Opponents rally against Marriage Amendment

by Eric Ginsburg

If anyone thought Amendment One would quietly pass on May 8, changing the legal recognition for domestic partnership and further solidifying a ban on same-sex marriages, the last few weeks in Greensboro have signaled strong community opposition to the proposed amendment to the state constitution.

Following on the heels of a nearly unanimous Greensboro city council condemnation of the amendment on Feb. 7, the UNCG Student Government Association and Guilford College’s student senate both passed resolutions in opposition to Amendment One on Feb. 14 and 15 respectively.

After a presentation by Caleb Patterson, the senator and student who proposed the resolution entitled “Reaffirming Equality,” students discussed their reasons for supporting the proposal and their concerns, ultimately voting 25-6 in favor of the proposal, with three abstentions. UNCG was the third state school to pass such a resolution.

Patterson said the amendment would change domestic partnership rights for six cities, including Greensboro, that provide domestic partnership benefits; erode domestic violence protections and violate the school’s nondiscrimination policy.

“We keep making this an LGBT issue, and it’s really everybody’s issue,” Sen. Juan Vasquez said.

At the beginning of the meeting, three students spoke about the proposal, including one student who said she is against Amendment One but opposed the resolution, stating that when she tried to convince the SGA to take a stand on the Dream Act they declined because it was a partisan issue and she felt this should be rejected on the same grounds.

Two other students, both organizers with the We Are campaign against the amendment and that helped bring up the resolution, also spoke at the beginning.

“This would create a barrier to me providing the best care I can to my patients,” senior nursing student Lindsay Welch said. After the vote she expanded on her position, saying, “If this passes I refuse to work in North Carolina. I will not be a nurse who has to tell someone they can’t visit their loved one.”

Welch, who spoke at the city council meeting when a similar resolution was adopted, is engaged and said she hopes her future children and other state residents will be afforded the same right to marry the person they love.

During the discussion, a senior senator said he didn’t think the SGA should vote on the resolution until more students’ voices were heard, and after the vote he proposed creating a committee to poll students.

“I don’t think anybody questions if a majority of students oppose Amendment One,” Patterson said. “I would challenge any senator to outline how Amendment One would benefit students.”

A similar concern was brought up during the discussion the following night at Guilford College, Secretary Erich Pohanka said. Some students at both schools felt the senate shouldn’t take a stance on a so-called political issue.

The Guilford College student senate normally uses consensus decision-making but ultimately voted 11-1 with two abstentions in favor of the resolution (double check numbers with meeting minutes).

A few hours before the UNCG SGA began discussing Amendment One, a large crowd packed the Green Bean coffee shop downtown for a Race to the Ballot event against the amendment. Jen Jones, the communications director for anti-amendment group Protect All NC Families, is running from Asheville to Wilmington to raise awareness about the amendment, and spoke to the overflowing crowd on Feb. 14.

Before Jones spoke, NC Rep. Marcus Brandon, Rabbi Fred Guttman and others spoke against the amendment. At least a dozen people with clipboards signed up attendees to pledge their vote against the amendment while other volunteers painted faces and a few musicians took the stage at the festive, all-ages event.

A spokesperson for Race to the Ballot said the Greensboro event was the largest one yet since the tour began last month. During the beginning of the event, a small group of people held signs across the street with Valentine’s Day themes in support of equality and against Amendment One, including a popular one offering free hugs.