That sleek modern building you pass as you come into Raleigh on Wade Avenue—the one set back in the trees as you approach Dixie Trail that's so easy to miss if you're not looking for it—is a key place in the campaign to defeat the anti-gay Amendment 1. The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh (UUFR) sanctuary is hosting phone banks every Thursday night—and soon every Tuesday as well—where volunteers call registered voters and urge them to vote no in the May 8 primary election.
Between 20 and 40 people have been coming in the first weeks, says Tracy Hollister, a UUFR member and a gay-rights activist. Hollister says she's been working for LGBT marriage rights since 2004, when she stopped by another liberal church that was hosting an open meeting on gay unions and found herself surrounded by hostile members of the Upper Room Church of God, a conservative and predominantly black congregation in Southeast Raleigh. "Get out of my face, lesbian," one of them said to her. "I said, 'Sir, I love you,' because what else do you say to someone who's so full of hate?"
After more of this unfortunate back and forth, Hollister says, "my calling came to me that day, which was to help educate people about who we are and what our agenda is." That agenda is nothing more or less than equal treatment.
Hollister is one reason why the 550-member UUFR is standing for equality in the Amendment 1 battle. Another is UUFR's interim lead minister, Don Rollins, who recommended that the congregation adopt an official statement of conscience in favor of the right of same-gender couples to marry, affirming an earlier statement and opposing "any attempt to enshrine discrimination into the North Carolina constitution." The statement of conscience passed by a vote of 156 members to zero.
Rollins is a lanky, guitar-playing minister who does a spot-on Bob Dylan impression and, he says, wears his reverend title very lightly.
That was apparent Friday night when he, Hollister and UUFR member Bett Padgett, a well-known Raleigh music teacher and house concert host, put together a benefit show in the sanctuary for the anti-Amendment 1 Coalition to Protect NC Families. The show drew a crowd of 250, who gave $4,802 to the coalition, Hollister says. Featured performers included Someone's Sister, a rousing close-harmony folk duo, and an inspired ensemble from the Triangle Gay Men's Chorus. Rollins sang too ("Blowin' in the Wind" and "Blue Suede Shoes," among others) and donned a series of funny hats, which had no significance whatsoever, he says. "Just trying to mix it up."
The plastic colander he wore at one point was not his version of Don Quixote's shaving basin qua helmet, Rollins insisted.
Just the opposite, said the Rev. Jimmy Creech, who spoke at the benefit. "As insidious as it is," Creech said, "this amendment is also a gift." Creech is a leading gay-rights advocate who was defrocked as a Methodist minister 20 years ago for marrying gay couples, a story told in his autobiographical book, Adam's Gift. He predicted that Amendment 1 will be defeated, setting the stage for a campaign in favor of marriage equality in North Carolina. "Few gave [President] Obama a chance to carry North Carolina in 2008," Creech said. "We have the same chance now."
Rollins said Creech remains his colleague in the ministry. "And I don't give a damn what anyone says," Rollins added.
Phone banking at UUFR is every Thursday, 6:30–9 p.m. Volunteers are asked to bring cellphones and a laptop computer if they have one. Starting March 26, the phone banks will be twice weekly on Mondays and Thursdays. Plans are to go to Monday, Tuesday and Thursday during the final two weeks of the campaign leading up to the May 8 vote.
Organizers are also reminding people that they must be registered to vote 25 days prior to the May 8 primaries. The exception is that you can register and vote at the same time at early-voting sites. Early voting runs April 19 through May 5, but dates and hours vary depending on the site. See more voting information in this week's DOMA Monitor.
And a tip: You must vote in the Democratic, Republican or Libertarian Party primary to cast a vote against (or for) Amendment 1. You do not have to vote for any candidates in the primary if you don't wish to do so.
In December, the Raleigh City Council voted 6-2 to oppose Amendment 1, with council members saying discriminatory practices would discourage companies from locating in North Carolina.
The Wake County Board of Commissioners had no such qualms on Monday, however. Or at least a 4–3 majority of them didn't. The four Republican members—Paul Coble, Joe Bryan, Tony Gurley and Phil Matthews—voted to endorse Amendment 1, slapping their position onto the agenda without prior notice. They outvoted the three Democratic commissioners, Erv Portman, Betty Lou Ward and James West.
In less than eight hours, DOMA opponents had logged 2,890 signatures on a new online petition, "Paul Coble does not speak for us," at signon.org.