Amendment One Battle Lost, but Young Will Win War
The passing of Amendment One obviously did little to dampen the spirits of N.C. citizens who support marriage equality. In fact, it has ignited their passion further.
Protect N.C. Families, the UNC Coalition Against Amendment One, Equality N.C., and countless other groups and organizations have been tirelessly canvassing, phone-banking, and rallying for months to raise awareness of the amendment and educate voters about its potential harmful effects. For these activists, the pain of the amendment's passing hit the most deeply.
But they clearly have no plans to hang their heads in defeat.
Various social media sites showed the outrage on election night, with people posting Facebook statuses like "Not a proud day to be a North Carolinian" and "This is disgusting!" An immediate measure was taken to change the name of the anti-amendment Facebook page from "Vote Against Amendment One" to "Repeal Amendment One." A petition titled "1 Million Against Amendment One" was posted on change.org within minutes, and it garnered more than 100,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.
A loud voice behind this post-election outcry has come from the younger generation, a group that shows a nearly three-quarters majority nationwide in support of gay marriage, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Of the seven North Carolina counties that reported a majority vote against the amendment, six include within their borders a university and a large student population, including Orange (UNC-Chapel Hill), Durham (Duke University), and Buncombe (UNC-Asheville).
Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, who is openly gay, said at the Vote Against Festival on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus two weeks ago, "It's not a stretch to say that [students] can be the reason we defeat the amendment." And it's certainly not a stretch to say that these young, energetic and informed people - the future leaders of this state - will be the reason North Carolina soon brings it down for good.
Sorry to the 63 percent of Moore County voters who felt the need to define "marriage between one man and one woman" as "the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state." You won the battle, but you won't win the war.
The current campaign for marriage equality is strikingly similar to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s, when equality for minorities and for women was at stake. Southern conservatives and traditionalists, in part because of religious or moral beliefs, were uncomfortable with the extension of rights to these groups. But once anti-discrimination laws were in place, people accepted them as just.
Discrimination surfaced again when N.C. citizens voted to preserve, in the words of amendment supporter Tony Perkins, "the historic and natural definition of marriage." They have a right to that belief.
But when people like Mr. Perkins make claims about "the unique benefits that marriage between a man and a woman brings to families and society" and use such reasoning to amend the state constitution to deny equal rights, there is a problem. Other types of families - such as gay or unmarried couples - can confer valuable benefits to society as well.
Many members of the older generation are firmly set in their beliefs that any legal marriage outside of the "natural" one is an abomination. But despite the passing of Amendment One, the efforts to bring justice to all people of this state and of this nation are far from finished.
The tide is turning on the marriage equality front. More than two-thirds of Americans in 1996 said they did not believe gay marriage should be valid, but that number has dropped below the 50 percent mark in 2012. Even President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have in the past two weeks publicly come out in support of legalizing gay marriage.
And as an open-minded and tolerant younger generation assumes the leadership roles in North Carolina over the next few decades, I'm confident that our state can follow the example of these two national leaders, repeal Amendment One and the law forbidding marriage equality, and lead this country in a push for true "liberty and justice for all."
Sarah Brown, a graduate of The O'Neal School, is a rising sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill.
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