Activist runs across state to oppose gay marriage ban

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 13, 2012

By Nathan Hardin
Jen Jones isn’t a runner.
But wearing an orange reflector vest, a yellow “Race to the Ballot” hoodie and a camera strapped to her forehead, Jones jogged into Salisbury Sunday afternoon as part of a campaign to do what she called “the impossible” and get North Carolina residents to oppose an amendment banning gay marriage on May 8.
Jones is in the middle of a 322-mile stretch, running through North Carolina towns from Asheville to Wilmington. She is the communications director for the Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families, a group of organizations dedicated to defeating the amendment at the May voter referendum.
“We tried to think of something that would draw people in. We know watching a triathlete run across the state is not appealing to anyone,” Jones said. “A 5-foot-6, 240-pound gal running across the state draws attention. It keeps people focused on what’s happening and it starts the conversations in their communities about the harms of Amendment One.”
Voters will be asked on the state’s primary ballot 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.”
But Jones and other critics say the amendment will affect the way the state recognizes protections for children of unmarried couples and domestic partnership benefits.
“There are two pockets of harms,” Jones said. “One is to relationship recognitions in the state. It’s a permanent ban on not only marriage equality — which comes up a lot — but civil unions and domestic partnership benefits.”
The others, she said, are just as harmful.
“Then we have this other pocket that threatens protections for unmarried couples — domestic violence protections, hospital visitation protections, end-of-life directives like wills and trusts and also child custody and visitation protections for children of unmarried parents, whether it be same- or opposite-sex couples.”
Republican leaders who support the bill 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 these laws can be overturned or overwritten.
Adding or repealing a constitutional amendment takes a three-fifths majority of a General Assembly.
Mike Clawson, president of the Salisbury-Rowan PFLAG chapter, organized Sunday’s ‘Race for the Ballot’ events.
Part of the overseeing effort was contacting Matt Sparks, president of Catawba College’s Gay-Straight Alliance.
“Mike Clawson messaged me about as soon as I got back in town for the spring semester,” Sparks said.
Sparks and other volunteers worked to publicize the event on campus. They passed out literature and manned a voter registration table Sunday afternoon.
“It’s been awesome,” he said. “It’s been a pretty cool process.”
Clawson said educating people about “the harms” of the amendment was one of the event’s biggest priorities.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what this bill could do,” Clawson said.
Another problem he’s encountered, he said, is many aren’t aware of the bill.
“We want to put some information in peoples’ hands and give them some good information about the possible ramifications of this bill.”
Clawson was one of about two dozen at the town hall-style meeting in Tom Smith Auditorium Sunday afternoon.
Jen Jones along with a Rowan County Lutheran pastor and a Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate took questions from the audience.
“While we feel like this bill is targeted at the LGBT community,” Clawson said, “its harms go much further than the LGBT community.”
For more information about Race to the Ballot, go to or
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.