Connecticut state Comptroller Kevin Lembo is gay and married and pissed about North Carolina voters changing their constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
But he’s not joining what appears to be a growing online boycott of traveling to or vacationing in the Tarheel State. Lembo is still planning to go – with his spouse – to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina in September.
He has written to the Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and others calling for the party to tackle the North Carolina versus gay marriage issue even if there’s no way to cancel the convention there.
“It may be too late to say we’re not coming,” says Lembo. “But to do nothing or say nothing just feels weird to me.”
According to news reports, the North Carolina tourism website has been inundated with comments from folks angry over the recent constitutional amendment vote and vowing to stay away from that state because of it.
Lembo believes Democrats have an obligation to talk about the impact of that issue, if only because they are bringing an estimated $200 million in economic activity to North Carolina because of their national convention.
“It’s such a contrast to what our beliefs are as a party,” Lembo says of the anti-gay constitutional amendment. He points out that even states with anti-gay marriage laws on the books “haven’t used their constitutions to enshrine discrimination like North Carolina has done.”
“It’s so heavy handed and aggressive,” says Lembo.
In his letter, Lembo wrote: “How can we, as a party committed to the rights and freedom of all Americans, tacitly endorse the North Carolina vote by marching our leadership and our President into Charlotte in September?”
“We must, at a minimum have a conversation about the impact of our presence there on our credibility and our values as a party,” he wrote.
He says Democrats could help with fundraising or organizing efforts for a North Carolina state repeal movement.
The decision by President Barack Obama to finally come out in favor of gay marriage may help bring the nation around to taking federal action on an issue that has been largely left up to the states, according to Lembo.
“I wonder if it’s really going to be that long before we see something at the federal level,” he says.
Part of the national concern is that the rights of gay couples like Lembo and his spouse (together for 26 years and married in Connecticut for almost two years) may not be recognized in places like North Carolina.
What if something bad happens while Lembo and his spouse are attending the national convention, he asks. Would he or his partner be allowed into the other’s hospital room or be recognized as able to make critical medical decisions, even though those rights are guaranteed in Connecticut?
One thing the whole North Carolina vote has done for Lembo is make him even more grateful to be from this state.
“I’m proud, relieved and happy to live in Connecticut,” he says.
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