Openly gay NC legislator: ‘We have to continue to fight’

By David Ferguson
Wednesday, May 9, 2012 13:53 EDT
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Rep Marcus Brandon via screen capture
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On the whole, things look pretty bleak for North Carolina’s LGBT citizens today. Yesterday, voters passed Amendment One, an amendment to the state’s constitution banning marriage and civil unions for same sex couples. However, there is one bright spot. In Guilford County, openly gay state legislator Rep. Marcus Brandon (D-Greensboro) won-reelection against a Democratic primary challenger, in a heavily Democratic district, virtually assuring his re-election this November.

“I think today we have an overcast sky with a little bright ray of sunshine coming through,” Brandon told Raw Story in a telephone interview. He described the fight of being an openly gay candidate sharing a ballot with an anti-LGBT measure as a challenge, but today said that he “couldn’t be prouder” of his constituents and his campaign team.

Denis Dison of the Victory Fund, a nonprofit group dedicated to electing LGBT candidates to office, said that today is “bittersweet” for North Carolina. In spite of the passage of Amendment One, he said, “The fact that they are still going to have an LGBT voice in the state legislature is cause for hope.”

Brandon campaigned fiercely against the marriage amendment and was able to convince several Democratic legislators to join him, but, Dison said, “Republicans currently control the state legislature. Elections matter.”

Even some Republicans in the state see Amendment One as a throwback law, a temporary measure that will be overturned by the next generation. Republican Speaker of the North Carolina House Thom Tillis (Charlotte) admitted to a group of students last year that same sex marriage is a “generational issue,” and that even if Amendment One passed, “I think it will be repealed within 20 years.”

The Victory Fund’s Dison bristled at such remarks, calling them “kind of gross to hear.”

“There are people who this amendment is going to hurt today,” he said, “to say, ‘We know this won’t be popular for much longer, but we’re going to do it to satisfy our base’ is pretty craven politics.”

Brandon, for his part, takes an historical view of same sex marriage rights, saying that his own parents’ struggles for civil rights as black Americans inform his view of the gay marriage fight.

“My parents made sacrifices and went without so that my generation could have a better life,” he said, adding that “When it’s your personal rights” at stake, “you want it right now,” but that like all struggles for rights, in the fight for marriage rights, it will take time to overcome the status quo and centuries of prejudice.

The state congressman believes that ultimately, same sex marriage rights will be granted by the courts. He said, “The majority shouldn’t be voting on the rights of the minority. If I’d had to wait for white Americans to vote on the rights of black Americans, I’d still be a slave.”

He doesn’t think that it will necessarily take Speaker Tillis’s 20 years for the ban to be overturned. North Carolina’s LGBT community is now united and energized like never before, he said, and will continue to fight for their right to have all the same rights and privileges of citizenship as non-LGBT Americans, but activists should expect the fight to take some time.

“It might not be me,” he said of LGBT North Carolinians having the right to marry, “It might be some kid who’s graduating from high school now. We have to continue to fight for them.”

He concluded, “We fought as hard as we could in North Carolina, but it’s a hard fight to win. Still, we don’t give up, we won’t back down and we’ll continue to fight. And one day, we will win it.”

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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