Karen Ocamb

Marriage Activists Launch 'We Do' Campaign After Amendment One Passes

Filed By Karen Ocamb | May 09, 2012 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Colorado, gay marriage, I Do, LGBT rights, marriage equality, North Carolina, same-sex marriage

Sometimes it is hard to remember that history is on the side of LGBT equality. Despite a recent Gallop poll indicating that 50% of Americans support marriage equality versus 48% percent who oppose it (actually down from 53% in 2011), individual states controlled by Christian conservative Republicans continue to vehemently buck the trend. In North Carolina, turnout for the primary was higher than expected (34%), resulting in an overwhelming victory for antigay forces with the 61% to 39% passage of Amendment One. North Carolina now becomes the 31st state to have discrimination written into their state constitution.

There was a bright spot: openly gay state Rep. Marcus Brandon, North Carolina's only openly gay legislator, overwhelmingly (66.15% to 33.85% or 4, 909 votes to 2,512) won re-election against a primary challenge from the Democrat he defeated in 2010.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, however, Republicans in that state legislature ran out the clock on passing legislation granting civil unions.

But unlike the rage over Prop 8 in California, folks in North Carolina have taken to the streets in a new WE DO campaign to request marriage licenses. From Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality: ” We can't change the results of this vote, but we can determine what comes next. Tomorrow when kids across the state wake up, I want them to know that this story isn't over.”

Much more after the break

From Pam Spaulding at Pam's House Blend:

Starting the morning of May 9, we will run the next stage of the WE DO Campaign in eight communities across North Carolina, from small towns with populations of less than 500 to cities of more than one million. Across the state, over 40 LGBT couples will request marriage licenses, knowing they will be turned down and yet taking this action in order to resist unjust laws and call for full federal equality. They will be joined by hundreds of family members, friends, clergy, and elected officials who will stand with them in support. In select towns, trained volunteers will conduct peaceful sit-ins after the denials of marriage licenses occur, as a form of civil disobedience. At every turn, we will express love and empathy towards those who oppose LGBT rights and those whose job it is to enforce unjust laws.

But there's another, more urgent reason why we're starting these actions on May 9. We want to send a clear, simple message to LGBT youth across our state, especially those who, for months now, have been hearing increasingly vitriolic messages condemning them. We want them to know that there are people all across our state - and all across our country - who are ready to stand up for their full equality. We want them to know that this story is far from over.

If you live in North Carolina, here are three things you can do:

  1. Vote against Amendment One and bring your friends with you (early voting runs through May 5; Primary Day is May 8);
  2. Send a message of support to participating couples;
  3. Help us amplify the story of the WE DO Campaign by forwarding this email and posting WE DO updates on Facebook and Twitter.

If you live outside of North Carolina, here are two things you can do:

  1. Send a message of support to participating couples
  2. Help us amplify the story of the WE DO Campaign by forwarding this email and posting WE DO updates on Facebook and Twitter.

In North Carolina, the fight "to protect" heterosexual marriage was all about God. Though Prop 8 strategist Frank Schubert was not seen in any video news accounts from the night, his Bible-based message spilled from the mouth of others. Vote for Marriage's Tami Fitzgerald told the celebratory crowd:

As you all know, marriage was not invented by government. Our creator established it as the union of a man and a woman in an exclusive lifelong covenant and it has merely been recognized by government as the key to a strong and flourishing society.... We are not antigay; we are pro-marriage." And the whole point is simply that you don't re-write the nature of God's design for marriage based on the demands of a group of adults.

The considerable Protect All North Carolina Families coalition brought in such "validators" as Gov. Beverly Perdue, former President Bill Clinton, Erskine Bowles and a number of Republicans who said the measure went to far, banning legal recognition of any other relationship that heterosexual marriage, including gay and straight domestic partnerships. Perhaps the most significant partner was the state's NAACP chapter. North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber said:

The voters of North Carolina were led to vote on a trick amendment that now places hate discrimination and division in our constitution, an amendment that violates the fundamental protections of equal protection under the law and sets up the precedent of majorities voting on the rights on minorities," Barber said in a statement.

Here’s a statement from Protect All North Carolina Families campaign head Jeremy Kennedy:

Tonight's results were disappointing, not just for gay and lesbian North Carolinians, but for the hundreds of thousands of non-traditional families who may face the harmful impact of Amendment One. Our campaign may have fallen short this evening, but your work over the past several months did not. Your efforts and dedications achieved many victories along the way, and demonstrated to North Carolina and to the entire country that discrimination and victimization will not achieve easy victories.

Tonight's result was truly historic. This amendment began with a forty-point lead just a few months ago - but you, undeterred and undaunted, worked to educate your fellow citizens about its harms. Your work has made a difference not just in North Carolina but in our country as a whole. People from all over the country can now look to North Carolina as an example of a state that fights to protect, defend, and support all of its citizens.

