Morris Williams: "There's been a lot of complaining about gays. Gay marriage doesn't threaten me."
Williams' comments were dittoed just about everywhere we went. When asked what were top issues, few of the people we talked to found "gays" or "Ten Commandments" on the tips of their tongues. Prodded, most had a big live-and-let-live shrug. Let's hear again from Apalachicola merchant Joe Taylor, who pointed to a headline in The Tallahassee Democrat that read: "Voters Rally Over Gay Marriage."
Joe Taylor: "What rally? I've never heard the Ten Commandments or gay marriage come up in conversation. You see a lot of gays. We're a conservative town, but people are indifferent to what other people do as long as it doesn't bother them."
Even some preachers, such as the Rev. Ed McNeely of Mission by the Sea on Florida's Panhandle or Presbyterian pastor the Rev. David Smith of Sardis, Miss., don't seemed moved by discussions over gays.
Ed McNeely: "Can't say those issues come up. Our folks have other things to worry about."
David Smith: "We don't have much discussion about values and gays here. We're a lot more homogeneous state than what you have in Georgia."
Lawyer Sonia Privette of Beaufort County, N.C., points to a more serious, as she sees it, threat to marriage: "I read in the papers a lot about gay marriage. I just don't see it as a danger to marriage. When two people say they're in a long-term, committed relationship, that's good for society. It doesn't endanger anyone. You want to know what's a real danger to marriage? Britney Spears. She goes to Vegas. One night she's married, the next she's divorced. What kind of message does that send kids? And that sure has nothing to do with gays."
Maybe there's something behind all of the talk about gays and the Ten Commandments, suggests Lucy Hale, an administrator at Coosa Valley Technical College, Rome, Ga.: "A lot of votes are not based on introspection. There are many politicized churches, my mom's church, for instance. There, the congregation is asked to vote as a bloc. That doesn't reflect introspection. If you asked why they voted this way or that way, the truth is that they were told to vote that way. They don't decide based on their own self-interest. People in the South will do almost anything to avoid introspection about why they vote a certain way. And what's pretty obvious is that if you politicize the churches, that's the way to amass votes."