Part of me has already catalogued the fight against Amendment One in North Carolina as ancient history. We lost, and since then a ton of other right-wing crap has been dumped on our state, so there is no use scratching that old wound.
And yet, it's not old. It took me a moment the other day to realize that Amendment One, the ban on same-sex marriage added to the state constitution, passed in a referendum on May 8 of last year. Not a few years ago or two years ago, but 2012. For all that's happened since, the wound is still fresh.
Not only that, the way we lost remains a bad memory. The LGBT community and straight allies joined in tremendous numbers and raised a lot of money, but our campaign for the hearts and minds of the people who supported the amendment was—how to say this nicely?—lousy.
Instead of making the case that gay folks fall in love and should be able to marry the same as straight folks, the TV ads and "messaging" from our side was about Amendment One's "unintended harms" to straight people. No, the ads made no sense and they didn't work. And we missed our chance to reach out and, if not persuade, at least appeal to the better angels of our fellow citizens' natures.
(Parenthetically, I will say I was never prouder of the INDY than when we declared ourselves not neutral in the Amendment One fight and published some great stories about gay couples in love—trying to reach out in a way the TV ads didn't.)
So while part of me wants to forget the campaign, another part knows we have some unfinished business here as well as new business, which is helping to win LGBT equality—and marriage rights—across the nation.
That's why, when Tracy Hollister invited me to a discussion Sunday about what we in the Triangle can do, and what she's been doing, I jumped at it. And when she handed me a pledge card, I checked the box that said I'd help her. "The freedom to marry is too important to watch from the sidelines," her card said. "We all have a role to play."
No question, Hollister is playing her role. As her friend Heather Hollick said, "She's our ambassador, our agent, our boots on the ground out there." Our job? "Be a tribe coming together to support her."
Here's what Hollister is doing: She's giving us a chance to be on the winning side in state campaigns for same-sex marriage equality starting with New Jersey and Illinois.
We can't get a re-vote on Amendment One in North Carolina, not as long as the Republicans who saddled us with it control the General Assembly. But we can be part of an effort that wins in state after state, finally clearing the way for the U.S. Supreme Court to declare that all states must abide by the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal rights for every citizen, LGBT or straight.
When it does, Amendment One will fall.
I've known Hollister for almost 10 years. I met her one night when she confronted an anti-gay heckler, a man, with her usual smile and a friendly question. "Do you like girls?" she asked him. "Yeah," he answered. "So do I," she said, beaming.
She's been on the front lines ever since.
Last year, Hollister left a pretty cushy job with a Cary company and threw herself full-time into her passion for standing up for LGBT rights. She has been paid at times, unpaid at times, but overall she's earned a fraction of what she used to. And her mortgage still has to be paid.
Last fall, she found a small, effective organization called Marriage Equality USA—or they found her—and she set up phone banks, mainly in New York, to support the marriage equality campaigns under way in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington state. That's right, with cellphones and free minutes, anyone can help with a campaign anywhere.
That's part of the mission of Marriage Equality USA. Another part is crafting a winning message. And what works, come to find out, is: Put people on camera, gay and straight, and have them talk about why they got married, and why they think everyone should be able to get married.
Amazingly, six months after we were crushed in North Carolina, the pro-rights side won with this positive message in all four state referendums. This year, the Rhode Island Legislature enacted a marriage equality law. That makes 13 states thus far, plus the District of Columbia. Legislative battles are happening in New Jersey and Illinois, with Hawaii coming soon.
President Obama has joined the fight. The Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The arc of history is bending our way, but the work goes on, with more states to win before the court, recognizing a national consensus, will do its duty and strike down all the discriminatory state acts as well.
So here's the pitch. Hollister is rejoining Marriage Equality USA and will set up phone banks in many places to call, first, the voters in Illinois. One phone bank, supported by the Human Rights Campaign, will be in Raleigh, starting Oct. 1. To help with it, contact Will Miles of HRC-Triangle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And Hollister, who's taken a big financial hit over the last year, is asking for some help, Kickstarter-style. She's trying to raise just $5,000 for her work—and a friend is pitching in $2,000 if others will give $3,000. That could be 100 people giving her $30 each, she said.
My wife and I will be two; 98 more are needed. Checks should be made out to Tracy and sent to P.O. Box 12985, Raleigh NC 27605. Or, if use your PayPal account, her email address is Hollister.email@example.com. Look for Hollister in the Marriage Equality USA booth at the N.C. Pride Festival on Sept. 28.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Going nationwide."
Correction: The HRC is the Human Rights (not Relations) Campaign.