Editorial: the bully pulpit at work

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 14, 2015

There can be little debate that gay and lesbian rights are the new social battleground in this country, much like the civil rights movement was 50 years ago. North Carolina is distinguishing itself once again — not in a good way — with its head-in-the-sand approach to equality issues that 10 or 20 years from now will seem so ridiculous as to be almost comical.

In Charlotte, evangelist Franklin Graham is using his bully pulpit to call on fellow Christians to boycott “gay-friendly” corporations. Case in point, all the bank accounts for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association have been moved out of Wells Fargo, because the banking corporation featured a lesbian couple in one of its ads.

Graham has called on Christians to fight the moral decay “that is being crammed down our throats by big business.” In other words, he’s sticking it to The Man, especially if that man is gay or is a man, woman or corporation showing any tolerance for human beings not meeting “almighty God’s laws and His standards.”

Graham recommends that you not do business with gays or lesbians — or anyone who is friendly to them — because, according to him, they do not meet God’s laws and standards. Were these truly the teachings of Christ?

If Franklin Graham isn’t a good enough arbiter on the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender front, North Carolinians need only to look to their General Assembly for direction on the best way to keep human beings we are uncomfortable with at bay. A few days ago, the N.C. House successfully voted to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of Senate Bill 2.

The legislation, now law thanks to the House and Senate, allows magistrates and staff members in county Register of Deeds offices to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples if those government employees have “a sincerely held religious objection.” Eight months ago, North Carolina seemed to make progress when it allowed samesex couples to marry, but now the legislators have “corrected” that lapse into sanity by making it possible to discriminate against same-sex couples lawfully.

It’s quite similar to how African-American citizens were denied their right to vote in the South when county election offices threw up obstacles to their registrations, leading to notable civil rights demonstrations such as the Alabama freedom march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.

Since North Carolina has this ball rolling, why don’t we have separate water fountains, restrooms and changing rooms for gays and lesbians? Why don’t we serve them from the back doors of restaurants, or can’t we move them to the back seats of buses and educate them in segregated schools? Shouldn’t gays and lesbians compete in their own separate sports leagues?

This is the kind of thinking at the core of Franklin Graham’s actions and the legislature’s transparent efforts to make life more difficult for same-sex couples.

It seems like yesterday in North Carolina — again, not in a good way.