We published it to make a difference. And for a while, we did.
Longtime Charlotte journalist Ed Williams approached Creative Loafing with a story idea that would make our readers — gay or straight — aware of all the negative impacts of what became known as Amendment One, which made marriage between a man and a woman the only state-recognized union. Polls continually showed that many voters were oblivious to its intent, so we thought this was an important story to tell. It was one of the first projects I would oversee as Creative Loafing's new news editor and because of Ed's stellar writing and reporting — full of enough zingers to generate an electrical charge — it remains one of my most treasured.
[The amendment's] co-sponsor Dan Soucek...speaks of marriage as a uniquely valuable social asset that deserves unique protection. The amendment "affirms the family," he told Creative Loafing, "which is the most critical building block in our society." Soucek believes state policy should support only traditional marriage, but he noted that the proposed amendment doesn't prohibit unmarried couples from entering into private contracts that could guarantee some of the rights that state law automatically gives to married couples.
In fact, Cheri C. Patrick, a Durham lawyer whose work includes family matters for same-sex couples, said if the amendment is adopted, the chief beneficiaries may be the lawyers who draw up those contracts.
"How would Amendment One affect your life?" was by far our most discussed story during the first half of 2012, shared more than 2,000 times on Facebook. Readers sang Ed's praises in emails, phone calls and online commentary. For a while, we thought maybe all the support would translate at the polls. Maybe we had changed enough minds. North Carolina did change on May 8, and many would argue not for the better.
But Ed and others who fought against Amendment One hardly lost. They started an unprecedented conversation in this state about marriage, morality and government, and inspired an overwhelming number of North Carolinians to exercise their most fundamental American right. Ed's ending punched us in the gut to make that point:
A combination of lethargy and ignorance may produce an outcome on May 8 that most North Carolinians say they don't want. In an election, the only opinions that count are those of the people who vote.
Another point made in the story is that the tides are changing. Poll result after poll result shows a generational shift toward acceptance and tolerance, Ed reported:
Baby Boomers opposed same-sex marriage 48 percent to 42 percent, and their elders rejected it by an even larger margin, 55 percent to 33 percent. But members of Generation X (ages 31-46) favored same-sex marriage 50 percent to 42 percent, and Millennials (born after 1980) approved of it even more emphatically, 59 percent to 35 percent.
The same is true in this state. A January poll by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh found 63 percent of North Carolinians age 18-29 favor some form of gay union.
Advocates like Ed will continue to fight for equality as, I promise, will Creative Loafing.