Woman running in effort to defeat amendment banning gay marriage

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 10, 2012

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — A coalition opposing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage will dash into Salisbury on Sunday.
Over a five-week period, from January to March, Jen Jones is running 322 miles across the state as part of a campaign called “Race to the Ballot.” She will be joined along the way by a team of supporters and documenters.
Jones is the communications director for the Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families, a group of organizations dedicated to defeating the amendment in a May 8 voter referendum.
On the state’s primary ballot, voters will be asked to approve or reject a state constitutional amendment that reads, in part, “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”
Jones, who describes herself as a “non-runner in many respects,” said the race is an example of accomplishing something that seems out of reach.
“Many people see this amendment fight as an impossible goal, and we wanted to prove through conversations with the public… that we could do the impossible in North Carolina,” she said.
Jones will be running in downtown Salisbury at noon Sunday, having conversations with local residents about their thoughts and concerns. She will head west on Innes Street to the campus of Catawba College, where the college’s Gay-Straight Alliance members will be running a voter registration and education drive.
From 2 to 4 p.m., the public is invited to a town hall meeting at the Tom Smith Auditorium. Panelists from the coalition, the faith community and other citizens of Rowan County will speak and answer questions from the audience.
Republican leaders who support the measure have said North Carolina voters want a say in how marriage should be defined in the state.
State statute already restricts marriage to one man and one woman, but laws can be easily overwritten or overturned. Adding or repealing a constitutional amendment takes a three-fifths majority of a General Assembly.
“The amendment would essentially ban all legal relationship recognitions other than marriage between one man and one woman in this state,” Jones said. “That includes civil unions.”
It would affect not only same-sex couples, she said, but also opposite-sex couples who aren’t married. The coalition says domestic partnership benefits, end-of-life arrangements, child custody cases, domestic violence protection and more could be impacted.
Jones is also the communications director for an organization called Equality North Carolina. She said she’s excited to stop in Salisbury and talk to people here, because the coalition has seen unexpected support from rural areas.
Mike Clawson, president of the Salisbury-Rowan PFLAG chapter, is organizing Salisbury’s Race to the Ballot events. He said he thinks many North Carolina residents either don’t know about the amendment ballot measure or don’t fully understand it.
“Some people I’ve talked to think it’s a vote for gay marriage or not for gay marriage, but that’s not what it’s about,” Clawson said. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there. We just want to set the record straight.”
For more information about Race to the Ballot, go to www.racetotheballot.com or www.protectncfamilies. org.