Goodbye and Good Luck

This will be my last post of this production blog. It has been difficult to decide when or how to close the book on the production. I spent the past summer at conferences where we discussed how to sustain the “life” of theater productions, especially those related to ongoing social issues. I still haven’t stumbled upon firm answers, but it is my hope that this blog, even as it closes to regular updates, is one way that our experience with Laramie remains “alive” in the present moment for readers who find us.

I had intended to publish a final post to coincide with the 13th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death, October 12, 2011. Instead, it comes today, October 18, 2011, a day which brought news that the LGBT Center on NC State’s campus was vandalized with homophobic slurs. It comes four days after UNC-Chapel Hill’s Office of Student Affairs cleared a student group, the a capella group Psalm 100, of any possible charge of violating the university’s anti-discrimination policy a month and a half after the group voted to remove a Senior group member who revealed that he was gay. The ouster did not rise to the level of discrimination because, in the words of Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Winston Crisp, there was no evidence that Psalm 100 expelled the student because he was gay; he was removed because he espoused pro-gay beliefs which were incompatible with the group’s “specific [Christian] beliefs.”

There is a wonderful editorial response to this needle-thread reasoning on the part of the university administration in Durham’s The Herald-Sun, especially the way the decision reinforces Psalm 100’s implied assertion that being gay is incompatible with being Christian. I’m happy to say that in this year’s NC Pride parade the number of religious affiliated marchers seemed to have tripled from the year before. Perhaps it is the looming vote on the anti-LGBT constitutional amendment that has rallied communities of faith to speak out against discrimination. I can only hope it also marks a sea-change when religion cannot be easily welded as a weapon for discrimination. I must confess, I’m less optimistic that it marks a permanent change.

Just 2 weeks ago, Governor Beverly Purdue, who is facing a difficult reelection campaign and who has been strong and decisive in many positive ways in the past few years, issued her own tepid response to the proposed amendment, which reads in part:

I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman: That’s why I voted for the law in 1996 that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, and that’s why I continue to support that law today. But I’m going to vote against the amendment because I cannot in good conscience look an unemployed man or woman in the eye and tell them that this amendment is more important than finding them a job. In addition, a number of legal experts have argued that this amendment, if passed, could eliminate legal protections for all unmarried couples in our state, regardless of sexual orientation.

There are many reasons why I found this statement disappointing but first and foremost is the way it simultaneously asserts the rightness of LGBT inequality while it also decries the effects of discrimination. I know the Governor is walking a tightrope, and I am not sure what I expected from a politician fighting for her political life in a state that swung hard to the right in the last elections. But I had the same reaction to her statement as I did upon first reading the lines of Laramie characters who casually denigrate gay men and lesbians but see no relationship between their “beliefs” about homosexuality and the actions of Matthew’s attackers: He doesn’t condone that kind of violence. But he doesn’t condone that kind of lifestyle.

So the need for action and dialogue continues but the focus of the department shifts to new projects, new investigations. Perhaps I will break open the blog again in May 2012 to report positive news about the defeat of Amendment 1. I hope so. Until then …

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