Six additional states, because they were included in the districts of the five states where the judges ruled, would be affected by the “non-decision,” which amounted to legalizing same-gender marriage. In one of these states, North Carolina, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate Leader Phil Berger prayed their district court to delay any action on the decision. They requested eight days to prepare and present their case, but they were given only until Friday at noon.
Thursday, before anything was really finalized, a two-story rainbow flag went up on Asheville City Hall. It was hung by members of Asheville Fire and Rescue, some of whom murmured off the record that being gay rights activists hadn’t been part of the job description. Their opinions didn’t reflect the whole of city employees, though. City planner Alan Glines is on the record for referring to the flag flying as “exciting.”
Asheville City Councilman Gordon Smith took credit for coming up with the idea. He told media outlets he had responded to a “query,” and the pun was likely intended. Both he and Mayor Esther Manheimer used the word “momentous” in describing the occasion. They said council had unanimously and informally approved the flying.
AM 570 WWNC afternoon drive host Pete Kaliner was not impressed. He argued what city council does is governed by state statute. Votes must be made in public meetings, and public meetings cannot be convened unless they are advertised in accordance with guidelines. There was no public meeting.
Kaliner considered the hoisting of the flag ironic. It is supposed to symbolize equality, but by flying it on city hall, where nobody else would dare raise a flag, was a special privilege. City hall is public property. It is not a billboard for this or that group, not even if that group constitutes a majority of the population.
Manheimer indicated a majority in Asheville supported gay rights. Kaliner said she had no way to know. Amendment One, strictly defining legal marriage in the state as the union of one man and one woman, passed with 61.2 percent of the vote. It did, however, receive 51.4 percent of the vote in Buncombe County. Kaliner jested he wanted a “Pete’s face” flag on city hall.
The next day, in protest, former City Councilman Dr. Carl Mumpower and his sidekick, former Buncombe County GOP Chair Chad Nesbitt, created a “Christian flag,” and flew it on the square in front of city hall the next day. A handful of people showed up to help carry it. The duo, who unlike most conservatives who go about their lives quietly trying to keep the family fed, have risen to notoriety by launching publicity stunts just as embarrassing as the radical leftism they oppose. This time, they sent out invitations showing a Photoshopped Nazi flag on city hall. The text said when a few take it upon themselves to do as they please, with no regard to the rule of law, they are practicing fascism.
Mumpower accused council of going over the city manager’s head, and he should know. While serving on council he repeatedly received lectures about the city’s organizational charts from his non-plussed peers. Mumpower had taken it upon himself to answer citizens’ complaints about the city’s apparent indifference to persistent drug dealing. He was a media regular for “shining a light on Asheville’s open-air drug market.”
Others upset by the city’s new flag suggested turning the building into a fraternity rock, letting everybody fly their flags and spray-paint whatever they want, desecrating each others’ messages as they go. Members of city council and city staff have indicated they cannot discern the difference between graffiti and art. It would save the cost of investing in a new graffiti wall. Along those lines, Manheimer said the “freedom flag” had been donated and not purchased with tax dollars.
ON MYTHS AND SYMBOLS –
Later that evening, a beautiful double half-rainbow was visible framing the city from West Asheville. Anybody looking For a sign could have taken it as the Almighty showing his love for all children and telling them they did not have to bend the rules. He would provide.
The natural display sent one wondering why the rainbow was selected as the symbol for the movement. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, it is explained in the story of Noah. The entire human race had embraced rampant wickedness. Among other things, people had “lost their natural affection.” Things were so bad, a terrible flood covered the entire planet with only Noah and the animals he took, two by two on the ark, surviving. When the floodwaters finally receded, Noah’s God put a rainbow in the sky as a covenant that he would never destroy the earth again by flood. That, of course, does not rule out Jeremiah’s repetitious prophecies of destruction by “pestilence, famine, and the sword” – the same stuff of which Fox News stories are made these days.
Atheists and humanists mock the ancient story. At the beginning of the gay marriage movement (in this dispensation), when only tolerance and domestic partner benefits were being requested, they reciprocated by presenting city councils with an equally ridiculous-sounding myth about communities thriving and prospering proportionately to the degree they allow same-gender couples to get it on.
AND THE EVENING AND THE MORNING WERE THE FIRST DAY
Friday, people had all about given up on a court ruling that would more decisively decide the matter for North Carolina. In the appeals process were lawsuits against Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger and NC Attorney General Roy Cooper. They were being sued first by the United Church of Christ in Asheville.
The church claimed not allowing their clergy to perform same-gender marriages set them up to be stigmatized by the community and viewed as intolerant, right-wing, and hate-mongering phobes. All Souls Episcopal Church and a number of other clerical leaders acting independently later added their names as plaintiffs.
