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Weeknights were lonely in Flat Rock, in that cinderblock efficiency miles from his wife and two children in Charlotte.
Warren would spend the day presiding over a nearby courtroom. But this was a particularly brutal exile. He lost that race, and afterward, Mitchell rearranged the schedule to give Warren an extended trip to the mountains. Warren, then 40, logged into America Online. It was there that he discovered chat rooms, segmented by age, geography, and sexual orientation. Warren was mostly a lurker, reading the all-text conversations as they scrolled by, Chat rooms Warren fair mom not adding much himself.
He also avoided one-on-one chats with anyone who lived close enough to land in a jury pool in his courtroom. A private message box popped up on his screen. On this winter night, though, a mental switch flipped. I had covered Warren, and occasionally had lunch with him when he was a state legislator in the s. He was a smart, independent thinker who famously antagonized his fellow Republicans by supporting a Martin Luther King, Jr. Since then, we had lost touch, but I had followed his drift to the right: defending anti-abortion protesters; criticizing a state program to expand daycare; even calling U.
Senator Terry Sanford, who opposed U. The questionnaire I was reading now, inseemed to be written by someone else entirely. Normally, judicial candidates avoided discussing policy. He supported the decriminalization of marijuana.
And he criticized the state Supreme Court for Pulliam v. Smith, a recent decision that forced a father to forfeit custody of his two sons because of his same-sex relationship. Bewildered, I called Sharon Thompson, a Durham attorney who had overlapped with Warren in the legislature. Our heart goes out to his wife and her children. If the idea of a gay elected official merits a shrug today, consider the context of North Carolina and 18 other states still had sodomy laws, making it a felony to engage in some homosexual behavior.
Twenty states had repealed those laws by the s. Same-sex marriage had been expressly outlawed by both Congress and the state legislature. Pulliam v. Smith had aled to gay and lesbian parents that they must choose between their partners and their children.
The public was divided. Of those, 40 percent said they favored supporters of gay rights. Forty-six percent favored opponents. Into this environment walked Warren: Eagle Scout, respected judge, suburban dad who married into a prominent Republican family. For decades, he had done contortions to avoid acknowledging an essential part of himself. Now he was trying to untangle it all, stumbling toward authenticity without a guide.
He proved a skillful writer, too. Chat rooms Warren fair mom was the autobiography of a leaf. Only in college did Warren emerge from that paper cage. He won a seat in the student Senate. No topic seemed off-limits to the newly emboldened Warren, except his own sexuality. Instead, he followed the script for politically ambitious first-generation college students. He married as an undergraduate. He opened a small law practice in Mint Hill.
Then, inWarren declared his candidacy for the state House at 27 years old. Sharon Thompson, a Democrat who was elected the following year before she came out as lesbianremembers how transgressive it was for women even to wear slacks. They brought their partners to all the legislative social events. Everybody knew it. Nobody ever talked about it. By contrast, Warren fit the political mold and was welcomed by his fellow Republicans.
As a freshman, he aggressively took on the Democratic leadership, which rewarded loyalists with state funds for community projects. He even helped stage a walkout over the issue. Racial tolerance, he says, was a core value of his upbringing. The shadow of those laws continues in generations sitting on this floor and in many ways across the state. Some of his colleagues were mortified. They talked about stripping him of his whip position. Warren left the legislature after an unsuccessful run for secretary of state in That year, he also married his second wife, Leigh Berryhill.
He served a short, appointed stint on the Superior Court, filling in for a judge who had been caught with cocaine and marijuana, but spent much of the early s practicing law. Later that year, he represented anti-abortion Chat rooms Warren fair mom in a lawsuit challenging state and federal bans on abortion clinic blockades. The protesters ultimately lost.
He had all the trappings: a wife and two children, a house on a Mint Hill cul-de-sac, and a job that commanded authority in his community. The scene was set for his life to blow up. Earlier that week, Warren had offered to explain, face-to-face, the answers on his candidate questionnaire. In the interim, I learned from Thompson—who had left the legislature and co-founded North Carolina Association of Gay and Lesbian Attorneys—that Warren was coming out of the closet.
Over dinner, Warren told me about the exile to Flat Rock, the chat rooms, and how his old reality had imploded once he confronted his attractions. Parking meters were still Chat rooms Warren fair mom enforced. The world had not descended into some kind of post-Rome chaos.
They separated shortly after, and Warren moved into a rented basement apartment.
We became confidantes and close friends following that dinner. I was going through my own upheaval, and sometimes we exchanged several s a day.
What I remember most about Warren during that period was the dissonance between his outer and inner selves. Publicly, Warren was helping raise two kids, holding down a courtroom, and mounting a credible run for the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
Privately, he was like a hormonally poisoned adolescent. No matter at what age we come out, gay men tend to revert, temporarily, to a kind of emotional puberty, filled with confusion, exhilaration, and heartache. For Warren, much of that angst was directed toward a blue-eyed man he had met online during a college reunion visit to Wilmington. His campaign for Court of Appeals judge was more dignified—and the night of the election, Warren appeared to have eked out a victory. At one point, he and Democratic incumbent Bob Hunter were tied atvotes apiece.
Then several software glitches and reporting errors surfaced, delaying the final outcome for weeks. When the vote was officially tallied, Hunter had won by 3, votes out of the 1. Warren had lost the statewide race, but he was still a Chat rooms Warren fair mom Court judge. By then, news of his separation had leaked out and rumors about his sexuality had started spreading. The reaction to his announcement was intense on both sides. He has betrayed that trust.
Gay sex was still illegal. Neither agency took action. To others, Warren was an inspiration. After the press conferences, Warren went back to work. In Charlotte, he received supportive cards from the court reporters, probation officers, and defendants in his drug court. The reaction was more muted during his next rotation, in the mountain town of Murphy.
There they just left me alone. He had also become pro-choice. He launched a campaign for the U.Chat rooms Warren fair mom
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The Charlotte Judge Who Made History When He Came Out