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4 Worst Media Misrepresentations of North Carolina's Anti-Gay Amendment One

North Carolina's anti-same-sex-marriage Amendment One passed last week amid a lot of wild media speculation, especially about black voters. We set the record straight.

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Many other Black pastors have spoken out and helped reach their congregations. Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, the evangelical – and also heterosexual – pastor of an African Methodist Episcopal Zion church in rural Hickory, NC has been another leader in the struggle. The proud recipient of a 2011 Equality Award from Equality-NC, Spearman tells AlterNet that he has been involved in the struggle against Amendment One from the beginning. He tells AlterNet that he found his earlier homophobic views challenged many years ago, when working as a chaplain at a historically Black college. He recalls many LGBT students who sought his counsel at the university, and one in particular who changed his conservative views on homosexuality once and for all. A gay student at the college came to him and said he was on the brink of suicide. At that moment, Spearman says it really clicked that the message he should give the student was one of love and acceptance.

At a 2011 rally against Amendment One, Spearman said, “This extreme legislation will only cause needless pain and suffering. It sends a message to major employers that North Carolina does not welcome a diverse workplace. It tells young people who are gay they’re second class citizens, unworthy of basic dignity and equal treatment. It is not fair and it is certainly not just.”

Both Barber and Spearman tell AlterNet that many Black North Carolinians with whom they had worked simply lacked basic knowledge about the bill. They say their strategy was largely to educate the Black community about what the Amendment could do. Almost invariably, former proponents of the Bill either stopped promoting it – or got directly involved in trying to prevent it. Barber recalls a phone call with one activist who was reduced to tears on hearing how damaging the Amendment could be.

There is no question that North Carolina’s movement against Amendment One was deeply enriched by the work of people of color. The news media’s focus on Black homophobia completely diminishes everything Black activists have done to fight alongside LGBT people in the State.

In a speech delivered before a largely LGBT group not long before May 8, Barber said,”I want each of you to know that I love and respect you as friends, brothers and sisters in the cause of justice. Never have I been prouder than to stand with you, connecting the dots of injustice and raising the call for a just society. We have stood tall and history will record that. We did not bow to wrong and history will record that. We have learned from each other and the Movement will be even stronger in the days to come. My faith teaches me that Truth ultimately rises and love will conquer hate. And the Psalmist reminds us all: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

He was right. This video demonstrates both his talent at the pulpit and his impassioned recruitment to the cause:

Though the movement did not manage to defeat Amendment One at the ballot, Protect All NC Families brought an unprecedented amount of diversity to the local gay rights movement. From the beginning, the coalition valued everyone who wanted to help out – and specifically sought the solidarity of groups like the NC-NAACP, who have deep roots – and a lot of respect – in the South. From the start, Equality-NC and the NC-NAACP promoted a region-specific movement that cast the liberation and freedom of LGBT people as something that is bound up with the liberation of everyone else. Moreover, in recognizing the tradition of progressive faith-inspired activism in the South, they brought people of faith – including Baptists, Reform Jews and others – together for a common purpose. Ultimately, more than 400 North Carolina pastors signed pledges promising to oppose the Amendment, as did many faith organizations.

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