Progress for gay rights

Jun. 27, 2014 @ 05:17 PM

The dominoes have begun to fall in the fight for equality for people who are gay. In the past year alone, there has been tremendous progress, largely through the courts.

On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down portions of the Defense of Marriage Act, ruling that married same-sex couples should be entitled to federal benefits.
By also declining to decide a case from California, the court effectively allowed same-sex marriages there.
On Wednesday, a federal appeals court struck down Utah’s ban on gay marriage. Utah could take the intermediary step of appealing to the full 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or it could seek a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. Whether it’s the Utah case or one of the other cases percolating in more than half the nation’s states, it seems certain that the issue is destined to be decided by the nation’s highest court.
There also has been movement on the legislative front, including in North Carolina, where the state House on Thursday unanimously supported banning charter schools from discriminating against applicants based on federally protected category or their sexual orientation. That’s progress in the state that in 2012 overwhelming passed Amendment One, which makes it unconstitutional under the state Constitution to recognize gay marriage.
It is likely, though, that the laws of the land will change before the minds and attitudes of people.
While there continues to be a shift toward acceptance, it has often come at a price. Leonard Pitts’ column on this page today addresses that very issue.
Closer to home, the debate in the N.C. House over the charter school measure illustrated the ignorance and bigotry that remains. Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, wanted “sexual orientation” defined, arguing it could include anything from homosexuality to incest to pedophilia. This is the same lawmaker who said in 2011 that legalizing same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy. Thanks to Rep. Stam, we can safely say that progress isn’t being made in all quarters.
We recognize that Durham and Orange counties are often on different pages than much of the rest of the state politically. But in this case, we hope our state leaders recognize that Durham and Orange are on the same page as much of the rest of the nation.
The minds and attitudes are changing. The dominoes are falling. North Carolina needs to be positioned to be part of the sea change taking place instead of becoming entrenched in attitudes that are antiquated and repugnant.