Op-ed: How Resistance Will Change the South
BY Jasmine Beach-Ferrara
September 09 2013 6:00 AM ET
At left: the Register of Deeds Office in Forsyth County, N.C.
But we can’t be afraid of being denied again and again, just as we can’t be afraid to ask others to stand with us in taking moral — and public — action to recognize the fundamental humanity and dignity of LGBT people.
Our task is to put pressure on laws that are morally broken and thus, ultimately, fragile. When we show up at marriage license counters across the South, we are acting from a lineage of civil rights organizing that focuses on resisting unjust laws in the locus of their enforcement. This grassroots work is a complementary strategy to the legal challenges currently advancing in federal courts.
By directly confronting a discriminatory law, we make visible a reality that LGBT people live with daily and that more people need to understand. In North Carolina, Amendment One bans recognition of any relationship between a same-sex couple. In South Carolina, it is illegal to discuss homosexuality in schools. Such laws can be traced to a spiritually violent theology that teaches that homosexuality is an abomination and LGBT people sinners. This persecuting system exerts continual pressure on those it targets — LGBT people. It puts pressure on us to hide who we truly are, who we truly love, how we truly conduct our lives. It pressures us to hide our joy, our humanity, our vulnerability. It denies us basic freedoms and protections in the most critical spheres of life — family, employment, housing, health care.
Here in the South, the system counts on us not showing up. It counts on us staying closeted. It counts on us waiting silently and for an indeterminate period of time for full equality, as other parts of our nation race toward that horizon.
You live with this system and these laws, even though you know in your heart they’re morally wrong. You endure, even though you know that these laws violate the most fundamental principles of the Constitution. And then one day, you wake up and you just can’t do it anymore.
The laws we seek to change are made by individuals. They are enforced by individuals. And ultimately they will be changed by individuals. That spark of the human spirit that says I will do what I know to be right is one of the most powerful forces that exists. It has changed our nation before. I believe it will do so again.
REV. JASMINE BEACH-FERRARA is a minister in the United Church of Christ and the Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, and a North Carolina native. She has worked on LGBT rights campaigns since 2004 and has published a series of articles in The Democratic Strategist and The Huffington Post about strategy in the LGBT movement. Her first collection of short stories, Damn Love, was published in May.