Our campaign was a rejection of the divisive vision offered by the National Organization for Marriage and similar organizations who advocated for this damaging amendment. Just as they have done in many other states, these organizations injected millions of dollars of funding into a messaging campaign that framed the Amendment as a fight to protect "family," never admitting that it stood to endanger families, children, and individuals across our state.

Over the course of the campaign we showed them that North Carolina was better than this amendment, and better than their divisive tactics and misleading messages. We may lost in the polls tonight, but in the final days of this campaign we succeeded in reframing this debate, replacing divisive messaging and scare tactics with pragmatic discussion and empathy.

We would like to thank you and everyone who fought against Amendment One. Over the course of the campaign we were inspired by the tens of thousands of people we met at events, encouraged by the thousands of volunteers who stepped up and spoke out, and awed by the 11,000 people who contributed financially to our success.

All of our efforts were boosted by a historic coalition that came together across North Carolina, and our spirits were lifted by our diverse and courageous allies. Our partners include Equality North Carolina, HRC, the NC NAACP, ALCU-NC, Blueprint NC, Replacements, Ltd., Southerners on New Ground, and dozens of faith communities and community organizations.'

Together, we have proven to North Carolina and the entire country that fear tactics, discrimination, and division may compete with love, compassion, and solidarity in the short term, but we know that the time is coming for true equality. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "the arc of the moral universe Is long, but it bends toward justice"

Finally, I want to say to all North Carolinians, gay and straight, who I have met during this campaign: you are worthy of love and acceptance. Your family cannot be defined by discriminatory amendments or statutes. I ask that we continue to support one another, fight for one another, and work together to move this state and our society closer to our ideals -closer to our creed that ALL men and women are created equal.

Thank you for your support over the course of this journey and I urge you to please continue to work with all of our coalition partners on behalf of equality in North Carolina and beyond.

Lambda Legal's Camilla Taylor, National Marriage Project Director, said in part:

“We are disappointed about the passage of Amendment One because it adds insult to injury in a state that already denies marriage equality. Be Warned: We have seen time and again how antigay forces use these measures first to denigrate lesbian and gay couples and their children, and then to attempt to deny these families a range of basic protections that have nothing to do with marriage–but we will fight these efforts until the day we erase marriage discrimination from the laws of North Carolina.

Evan Wolfson, founder and President of Freedom to Marry, released the following statement:

"As momentum for the freedom to marry continues to grow in the rest of the nation, today's vote is a painful reminder of what happens when a preemptive ballot-measure is stampeded through before people have had enough time to take in real conversations about who gay families are and why marriage matters to them. This amendment is a last gasp of discrimination that will cause real harm to families, communities, and businesses in North Carolina, but says little about the prospects for a better outcome in battles to come in states where there has been greater visibility for loving and committed couples and those who get to know them. And even in North Carolina, the long-term effect of this nasty attack will be to spur more conversations and open more hearts, helping more people rise to fairness and support for the freedom to marry."

Freedom to Marry is deeply engaged in campaigns underway to defeat an anti-gay constitutional amendment in Minnesota, defend the freedom to marry law passed by the legislature and signed by the governor in Washington state, and win the freedom to marry in Maine - all involving ballot-measures in November. To support the work in these states, Freedom to Marry launched the $3 million Win More States Fund, which is strategically channeling funds into grassroots organizing, television and radio spots, new media programs, and more. Freedom to Marry has also long invested in public education that creates the climate for changing hearts and minds--as reflected most recently in Vice President Biden's heartfelt explanation of how his thinking evolved to support the freedom to marry. In 2011 Freedom to Marry launched its national persuasion campaign, Why Marriage Matters, raising and spending an initial one million dollars on message development and delivery, including the creation of television spots and videos and deployment of powerful messengers and personal stories.

Nationally, a bipartisan analysis of polling data spanning more than a decade showed steady growth in support for the freedom to marry over a 13-year period, with a striking acceleration over the past two years. In 2011 Gallup found 53% support for the freedom to marry nationwide, with more than half a dozen other polls showing majority support. This surge is the result of evolving positions among every group analyzed, including older Americans and Republicans, groups that have been the least supportive of the freedom to marry.

Gay and lesbian couples have the freedom to marry in eight states and the District of Columbia.

The folks at Change.org have raised the question of whether the Democratic National Convention should be moved out of North Carolina:

Democratic National Convention Committee: Move the National Convention OUT of North Carolina!


On May 8th, the people of North Carolina voted in support of Amendment One, a constitutional amendment that discriminates against LGBT people, couples & their families. In protest, the Democratic National Convention Committe should MOVE its convention (September 2012) OUT of North Carolina and INTO a state that upholds values of equality/liberty and which treats ALL citizens equally. For more info: http://www.facebook.com/GayMarriageUSA

The Human Rights Campaign is confident that history is on the side of LGBT equality. Here's their press release:

Tonight North Carolina's discriminatory and overreaching Amendment One passed, banning marriage and other forms of relationship recognition for gays and lesbians. The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, expressed disappointment in the vote, but characterized it as a temporary setback in the fight for equality.

