On Tuesday, May 8, North Carolina voters will determine if the state constitution will be altered to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. If passed, Amendment One will eliminate all domestic partnerships.
Award-winning LGBT blogger and activist Pam Spaulding, of Pam's House Blend, has been fighting the good fight, keeping people informed about the real consequences for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and communities of color in North Carolina if proponents of Amendment One are successful. The first out lesbian columnist for the Raleigh News & Observer's Durham News, Spaulding created Pam's House Blend in 2004 in response to the anti-gay political landscape.
In 2009 Spaulding was named one of the Huffington Post's Ultimate Game Changers in Politics, honored with the Women's Media Center Award for Online Journalism, given the Courage Award from the New York City Anti-Violence Project and selected as one of the Out 100. Spaulding has been working around the clock with community activists including the Rev. William Barber to fight Amendment One, which will have far-reaching consequences for many if passed.
The Root caught up with the self-described "accidental activist" to find out more about the amendment and what it means for the black community.
The Root: What is Amendment One, and why does it matter to black folks?
Pam Spaulding: Amendment One is an amendment to the constitution that is going before voters that says the only valid domestic union in the [North Carolina] is marriage between one man and one woman. The amendment has been the subject of early voting from April 19 to May 5, and Tuesday [May 8] is the actual primary. If Amendment One passes, it will eliminate all domestic partnerships, including unmarried male-female partnerships.
North Carolina is the last state in the South to not have a marriage amendment, and it is one of the most comprehensive of the amendments. Amendment One matters to people of color because there are black gays and lesbians with families that are going to be negatively affected by the amendment. The proponents of the amendment would like to divide the religious and gay [communities], confusing the separation of church and state.
Trying to legislate from this perspective is wrong. If you choose to restrict the civil rights of one group of people, then you can do that to any group of people. You will basically have the majority ruling over a minority. The proponents of the amendment are the same people that would have likely voted to have us drinking from separate water fountains.
TR: How did you become so passionate about LGBT issues?
PS: I've been blogging since 2004 about a variety of topics. What spurred me to write about LGBT issues was the 2004 re-election campaign of President Bush, when they purposely used gay marriage to score political points even though they knew that they couldn't get the vote to pass. They were fearless in their discrimination.
I was writing as personal expression and then became an accidental activist, feeling the need to confront these issues. In no way am I a traditional activist. I have never worked for a LGBT organization, and I've certainly not been in politics. My personal sense of wanting to do more for my community is why these issues have become the outgrowth of my writing.
TR: Why are opponents of marriage equality targeting the black community as allies?
PS: They are exploiting the [socially] conservative religious black community because they can. They have been purposely trying to confuse the matter by saying that all Christians should want to vote a certain way and populations of color should vote the same way. Proponents of Amendment One are populating the commercials with black families, and it is a disgusting tactic.
The first time since Reconstruction that Republicans are in control of the General Assembly, and the first thing they do is roll this issue into a nutrition bill to get it passed. The same people that made this issue a part of the ballot are no friends of the black family, whose voting rights they are also trying to attack.
TR: How can straight black people be allies for marriage equality?
PS: Just like any other allies. They can communicate that they believe that loving couples in same-sex relationships deserve civil rights. They can make sure that people understand that members of LGBT communities are citizens of this country and are people of faith. There are laws on the books that protect your freedom to believe, but not to impose your beliefs on others.
Gay and lesbian people already exist, and if you pass these laws, you will be harming children in these families. These amendments will eliminate benefits. For example, a partner who is on someone [else's] health insurance will lose that insurance. They will suffer, and if they have children, the children will suffer. [Black people] can help explain this to their friends, families and neighbors. Unmarried couples that are victims of domestic violence will not have the same protections.
They can help make sure that people understand that passing Amendment One makes the issue [of marriage equality] less clear — there is already a statute stating that marriage is between a man and a woman — and it 100 percent throws these issues back into the courts, which are overwhelmingly conservative. The principle of the amendment is wrong, and we need to make sure that people understand that.
Nsenga K. Burton is editor-at-large for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.