4 Worst Media Misrepresentations of North Carolina's Anti-Gay Amendment One
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3. The movement to stop Amendment One was a grassroots effort of coalition building across racial difference.
During the protests against Proposition 8 in California, news media portrayed a mostly white, Human Rights Campaign-led movement dominated by middle and upper-middle class white men. There was a similar presumption there that Black people are so intrinsically homophobic that they supported the amendment en masse. As a result, LGBT people of color reported hearing racial slurs at protests against Proposition 8. Others were asked why they didn’t oppose Proposition 8 in light of the fact that members of the white LGBT community had strongly supported Obama. In some cases, LGBT people of color were holding anti-Proposition 8 signs, but that did not deter racist comments.
The North Carolina anti-Amendment movement has been different from the one in California. The umbrella organization started by Equality-NC, Protect All NC Families built a powerful coalition of opponents that included a wide range of human rights and social justice organizations throughout the state. Groups as wide-ranging as the Alliance of Baptists, the ACLU of NC, the National Association of Social Workers-NC, the NC Coalition against Sexual Assault, Planned Parenthood of Central NC, the NC Council of Churches and many others joined the coalition. And contrary to the stereotype that Black people are generally homophobic, some of the loudest and most sustained protests against Amendment One came from North Carolina’s Black communities.
William Barber, a heterosexual Disciples of Christ pastor, mobilized statewide chapters of the NC-NAACP to fight Amendment One. In turn, those chapters went on to recruit and organize countless Black pastors and congregations to stand against the Amendment. From the beginning, these supporters – many of them veterans of Civil Rights struggle – inserted powerful Civil Rights rhetoric into the movement. Barber says that this was intentional – indeed, he tells AlterNet, Civil Rights is about ensuring the constitutional promise of “equal protection under the law” for everyone. An Indiana native who moved to North Carolina during the 1960’s with parents dedicated to helping desegregate North Carolina schools, Civil Rights work has been central to his entire life. There is no question for him that any attempt to insert hatred or discrimination into the State Constitution is a struggle that is relevant for Black Civil Rights activists to take on.
In an article written shortly after the election, Barber explains the NC-NAACP’s opposition, writing, “Constitutional amendments almost always expand the rights of people against the power of the State. This has been the noble historical trend of constitutional amendments in America. We prohibited slavery. We stopped Jim Crow. We expanded the right to vote for freed slaves, for women, for young people. This is the first such discriminatory amendment placed in the NC Constitution since an amendment in 1875 that outlawed interracial marriage. This trick Amendment reverses the noble trend of constitutional amendments. It curtails family rights. It places a matter of conscience and personal belief in the hands of the state. It sets a precedent to allow a majority to vote to curtail the rights of a minority.”
He continues, “The real insult to African Americans and other religious people of color is that the same regressive forces behind this amendment are the same people who rushed bill after bill through the legislature, sometimes after midnight, to roll back our voting rights, our educational rights, our civil rights and our constitutional rights. Their purpose has been made abundantly clear. They want to undermine the constitutional role of government to operate for the good of the whole, provide equal protection under the law and ensure liberty and justice for all.”