Ellie is three months old, cooing and playing in her portable jungle gym. She has curly hair and a newborns twinkle, and already shes sleeping through the night for her lucky parents. Perhaps, laughs her father Jerry, thats God offering some payback for how long they had to wait for her.
Someday, her two fathers will tell Ellie about her adoption. Theyll tell her about their family. Theyll tell how they once struggled with the prospect of bringing her into a household that some look down upon.
Maybe by then, there will be less they have to explain.
On Tuesday, North Carolina will vote on Amendment One, which would add the states existing same-sex marriage ban to the constitution. It is a flawed and discriminatory amendment that also would ban civil unions, potentially endangering health insurance benefits and safeguards against domestic violence.
All of which would have little precise impact right now on Charlottes Jerry Gardner and his partner of 13 years, Eric LaMonica. They already cant be married, because N.C. law forbids it, and they dont see any immediate threat to their insurance benefits.
What they and we see in the amendment, however, is a disheartening embrace of discrimination that in an attempt to protect marriage from a phantom threat, voters may affirm the bigotry society seems poised to abandon.
Its especially disappointing, they think, because of Ellie. Four years ago, when they first decided to pursue adoption, Gardner and LaMonica fretted about what society might tell their child about homosexuals. Now, with their daughter a reality, they worry her friends will say their family isnt really a family, because her parents arent allowed to be married.
This is the stain of Amendment One not only the benefits it threatens, but the message it sends to homosexuals, to sons and daughters and those who would judge them all. Discriminating against gays is acceptable, the amendment says. Their relationships, their commitment and love, have less value.
Some will continue to believe that, regardless of what happens in this weeks vote. But Tuesday also wont change this: Theres a shift happening, in polls and in hearts, on homosexuality. Were no longer the America that widely scorns gays. A majority of people in the U.S. now believe they shouldnt be blocked from marrying, surveys say, and if North Carolina doesnt reject Amendment One on Tuesday, Maine will likely be the first state later this year to see voters make that statement on marriage.
In 20 years, Ellie LaMonicas generation will see North Carolina as the last of the Southern states to adopt a same-sex marriage amendment or the first to join this national movement toward tolerance. Voters can lead us to that inevitability Tuesday by rejecting Amendment One, rejecting bigotry, and telling gays and everyone else what Ellies fathers plan to tell her as soon as she can understand: That it doesnt matter what some might think. Regardless of anything else, Jerry Gardner says, We are a family.