Why a native North Carolinian African American retired pastor supports same sex marriage

78 years ago, I was born in Greensboro, North Carolina. My birth and my life in North Carolina were circumscribed by the history, culture and legalities of racial segregation. My place of birth, the community in which I lived, the church where I was baptized, the restaurants, stores, movie theaters, parks, barber shops, busses and trains I rode, taxi cabs in which I could ride, all of this and much more were designed or existed because of racial segregation. I left North Carolina to attend seminary in Boston, because I was refused admission to the Methodist seminary of my denomination in North Carolina because it did not admit blacks.

I share all of this as a prelude to my expressing great concern about the ballot initiative in North Carolina that would include in the state Constitution, language that limits marriage to one man and one woman. Thus, denying marriage equality to same sex couples.

First, regardless of any religious or other reservations a resident of North Carolina may have about same sex marriage, the proposal if passed would enshrine in the state Constitution language that violates the concept and practice of equality that we claim is essential to who we are as North Carolinians and Americans. Further, this amendment to the state Constitution would affect heterosexual couples in some instances because of the nature of their partnered relationship. Many remember these words that were spoken many years ago, in a statement that I abbreviate, "When they came for the Jews, the Catholics, the Trade Unionists... I did not speak up because I was not one of them. But, then when they came for me, there was no one left to speak up.” Defeating the proposal is in the interests of all North Carolinians, regardless of their opinions about same sex marriage!

Second, it is obvious that some persons, clergy and others are supporting the "marriage between one man and one woman" proposal because of their deep-seated hatred of persons whom they call, “The homosexuals." This is sadly and sickly portrayed in a video of a North Carolina Baptist Pastor Sean Harris who in his sermon urges parents to engage in child abuse if they have a son who is "effeminate", and displays a "limp wrist", or a daughter who "acts butch". The Pastor later apologized after fair-minded people criticized his suggestions of parental physical violence against their children if they are thought to be gay. But the damage by his words had already been done.

At the time when I was born, there were persons who demeaned and de-humanized blacks and justified violent acts against us, because of their anti-black bigotry and bias. It is hard for me to imagine that any fair minded person, black, white or of any other race, would support an addition to the North Carolina Constitution that would violate the rights of same sex couples in ways comparable to the ways we who are black were once violated.

The long-ago foolishness of prohibitions against interracial marriage is thought today to be unbelievable, particularly by young people. The young people I know feel the same way about the proposed amendment to the North Carolina Constitution. It is my strongest hope that on Tuesday, May 8, North Carolinians will defeat Amendment One and be a voice for the dignity of all persons in all forms of loving relationships.

Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell Retired United Methodist Pastor Asbury Park, New Jersey

Born in Greensboro, attended public schools in Winston-Salem, N.C. and graduated from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University/Greensboro in 1955. Master of Divinity Degree from Boston University School of Theology and a Doctor of Divinity Degree from Dakota Wesleyan University in South Dakota.

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