Last year, North Carolina voters passed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. I voted against the amendment. I think gay marriage is a completely positive societal force, not just good for homosexuals, but for heterosexuals as well. I have longer, more detailed arguments for why I think it's positive, but the short version is that straight people have kind of dropped the ball on championing covenant monogamy as a superior social arrangement, so it's nice to have some new advocates on board who might show a little more enthusiasm for the cause.
When the amendment passed, I viewed it as a temporary set back. What could be amended by a simple majority could be undone by simple majority. I thought that within a decade or two we'd see a different outcome.
Now, I worry we don't have a decade to get things right. While I support gay marriage, I would prefer to see it enacted at the ballot box rather than through court action. I think it's plain from the text of Kennedy's opinion that he thinks there's an equal protection argument in favor of gay marriage that will likely apply to all states. I suspect it will be less than five years before we have such a ruling, negating laws throughout the majority of the states who've banned gay marriage.
I think it would be foolish for North Carolina to wait until it's ban is negated from above. During the next few years, I suspect there will be significant economic cost to this state if we don't change our laws.
First, North Carolina likes to court large tech corporations like Google and IBM, not to mention creative industries like film and television companies. These employers would no doubt prefer to treat their employees to uniform policies. They wouldn't want to extend benefits to a same sex couple in California that would be problematic in North Carolina. (For instance, even if the company extended health care benefits to same sex partners regardless of state law, in states where the spouses are legally married, those benefits wouldn't be taxable income, while, in NC, they would be taxable.) I doubt we'll see big corporations pick up and move from our state, but have no doubt we could become less competitive in recruiting them to come here in the first place.
Second, I think we'll start to see a population shift if this issue isn't resolved soon. Why would homosexual couples continue to live in a state where they can't be legally married if there are a dozen other states to choose from where they can get all the benefits of marriage? Maybe some right-wingers are delighted by the thought of all the gays packing their bags and moving to California. But, while I hate to play into the stereotype that all gays are hip, smart, creative people, if you go to some of the hippest, smartest, most creative spaces in our state, you find a reasonably high concentration of homosexuals. This could be rank prejudice on my part, extrapolating from the few dozen gay people I know to the whole of the state. I have no hard data to back me up. Still, my gut tells me that, if you cut the homosexual population by even a quarter, the down towns of places like Durham or Greensboro are going to be noticeably less lively and interesting.
My third reason is a combination of the first two, with a slightly different spin. One reason North Carolina has some great down towns is that we have some great schools like Duke and UNC. These draw in a lot of talented kids, some of who stay here and make our state a better place. But, if you're a homosexual teenage looking for a school to go to, are you going to seriously consider going to school in a state where you are viewed as a pervert unworthy of all the rights afforded to straight people? Especially when there are a dozen other states with good schools where you might be able to meet the love of your life and have that state legally recognize that love?
The DOMA ruling has set an economic and demographic bomb ticking in NC. We need to disarm it as quickly as we can before it blows a hole in our economy.