GUEST POST: Taking action against Amendment One, two years after its passage

Editors' Note: This post was written by Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (right, with her wife Meghann), executive director for The Campaign for Southern Equality, based in Asheville, N.C., and a minister in the United Church of Christ. Freedom to Marry is proud to partner with The Campaign for Southern Equality - and other state and regional southern LGBT organizations - as part of Southerners for the Freedom to Marry.

May 8, 2014 marks two years to the day since passage of Amendment One, which bans loving, committed same-sex couples from marrying in North Carolina; denies legal rights and respect to same-sex couples who marry in other states; and even outlaws civil unions and domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.

I remember the night that it passed vividly. As a news anchor announced the election results, I knew that we were heading into new territory for the LGBT community in North Carolina, a state I am proud to call home. A time had come when we would face a simple but profound question as LGBT people - what are we each ready to do for equality?

Amendment One has been in effect for two years now. In that time, children have been born to same-sex couples in our state. Couples have traveled to D.C. and returned home, their marriage recognized by the federal government, but still denied by our state. LGBT people have faced cancer diagnosis, deaths in the family - life continues, with all of its joys and sorrows.

Ultimately, this law cannot legislate our ability to love. It cannot govern our fundamental humanity, which I believe to be a gift from God. But Amendment One harms real people each day and it looms like a shadow over our lives, ensuring that, as a LGBT person in North Carolina, you carefully assess what rights you possess or lack in each critical moment in life. I know this because I feel its chilling effects on my own life. My wife and I have been legally married since 2008, but North Carolina treats us as legal strangers. When she gives birth to our first child in July, my home state will not recognize me as a parent to our child. This is discrimination in practice. It cannot be dismissed as anything else.

In the past two years, we've also seen tremendous progress toward LGBT equality in every sphere of life, through court rulings and public opinion polls that show that a majority of Americans support employment protections and marriage equality. We know that Amendment One will be struck down by the courts because it is unconstitutional, but the day where all North Carolinians are equal - no matter who they love - cannot come soon enough. 

"It's conversations like these - conversations about speaking up against inequality, about creating a public record of love and family, about refusing to silently submit to an unjust, immoral law - that can make a difference in North Carolina."

That's why the Campaign for Southern Equality has been organizing and mobilizing LGBT people and supporters across the South for the past few years with the WE DO Campaign. And tomorrow, we will mark the second year since Amendment One’s passage by taking action again in Raleigh. We will proudly stand with same-sex couples as they take action against the unconstitutional Amendment One by applying for a marriage license or paying $26 to record their out-of-state marriage license at the Wake County Register of Deeds Office. They will be joined by family, friends and clergy who support them every step of the way.

These brave couples from North Carolina will do everything in their power to have their marriages recognized or to be married at last - including creating a public record of their love, commitment, and marriage. We often are asked questions about why we do this work in towns across the South, why we encourage same-sex couples to take this action and seek respect for their marriage licenses when they know they will be denied.

The WE DO Campaign is about targeting discriminatory laws in the moment of their enforcement. By requesting a marriage license or recording a marriage license, these couples are making this discrimination visible: Together, we are putting pressure on systems that persecute by provoking their enforcement. Watch a video featuring one of our recent actions:

As we take this action tomorrow, we're also cheering on the 20 plaintiffs involved in a new legal challenge against Amendment One - a lawsuit that challenges Amendment One and other marriage laws in North Carolina. The case opens a new front in marriage equality litigation because it argues that the religious freedoms of clergy from across traditions are being violated by a state laws that makes it illegal for clergy to marry same-sex couples. We are proud to say that some of the clergy plaintiffs in the lawsuit will stand with the couples tomorrow as well.

It's conversations like these - conversations about speaking up against inequality, about creating a public record of love and family, about refusing to silently submit to an unjust, immoral law - that can make a difference in North Carolina.

We will keep having this conversation - from the courts to the marriage license counter - as we stand up for full LGBT equality under the law, and in all spheres of life.

The Campaign for Southern Equality is proud to partner with Freedom to Marry and more than a dozen other southern LGBT organizations on Southerners for the Freedom to Marry, a coalition dedicated to amplifying the conversation about marriage in 14 Southern states, including North Carolina.