Gay Rights Groups Regroup as Amendment Passes
The constitutional amendment passed Tuesday with 61 percent of the vote, but in Wake only 43 percent of voters approved the amendment.
While some tears were shed, and plenty of hugs were passed around the LGBT Center on Hillsborough Street, the overall atmosphere was one of encouragement and resolution.
Lorraine Johnson is a board member for Equality NC, but chose to spend her election night at the community center, win or lose, rather than at the party held by Equality NC.
“I am here because this is my family,” Johnson said. “In the end, all the politics, all they’re about is community.”
She said the LGBT community knew they would have a tough time fighting the amendment as soon as they found out it would go onto the ballot.
She pointed out that every state that has fought similar legislation has faced an uphill battle — and those states had 12 months to prepare. North Carolina only had six months.
“So from the beginning we had to have a coalition,” Johnson said. She said the coalition that emerged is the silver lining to the whole vote: Most states who have faced this sort of legislation lost by at least 75 percent of the vote. The amendment was opposed in NC by almost 40 percent of voters.
A few blocks away, at the Amendment One opposition party held at The Stockroom, Deputy Finance Director for the Coalition Jon Broyhill echoed this sentiment.
“What the opposition doesn’t know is that all they have done is awoken a sleeping giant,” Broyhill said. “We have such a strong coalition now, and we’re not going anywhere.”
On the other side of town, at the North Raleigh Hilton on Wake Forest Road, the party looked a little different. At 9:21, when the announcement was made that the results had been called in favor of the amendment, a sustained cheer spread throughout the crowd of almost 200 people and slices of wedding cake were served.
“Through God’s great Mercy we have won an overwhelming victory,” said Tami Fitzgerald, chair of Vote for Marriage NC. “We have wanted one thing only: to protect marriage as a union between one man and one woman. We are not anti-gay. We are pro-marriage. You do not rewrite God’s law.”
Skip Stam, the house Republican leader, said he isn’t too concerned about the amendment being repealed later.
“The younger people who didn’t support the amendment haven’t married and had children,” Stam said. “When they do that, then they’ll understand the importance of marriage.”
But civil rights groups, including the ALCU and Equality NC are already looking toward that next step. Communications Manager of the American Civil Liberties Union Mike Meno said they will hold a press conference Wednesday at the LGBT Center on Hillsborough Street to talk about what happens next.
“Even if we had won tonight, the fight still isn’t over,” Meno said. “There are a lot of other ways in which LGBT citizens are second class.”
Executive Director of Equality NC Stuart Campbell has been involved in the fight for LGBT rights for more than 20 years, and made it his career a couple of years ago after the upsurge in teen LGBT suicides.
He called the passing of the amendment a temporary setback, also referencing the LGBT community in the state as an awakened giant.
“We now have a progressive infrastructure that will help us move to the next stage in LGBT equality in North Carolina,” Campbell said.
Will Huntsberry contributed to this report.