"The passage of Amendment One is a heartbreaking loss for families in North Carolina, but will not stop us in the march toward full equality," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "As the country continues to move in the direction of marriage equality, our opponents have cynically interrupted the important conversations taking place which lead to increased understanding and acceptance."

Support for these constitutional amendments has been dropping over the years as support for marriage equality continues to rise nationwide. In 2004 similar amendments passed on average 71 percent to 29 percent. In 2008, the margin shrank from 57 percent to 43 percent. The average for these amendments in the South has been 75 percent to 25 percent. More on the history of state constitutional marriage bans is at: www.hrc.org/resources/entry/state-constitutional-marriage-bans <http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/state-constitutional-marriage-bans> .

Prior to the vote, the May 1 PPP poll showed voters under age 30 opposed the amendment by 26 points and in addition, reports indicate that youth turnout was significantly high during the early voting period. Tellingly, NC House Speaker Thom Tillis also recently said the issue was generational and that the amendment would be repealed in 20 years.

"Marriage is a tremendously motivating issue for younger voters, and we've seen an outpouring of energy against this amendment from youth," said Solmonese. "Elected officials would be wise to tap into this enthusiasm."

The amendment, which made it to the ballot after Republicans took control of both houses of the state legislature in 2010, could strip legal protections and healthcare coverage from children, threaten basic protections that all unmarried couples rely on, and harm unmarried seniors. Polling shows that when voters understood how far-reaching Amendment One was, they turned against it - but only 40 percent even knew the amendment banned civil unions.

"Our opponents were unfortunately successful in masking the broad nature of this measure," said Solmonese. "Were it not for their lies, voters would have understood the harm that this amendment will inflict on thousands of North Carolina families and would have voted against it."

HRC is proud to have been a founding member of the Coalition to Protect All NC Families and applauds all of the member organizations' efforts against Amendment One. HRC had staff on the ground for months leading a robust field, campus and faith outreach effort. In cash and in-kind contributions including staff resources, HRC's commitment to the campaign against Amendment One was nearly $500,000.

North Carolina blogger Pam Spaulding and her wife, Kate

But in the end, it's still deeply personal for people such as blogger Pam Spaulding.

But in the end, more on the other side [final: 61%-39%] felt motivated to show up and cast a ballot and too many people decided not to bother. And unfortunately, they chose to determine the civil rights of a minority in the name of "protecting" marriage -- something that wasn't in any jeopardy to begin with.
I can feel good about the city in which I live, Durham, where the amendment was shot down 70%-30%.

As someone who lives here and has to live in the aftermath of this loss, there aren't enough words to express how grateful I am to so many people some who put their lives on hold, spent time learning about and writing about NC than you ever thought you would; people of all ages, faiths (or none at all), and political persuasions calling, and building coalitions offline and online to make it clear that what happens in NC is important to the equality movement at large....

What is the key issue here is that a battle about marriage and legal rights for unmarried couples is not what North Carolina needed, and was forced into it by craven lawmakers and bigots who wanted an easy political club -- homophobia -- as a GOTV tool. It shouldn't have been on the ballot in the first place, but it was, prematurely leapfrogging an issue that the state was not ready to handle.

As I've told my marriage equality advocate friends many times, for those of us in states where we do not even have employment protections -- you can be fired for being LGBT here, no questions asked -- we won't see same-sex marriage until the U.S. Supreme Court makes it happen.

The coalition-building here has afforded North Carolinians for the first time to discuss the rights of LGBT neighbors and friends. It has shown the country that yes, the South has politically active voters of strong faith that are against discrimination for all of the right reasons -- it's not a matter of religion at all, but about the separation of church and state and protecting and extending the rights of minorities, not restricting them.

For those clinging to that notion in order to hide their own homophobia it has become challenging to defend their decision to vote for the Amendment. Not for those who see no separation of church and state, mind you, but those who are fuzzy on what they choose to believe in the Bible when it suits their needs.

But we won't forget the support and love from many on the ground here and in digital space around the country.

The majority of North Carolinians voting today don't believe that my civil marriage (legal depending on what state we travel to), should be recognized. While perhaps some subset probably didn't know they were banning civil unions and domestic partnerships (at this point, one has to believe these folks are pretty dense), the most vocal proponents of Amendment One not only wanted to "protect marriage," they wanted to punish lesbian and gay couples. Apparently even at the expense of economic development and jobs or collateral harms to unmarried opposite couples and children, or what will now be legal chaos over all of these harms and the possible impact on private contracts as well.

It's hard to view anyone who believes that is moral in any sense of the definition.

But what they cannot do is shove our relationships back into a closet. We are here, we are families. We are taxpayers.

5:26 AM: I slept for about 3 hours. Cried a bit, fell asleep, woke up congested, wishing I could roll the clock back to 2010 and stop the turnover of our legislature to the GOP. That's where the nightmare began on a host of issues here in NC. Need to sweep the cockroaches out of the NCGA. Time for some dark humor. I responded to a Tweet by Field Negro:

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