I guess you “win,” North Carolina

Some time ago, I was considering a position at a children’s hospital somewhere in the Midwest.  While it would be overstating things to say I was a shoo-in, I was a strong candidate and I know there was enthusiasm within the department for me.  The Better Half and I talked about what it would be like to live in the city where the hospital was located, and we agreed that it might be a nice place to move.  Unfortunately, when the Better Half started looking for work of his own, it became clear pretty quickly that there were no openings within his vocation in that part of the country for an openly gay man in relationship.  And with that, the children’s hospital lost a highly qualified candidate for their staff.  (I remember how sincerely dismayed they seemed when I told them why I would have to withdraw from consideration.)

More recently, we decided to move when we realized that the area where we lived (in a totally different state) had voted strongly for repealing a recently-passed law legalizing same-sex marriage.  In fairness, there were numerous factors that went into that decision, but knowing that the citizens around us had voted to strip us of hard-won rights (with no resulting benefit to themselves) made us loath to remain there.  It was the catalyst for our relocation.

And now, North Carolina has seen fit to send a resounding message to people like me, and to families like mine.  We are quite obviously not welcome there.

As it happens, family matters took us to North Carolina not so long ago.  (I will say that not once did I perceive that we were being treated poorly, or even differently, by anyone who encountered us.)  But such a trip for such a reason seems inconceivable now.  I cannot imagine visiting a state wherein I might fear that, should something horrible happen, I might be barred from the hospital to visit my husband.  Which is a real shame, because the Biltmore is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited, and the barbeque around those parts is a genuine treat.

Truth be told, it’s unlikely that we would be moving anytime in the near future.  I’ve got a great job at a practice where I was recently made partner, and it would make no sense for me to leave short of some dramatic reversal of fortune.  We love the area where we live now.  So it doesn’t move beyond the realm of the speculative for me to talk about places I’d choose to live.

However, one never knows what happens next in life.  Reversals of fortune happen.  And Lord knows I like barbeque.

But of course it is inconceivable that we would move to North Carolina now.  We are patently unwelcome there.  (I imagine, if my name were Fernandez and my accent different, I would feel much the same way about Arizona.)  Insofar as I have anything of value to offer as a professional, I will not be offering it there.  We make a point of patronizing local merchants as much as we can, and we support the museums and restaurants and performing arts.  We both give time and money to local charities, and participate in civic life with gusto.  We try to be good neighbors, good friends and good citizens.  Though the loss of people like us to places like North Carolina is only an abstraction, and thus imperceptible to the people there, that does not mean it is not still a loss.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. The thing that breaks my heart the most about this… that really, truly, rips it out of my chest and stomps on it… is the knowledge that a lot of people in NC would read this post and genuinely wonder what worthwhile professional thing you could possibly have to share.

    Great post, btw. I think it’s important in the face of events like yesterday’s to not forget the actual trees for the forest. Yeah, there are larger cultural battles to be fought, but at the end of the day we’re talking about actual people who are trying to love their lives and be part of the community.

    A very sad statement on North Carolina and the current direction of movement conservatism.

    • It’s not generally as bad as all that and it’s worse. It’s not that bad that even most conservative Carolinians I know (my family roots are in Asheville and Durham, though I was raised in Tennessee) think that gays can be good engineers, salespeople, or almost whatever. It’s worse because on finding out that Doc is a pediatrician, the response is going to sometimes be “Not near my child!!!”

  2. I worked with a woman down in DC who was looking to move because her partner had finished her PhD and was looking for a university research position. My friend was from Texas originally and her partner from NJ. When they mentioned the schools they were looking at, they were all in New England, primarily in MA. I asked about this, and she said pretty frankly, “Well, there is only so many places we can live.” It took me a minute. And then I got it. And then I realized I will *NEVER* get it. Not really. As a straight, white, Christian, cis-gendered male, I will *NEVER* get what so many people have to endure just to find a place to life.

    It makes all my whining about feeling “uncomfortable” in our new locale (45 minutes NW of Manhattan) because most of my neighbors have gun racks on their trucks and the options for food are Italian and pizza seem… well, petty doesn’t seem to do it justice.

