4 Worst Media Misrepresentations of North Carolina's Anti-Gay Amendment One
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Protect All NC Families was so powerful in some ways because it centered the ways in which all families in the State – not just families helmed by LGBT parents – would be harmed by the Amendment. Rather than denigrating the citizens of North Carolina, both national media and LGBT rights groups should be paying close attention to what anti-Amendment activists achieved in North Carolina. They could learn quite a bit from it. The vote itself may have brought out the worst in North Carolina, but the movement against it may have mobilized a degree of solidarity and community that we didn’t know existed.
4. North Carolina’s vote was not caused by “poor inbred” Southerners.
As soon as the news broke that North Carolina voted in favor of Amendment One, insulting comments about the State overtook the Internet. Without acknowledging the 30 other states that voted to ban gay marriage before North Carolina, the state was immediately demonized. An Internet meme noting that first-cousin marriage is legal in the State was widely distributed. Rather than asking who paid for the campaign in favor of Amendment One, the media seemed to dismiss North Carolinians as “poor redneck white trash.” This was deeply insulting to the many people who fought to stop the Amendment.
But it also drew on historical stereotypes about Southern poverty that have been used to denigrate people in the South. No one checked the laws of California after the passing of Proposition 8 to find out if first-cousin marriage is legal there. (No, but it is legal in many other states, many of them not Southern.) That the first impulse of the national Left was to mock “inbred” Southerners and not to show solidarity with LGBT activists in the State was deeply demoralizing for LGBT activists and their allies in the State who had worked very hard against Amendment One.
Queer-identified Kelli Joyce, 19, will graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill this Sunday. Next year, she will continue on to Yale Divinity School. She tells AlterNet, “I guess first I would note that no state has yet been able to defeat one of these amendments at the ballot. From NC to California, it's just a really hard fight. It's not a question of ‘poor southern rednecks,’ to me. In my experience, it's anyone who is unaware of the broad consequences, which the amendment's framers intentionally obscured. Or sometimes it's people who have an idea of what it does, but are just too civically disengaged to get out and vote, which is a problem everywhere. [North Carolina] voters also tend to be older, which affects the results. NC is progressive among Southern states. It has been, and still is. The loss of this one is heartbreaking, but I would attribute it to unclear wording and trickery more than to any idea that the NC population is somehow backward or inherently hateful.”
A native of Greensboro who grew up in an ultra-conservative Southern Baptist family, Joyce is quite proud of the movement she participated in. A grassroots effort from the start, Protect All NC Families received some financial assistance from the Human Rights Campaign but mainly relied on diverse groups within North Carolina. Joyce says, “This was a completely local movement. For example, in Greensboro, the people of faith group ordered over 2,000 yard signs. A [United Church of Christ] church fronted the money, and was paid back as others bought the signs at cost. People were distributing the signs from the back of cars in church parking lots and from independent coffee shops in addition to the normal places like rallies. We wrote letters to the editor. And most importantly, we focused heavily on talking to our own friends and families.”