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Op-ed: In North Carolina, Change We Can Believe In

Op-ed: In North Carolina, Change We Can Believe In

One of the toughest things about fighting Amendment One -- my state's May 8 ballot referendum that's so overreaching it could threaten protections for all unmarried couples in the state, including the gay and lesbian ones it targets -- is getting the word out to as many folks as possible about just how many families and children this discriminatory measure could hurt.

Trust me, I know. I literally ran from one end of North Carolina to the other last month on our campaign's "Race to the Ballot," stopping in as many of our state's cities and towns as this country has states, to seed what we hope can turn into one million conversations about the unintended harms of this constitutional rewrite before people head to the polls in six weeks.

So, on March 16, 2012, when President Obama officially came out against North Carolina's Amendment One, marking the first time he's weighed in on a state referendum involving gay rights since he spoke out as a candidate in '08, he truly did our state a solid. The man who ran on a platform of hope and change, but had since become an ally-in-waiting, brought much-needed state and national attention for our efforts to actually beat one of these amendments (for a change) and keep our southern state on the right side of history in 2012 and beyond.

Fortunately, with his statement, the president joined a growing roster of unlikely allies in our battle to beat back Amendment One. Since the referendum was placed on the ballot in September 2011, diverse communities of faith, business, age, color, and class from all across North Carolina have come together to contest the latest of a long line of state legislative attacks on children, women, the poor, and the oppressed.

In this fight, Southern Baptists have stood side by side with Secular Humanists, businesspeople have teamed with Occupiers, gaggles of student groups have canvassed with residents of retirement communities, and Tea Party Congresspeople have echoed the sentiments of state NAACP leadership -- all in protest of the legislature's efforts to write discrimination into our state's founding document.

That's Amendment One for you: a "divisive and discriminatory" measure, as the President put it, that also happens to bring unlikely people together in a shared pledge to vote against on May 8.

And while we know that no one person's voice alone can beat back a constitutional amendment this bad, when a multitude of anti-amendment voices like we've heard in recent months turn into votes, we have a true chance to defeat this type of referendum in our state and beyond.

That may be why so many of the younger folks we've talked to along the way say the opportunity to vote against Amendment One in 2012 feels similar to the feeling of voting for candidate Obama four years earlier.

Could it be that they sense it too, that the election of the man who gave us hope in 2008 might just have provided the relationships and resources to make that positive change this May?

Maybe it's a bit idealistic to think that four years of evolving belief and renewed understanding could culminate in a different result for my southern state's amendment fight. Yet, if it was that same idealism that not only elected our first African-American president, but also turned my state purple back then, I'll gladly take those odds.

And see you, North Carolina, at the polls on May 8.

JEN JONES is the director of communications for Equality North Carolina and The Coalition to Protect All NC Families.

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