To all of you who worked so hard to fight against Amendment One: I want to thank you for showing the world that North Carolina is more than just a backward southern state. I want to thank you for standing up for the rights of others. I want to thank you for giving my 14-year old daughter and her friends something to care about, something that has made them all think about the world they will soon inherit. And I want to thank you for accomplishing something I never thought I would see in my lifetime: you awoke hundreds of thousands of people and created a coalition that crosses geographic, ideological and racial boundaries. Though you lost this battle, by uniting North Carolina against prejudice and fear, you have made it possible for us to win the war. If we stay united, I am convinced we can stop the conservative far right in our state and move North Carolina forward again.
I know that many of you poured your heart and soul into the fight. And I know that, for many of you, it was a very personal issue. I fear that you may feel abandoned and disenfranchised by the outcome. I apologize to you all for the misguided actions of my fellow North Carolinians and I ask that instead of wasting energy hating them for their ignorance and their fear, that you pour that energy into making sure that this awful amendment is their final stand. Here are just a few of the things you can do with your anger and your time. I hope you will add your ideas to the list:
Vote them out of office: Many people who voted for the amendment had no idea what they were doing, but the same cannot be said for their leaders. Conservative leaders in NC are very deliberately using issues like gay marriage to inflame their base in preparation for more damaging legislation intended to consolidate power in the hands of a very few. It is time to fight conservative lawmakers in every corner of our state. It is time to stop letting them win by default. It is time to make them work harder than they had ever had to work before to keep their power, to make them spend more than they ever thought they would have to spend to win even the smallest of fights. No matter how conservative the county may be where you live, it is time to run candidates against change-resistant lawmakers in both parties. Expose their donor lists to their communities so people understand just how bought and paid for they are. Call them out at forums and other campaign events. Fight them every step of the way. If there is no one else to run against them, then you run against them. No more free rides.
Close North Carolina's borders to the national far right: This amendment was part of a broader plan by ultra-conservatives to take over state houses nationwide. They won this particular fight in North Carolina, but we do not have to let them win any more parts of their agenda. Attempts will be made to revive the voter photo ID Bill and other far right legislation, and there will be many new bills introduced in Raleigh over the next few years that seek to take away the rights of anyone who is not exactly like them. Stay involved. Pay attention. March. Write letters. Contact your representatives. Speak up long and loud against further far right legislation that seeks to rob others of their rights and consolidate power in the hands of the very few. To stay abreast of what the far right is attempting, you can sign up with my organization, Progress North Carolina to become active on a wide range of issues; sign up to support Democracy North Carolina and fight to protect voting rights and the democratic process; follow developments in the legislature by visiting NC Policy Watch regularly or by reading Facing South; and take on any of the issues advocated for by any of the amazing nonprofits listed on this page, all of whom were brave enough and committed enough to stand against Amendment One.
Hold them accountable: When this badly-worded amendment lands our state in court, and it will, North Carolina will be facing huge legal costs. We must hold the people who introduced this bill and who voted for it accountable for every penny of these costs. They were warned by legal experts it would happen and they plowed ahead anyway. The waste of taxpayer dollars ahead of us is on them. Make them own it.
Keep fighting for your rights: If you find that this amendment takes away any of your rights or protections, fight it with every weapon you have. Let the world know what has happened to you or to your children and other loved ones, and take your battle to the courts if you have to. We must hold the people who passed this amendment responsible for what they did. Do not take it sitting down. Join the ACLU and let them know if your rights are violated.
Boycott unsupportive businesses: If a local business or service provider supported Amendment One and posted signs publicly urging others to do the same, then take your business elsewhere permanently. If they consider you or someone you love a second-class citizen, they are unworthy of your dollars. Conversely, if there were people or businesses that stood tall and fought against Amendment One, steer your business their way. We must not reward hatred and bigotry. Let the far right make their money off of someone else.
Keep religion out of government: It is time to end the expectation of Christian conservatives that they have a special right to power in our government. They don't. They count no more than you or I. If they do not remember that America was founded specifically so that no one religion could ever take precedence over another, then we will remind them. Churches were given a great deal of latitude when it came to Amendment One, but they do not have the same right to participate in elections or candidate campaigns. You know who these churches are in your community. Don't let them get away with more than what they are legally entitled to do. Keep an eye on them. If you see any of them endorsing any candidates or advocating for a political party, gather proof and call the IRS. They deserve to lose their tax exempt status. On a broader scale, it is time to take religion out of North Carolina’s local governments for good. The ACLU is fighting to remove prayer from public meetings and they could use your help. Visit their website to learn more.
Fight their dollars with your grassroots strength: The far right is pouring millions and millions of dollars into an effort to turn all of America far to the right, using the Citizens United ruling and Super PACs to bankroll millions of unregulated television ads and other propaganda material that hold little relation to the truth. Liberal-leaning donors have made it plain that they do not intend to get into an arms race with the far right on this score. Instead, they are relying on voter outreach and grassroots mobilization to win at the ballot box. That means you. You are the only one that can make this strategy work. Don't let this week go by without signing up to help an organization register forward-thinking voters and then volunteer for a campaign for a candidate who can defeat the far right on Election Day.
Stay visible: Show up. Be there at rallies and town halls. Don’t let incumbents stage lovefests for themselves by trying to confine public events to their supporters. Hold signs, introduce yourself, physically stand in front of conservative lawmakers and let them know that you are watching. Confront them with what they have done. You have every right to take part in the shaping of North Carolina's future. Don't let them make you invisible by taking away your rights and then intimidating you into silence. Get in their faces. Be there.
Return the favor: The coalition against Amendment One was amazing in its diversity. No battle over an issue in recent memory has united so many different types of North Carolinians. Understand that for some who were on your side, it was a new experience. For the first time, they understood that the discrimination you are facing is every bit the same as the discrimination they have had to live with for hundreds of years. Specifically, support the African-American community in NC. Join them in their fight against attempts to limit access to the ballot box, such as the voter ID bill; fight to keep the Racial Justice Act in place; and fight thinly-veiled racist legislation when it comes. Few people fought harder than Rev. Barber against Amendment One. His leadership of the NAACP as they took a stand against this amendment was historic. Let him know you noticed. The black community had our back, now let's have theirs. Remember: united we stand.
I’m sad tonight and I know it was a sad day for many North Carolinians. When the sun rises tomorrow morning, it is a certainty that no one's marriage will be any stronger or safer because of today’s vote. That is a bizarre, delusional concept clung to by frightened, ignorant people and the leaders who manipulate their emotions. But it is also a certainty that hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians will wake up feeling insulted, attacked, disenfranchised and alone. Let them know they are not alone. We fought this fight together and, if we stay together, we can absolutely win the war.
It is my belief and my hope that this amendment will prove to be the biggest mistake the far right in North Carolina ever made. It is my hope and my belief that this amendment will be the conservative right’s last stand. This amendment was a last ditch effort to stop the forces of change and, as we all know, the one thing you cannot stop is time. They can spread fear, tell lies, and scare people into taking their side, but there is absolutely nothing they can do to keep change away forever. Every day that passes, the old, white, conservative power structure in North Carolina erodes just a little. Every day that passes, the diversity of North Carolina grows. Every day that passes, more and more younger people come of age and start to pay attention. Change is coming and it’s coming fast. The fight against Amendment One helped us make great strides toward a new North Carolina. Let's use that momentum and let's keep going.
If you have any ideas about how we can use what we have learned during the Amendment One fight to take down the far right, please post it below. The time to fight even harder is now.