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Op-ed: Musical Casts Young People as Lead Against Amendment One

Op-ed: Musical Casts Young People as Lead Against Amendment One


As a gay teenager interested in the fight for marriage equality, along with other left-wing pursuits, I always found more kinship with adults than with other teenagers. The local scene felt like a melting pot of dating, gossip, and sex -- not that I was never a part of it -- and so the Gay Men's Chorus and involvement in the Lesbian and Gay Fund of Charlotte became my ways of connecting to gay politics and activism. I was proud to be gay, but not proud of my peers; this conceited pride, something I've always felt uncomfortable with, was challenged and defeated by my involvement in a musical targeting Amendment One.

Rachel Kaplan had the idea. "I want to write a musical about N.C. Amendment One, the amendment that will limit a legally defined relationship in our state to marriage between one man and one woman," she said when calling. I suppose she called me because of my lifelong interest in theater and, well, because I'm gay.

I was proud that my straight friend of more than 10 years would be interested in this sort of activism. So I answered resoundingly: "I'll do whatever you want me to do!"

The musical turned out great; Rachel commissioned a friend to compose the music and we recruited 16 more to round out the cast. We acquired a few more friends along the way to help make the set, arrange the choreography, and film and edit the final product. The video went on YouTube as soon as possible. Then it was up to us to spread the word about Amendment One and the need for votes against it.

This short process was the first time that I have felt so inspired, so impassioned in activism for gay rights with a group of my youthful peers. Rachel and the rest of us had heard in countless assemblies, whether encouraging us to vote or to promote alcohol-free driving, that we the young people could make a difference; it had always seemed to me, however, that no one wanted to.

Now we did. We were. And it felt damn good.

Our musical is clear about what must be considered when an amendment like this one is staring you dead on -- what's wrong with it, what can you do, and who can do it.

What's wrong with it? The musical pinpoints areas of the U.S. Constitution that uphold marriage equality and would be defied by the amendment. Also, it appeals to the idea that love is love, and that love between two consenting people cannot be voted on.

What can you do? Over and over, the musical gets across its most fundamental message: vote! "Early voting, absentee, whatever it takes, just guarantee," we sing, explaining a couple ways that the public can do its best to express its own interests.

Who can do it? This is the big one. Of course, the lyrics of the musical indicate a universality to voting. If you're 18 or 80, your vote counts the same. The demographic represented says something a little different, though. All of us are high-schoolers and college students; some of us don't even meet that 18-year-old criteria. Those of us who can cast a ballot constitute the most youthful voting demographic, the under-30 age group which Rock the Vote indicated as the only one to resist the Republican majority wave of 2010. The Pew Research Center cites a similar 18-to-29-year-old demographic as the Democratic Party's "most supportive age group."

Our musical began as a simple play on Prop 8: The Musical. We were highlighting the importance of marriage equality and encouraging everyone to play a part. These statistics display an aspect of our efforts that was inherent in its premise, but which has now come more clearly into the light. We are young, we are involved, and we are excited.

We are precisely what North Carolina and any future state fighting an amendment of this kind needs. We are the key to the defeat of N.C. Amendment One.

When Rachel came to me with her idea, I thought it would be exciting and enriching. The process became much more a wake-up call to me and hopefully to those who have seen our musical. We, the young people, can and will stand up for what we believe in. That display of passion can make the biggest difference in the world. And that is the most exciting and empowering feeling of all.

JOE EHRMAN-DUPRE is a sophomore at New York University interested in writing, sexuality studies, and the arts, and originally hailing from Charlotte, North Carolina.

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