by turning your back on others in need?

Hearings are slated to begin on Wednesday for an amendment to the bill (HB 658), and many are concerned that the proposal will make it even more restrictive and discriminatory. My fervent hope is that the leaders of Alabama will take this opportunity to reinstate hospitality over hate, by standing up for the rights of all people.