News & Record: Two men, two very different perspectives from Eden
The News and Record has a profile of Eden, NC native Hogan Medlin who is openly gay and speaking out against his former neighbor and family friend, Senator Berger.
So when in 2011 Berger asked Medlin to sing the National Anthem at his swearing in as Senate Pro Tempore, Medlin, then a soloist with the UNC-Chapel Hill Clef Hangers a cappella group, said he was happy to oblige.
“I was very proud and excited that we would have representation at that level,” Medlin said in a phone interview Thursday. “Now, I couldn’t be more disappointed and embarrassed to have been there at the beginning of what has been a big demise for North Carolina and the country.”
Though separated by just a block in Medlin’s youth, he and Berger now are on different planets politically. Together, they illustrate the diverse opinions on same-sex marriage — and the gulf between them — that can be found even in a town as small as Eden.
Medlin said he felt compelled to speak out when he read a New York Times story last week about opposition to same-sex marriage. That story carried an Eden dateline. It quoted Rockingham County magistrate John Kallam Jr., 67, who resigned after courts overturned Amendment One, the state’s same-sex marriage ban, last year.
Kallam’s resignation led Berger to introduce a bill that would allow magistrates to opt out of performing same-sex marriages.
Medlin said seeing his hometown as the focus of this issue cut him to the core.
“As a gay man from Eden, N.C., this spotlight on my hometown is hard to read,” his Facebook post began. “I ... am disappointed to no end with how Phil, someone I grew up one block away from, who knew me and my brothers as good neighbors, friends, community volunteers, students and more, has decided to strip us of our right to equal treatment under the law.”
By Friday, he had more than 300 responses — overwhelmingly supportive — with most coming from his hometown.
“What’s amazing is seeing high school friends respond on Facebook, and they’re saying, ‘How do we stop this?’ It doesn’t feel like he’s doing what Eden wants,” Medlin said.
Medlin was moved and heartened by the response, particularly because he didn’t come out as gay until he was attending college. But he wasn’t entirely surprised.
“Eden has fantastic people,” Medlin said. “They’re smart people who care about these issues.”
Medlin is writing an op/ed piece that he plans to submit to the New York Times sharing his perspective as an Eden native who can’t connect the man he knew most of his life with the politician who is imposing regressive policies on his home state.
“They were great neighbors, good people. One of families that would always be there to support school fundraisers,” Medlin said. “His climb to power has been something of shock and awe to watch. We can’t wrap our heads around what he’s doing. It upsets our family in a way that is unfathomable.”
Medlin’s two brothers are also gay. One is engaged. To think that someone they considered a friend and neighbor would stand in the way of their marriage is deeply hurtful.
A Morehead-Cain Scholar at UNC-Chapel Hill, Medlin was student body president in his senior year and after graduation taught English in Korea as a Fulbright Scholar. He was in Korea when the battle about Amendment One was unfolding in North Carolina. He said he called Berger from Korea but never got a response.
“I wanted to say, ‘I sang for you. You know me,’ ” Medlin said. “There are real people who are affected by these policies.”
Medlin’s father, Eden’s city attorney from 2001 to 2008 and now a private attorney in Greensboro, also opposed Amendment One and the current magistrate bill.
“When it comes to minority rights, you can’t leave that to the majority,” Medlin said. “If minority rights had been left to the will of the majority in the 1950s and 1960s, and not to the Supreme Court, African-Americans might still be second-class citizens.”