Sherre Toler, Director of Elections for Harnett County, NC for more than 11 years, resigned at the beginning of January because her position would not allow her to speak out against ballot efforts to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
Wrote Toler in an email published on Blue NC:
Unfortunately, recent actions of the North Carolina General Assembly made it impossible for me to continue as Director of Elections as speaking publicly about candidates or issues appearing on the ballot is prohibited. In September, the legislature passed a bill requiring a referendum be placed on the May, 2012 primary ballot defining marriage as a “union between a man and a woman”. I cannot and will not be a party to such actions.
If “marriage” were simply a religious institution, this would not be an issue. Different faiths are free to impose whatever moral restrictions they choose on their congregations and they in turn are free to accept or reject those restrictions. From a psychological and emotional perspective, marriage provides the individuals an opportunity to demonstrate their love for each other by committing themselves to this “special” relationship. In addition, marriage provides the participants in the relationship with a myriad of legal rights and special status, including inheritance and property rights as well as insurance and tax benefits. Marriage provides over 1000 legal rights and protections. The so-called “Defense of Marriage” Act seeks to ensure that anyone wishing to marry their partner of the same gender will be DENIED those legal rights. The broad language of the referendum could also impact private contracts between individuals, powers of attorney, and domestic partnerships, including heterosexual ones.
Slavery, discrimination and segregation represent a tremendous blight upon the great history of this country. Not so long ago, “marriage” between those of different races, particularly black and white, was prohibited by law and this ban was supported by the “Majority”. In 2011, Public Policy Polling conducted a poll of Republican voters in Mississippi and a number of them (46%) believe that not only in their opinion is interracial marriage wrong but that it should be ILLEGAL.
Only 40% indicated they believe it should be legal. There can be little doubt that if interracial marriage were put to a majority vote, some jurisdictions would outlaw those marriages as well. It is important to a free society that civil rights not be subject to a popular vote!
As a result, I am opening Lighthouse Strategies and Consulting, LLC, a political consulting business. I plan to work tirelessly over the coming months to educate North Carolina citizens on the impact of this amendment and to defeat the effort to write discrimination into the North Carolina Constitution. I will also be working to help elect progressive candidates to local, county, state and federal offices so that these types of actions by legislatures around the country will not be repeated.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” I simply could not continue in the position of Director of Elections and remain silent on this important issue.
Pam Spaulding interviews Toler at Pam's House Blend.