    • When I went through the minor ordeal I describe at the beginning of the OP, and had to turn down the prospect of a good job, the coworker who was most sincerely distressed on my behalf was a black woman. It was truly moving to see how deeply she understood what discrimination feels like, and how genuinely it grieved her to see someone else experience it.

  3. I’m wondering if you feel the same way about California. We (horribly) voted the same way in 2008, if by a smaller margin. Obviously there are places here where you’d be completely welcomed (e.g. the Bay Area). I haven’t been able to find any county-by-county results for North Carolina to see if the same is true there.

      • Here’s a quick summary of the core counties in the Triangle:

        Durham 22,259 – 51,591
        Orange 9,597 – 35,980
        Wake 105,900 – 139,020

        Total vote in those three was 137,856 – 226,591 (or about 38-62 by percentage).

    • No, I don’t feel that way about California, Mike, because they did not enshrine in their constitution a ban on all legal recognition for relationships such as mine.

  4. I think you should consider what portion of the electorate arrived at this decision in relation to the total population.

    Now, other arrangements can be made, as far as probate matters are concerned.
    I’m in the process of doing that myself, though for other reasons.
    I have a brother that I don’t get along with that is my next of kin, and I want to make my nephew my sole heir.
    There’s a way to get those things done.

    • Most people want their stuff to go to their spouses, and want to arrange things so that happens according to the law and with the cooperation rather than resistance of the courts.

      Having chosen an opposite-sex spouse, I get that as a default, for the double-digit cost of a marriage license. And I get the presumption and the active cooperation of the courts when the worst happens (as it inevitably will).

      And I had instead chosen a same-sex spouse in North Carolina (or any of the many other states that do not have SSM or even civil unions), I could have that too. I’d just have to pay a lawyer thousands of dollars for it, and I would have to hope that when the worst happens (as it inevitably will) that the legal system will actually back up the expensive arrangements I’d made in advance.

      That’s not fair.

      • Not that I have anything but complete respect for the legal profession, but are there attorneys who specialize in making these kinds of arrangements for same-sex couples, and if so do they have a PAC?

        • I seriously considered setting up a shop aimed at doing exactly this when I practiced in Knoxville, Tennessee. I’m sure I would have had competition, and that it would have come from the somewhat more politically-centrist Nashville area. But then I got a good offer in California and abandoned the idea because there was little need of such a practice here.

      • What Burt said for one, Will. All of the steps we’ve taken to secure our rights require a legal system to back them up. I am reasonably confident this would happen in the state where I live. I have no such confidence about states like NC.

        And also, I don’t really want to live in a state that clearly doesn’t want me. North Carolina doesn’t. Why would I want to live there?

    • Will, with respect, I suggest you haven’t contemplated “getting those things done” in a state that has just made such “things” nigh on illegal. Consider also that for many gay people, myself for instance, you not only have the law and mildly interested outsiders to consider but very emotionally engaged and hostile outsiders intent on overturning what you assemble. Having the state against you is just icing on an already steaming turd cake. I’ll certainly agree with the Doc; NC is off the visiting list.

  5. Too many of those who are opposed to same-sex marriage argue and vote indifferent to or with malice-tinged consciousness of the consequences their actions have for real people. Good of you to remind everyone that these policy debates and polls matter in very concrete, human ways. I fear you’re right, that much of this decision comes down to an attitude of “we don’t want your kind here.”

  6. Cut me and I bleed Chicago, but I’ve long considered Asheville, for a gazillion awesome reasons, as a place I might retire. Not that I don’t love the Rockies and my beloved kinfolk who reside in Denver/Boulder, but the Smokies have a measure of serenity that speak to me.

    I don’t know now. I can live in a Purple state, not so much in Red.

  7. Suddenly, my marriage feels more stable. It had seemed to be turning into a meaningless sham. But now that two men and two women are constitutionally prevented from entering into same, the depth and resonance of my marriage is restored. Thank you, North Carolina, for taking the steps necessary to protect my husband and me from a bitter, acrimonious divorce.

    • I don’t fault people for believing their idea of marriage should have social backing–I have my own mess of opinions on the meanings of marriage–but it sure appears to me that those defending the idea of one man-one woman marriage wouldn’t be demonstrably affected by the specific laws or social policies they champion. That’s kind of a problem.

    • From what I understand, it doesn’t strengthen first marriages or second marriages but works on third, fourth, fifth, and sixth marriages.

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