While listed as the defendant, Reisinger was rooting for the other side. He had from the outset used his office as a platform for gay activism. Almost a year ago, he started accepting same-gender marriage licenses and forwarding them to Cooper, even though they were technically illegal. News of the first such license, prepared for Brenda Clark and Carol McCrory, spread nationwide.
Following that, the Campaign for Southern Equality posted the following on their website. “If you are an LGBT couple who would like to be legally married, we encourage you to apply for a marriage license at the Buncombe County Register of Deeds Office. There are no residency requirements to apply for a license (i.e., you can live in any other NC county or any other state). Here are the steps for applying . . .”
That could explain why the local Republican Party was officially asking Reisinger to step down when campaign season was not even on the horizon. Open letters were written assailing him for thumbing his nose at county rules, declaring a snow day, and posting pictures of himself and friends outside playing while everybody else in the county held down their posts.
Friday afternoon, one might have assumed droves of procrastinating citizens were flocking to the Bill Stanley Building because it was the last day to register to vote. The parking lot was particularly full, and a crowd had assembled on the steps. Two TV camera crews were on location. One girl shrieked with delight as her friend told her, “I just turned in all those registration forms.”
Inside the lobby, which is shared by the offices of the tax collector, election services, and the register of deeds, Reisinger beamed as he mingled. A small group posed for news photos. A small girl, about kindergarten age, held a sign for the camera that read, “Love is winning.” Local celebrities were showing up to be a part of the impending scene.
As the weekend approached, a Chief US District Court Judge William Osteen, Jr. postponed ruling on two same-gender marriage cases affecting the central and eastern part of the state. Presumably he was answering to pressure applied by Republicans in the General Assembly. But within minutes, and just after 5:00, US District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr. declared Amendment One un-Constitutional in his district, which takes in only the western part of the state. After that, Cooper said Cogburn’s decision will apply statewide.
The written decision states, “The issue before this court is neither a political issue nor a moral issue. It is a legal issue . . .”
Reisinger took the initiative to keep his office open late to crank up the marriage mill. Within just two hours, nineteen LGBT couples tied the knot. Reisinger, overcome with joy for long overdue equality, told members of the press he did indeed cry.
Amy Cantrell and Lauren White were the first to take their vows. The Rev. Cantrell has figured in local politics since the house-church she shared with the Rev. Chrystal Cook was shut down by the city for not being up to code. At the time, suspicions were roused that it was not health hazards so much as traditional views on marriage that prompted the city action. Cantrell and White expressed joy because White now had a legal say in legal custodial situations, like emergency care.
But the albeit controversial happy ending is not the end of the story. Buncombe County GOP Chair Henry Mitchell issued another open letter, on behalf of the party, challenging, “A group of Buncombe County Commissioners has conducted both a meeting and a vote via email messages to approve an extension of hours of operation of the Buncombe County Register of Deeds Office today and perhaps this weekend to attempt to circumvent the challenges being filed by the NCGOP. It is our understanding that North Carolina law clearly requires any such vote and/or meeting to be conducted in public and with proper notice. Upon information and belief, no such notice was given, and the email meeting itself was organized and requested by Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger in an attempt to allow for the filing of marriage licenses for same-sex couples.”
Mitchell further suggested the extended hours might represent a “misappropriation of government resources.” But Reisinger could say he was only making up for the snow day.
Over the weekend, Mumpower later came out with a request for the State Bureau of Investigation to investigate the legality of city council’s informal decision. Lt. Governor Dan Forest issued a rallying statement in support of federalism, traditional values, and the voice of the people trumping the tyranny of activist judges. Whereas his party’s leadership is alleging the law was flaunted all along the way to advance “marriage equality,” Republican Governor Pat McCrory has stated his intention to uphold the law, regardless of the way things go.
WHAT OF THE CHRISTIANS?
An attempt was made to contact two local conservative church leaders for their viewpoints. Without much thought, that was deemed a bad decision. Churches taking positions against Prop 8 in California had their meetinghouses spray-painted with glass smashed and doors glued shut. There were even stories of death threats and fake anthrax letters addressed to opponents, under charges that speaking for traditional values was hate-mongering and intolerant.
During the whole Prop 8 commotion leaders of the Roman Catholic and Mormon churches couldn’t stress enough their love for their Savior and their God, and their desire to strive to love all their brothers and sisters as much as possible. To Christians, love is the raison d’etre. Every child of God is precious. It is for the Christian to work out his own salvation and allow others the same privilege.
The majority of Christians will continue to strive to make their own marriages work and thus be a silent light to the world. Most will never go to public meetings because they’re too busy putting food on the table and instilling character in their kids. They’ll refrain from breaking the law, twisting the law, and engaging in other forms of punkish tomfoolery to physically and mentally coerce others to comply with their mindset. Compulsion is the devil’s tool.
Like their Lord, some among us are willing to die with grace so that love may abound – And they’ll still be called hate-mongering phobes.