Thursday, December 15, 2011

Statewide film series set to fight N.C. anti-gay amendment

Posted By on Thu, Dec 15, 2011 at 4:38 PM

Before the May 8 vote on Amendment One — the anti-gay law that would, among other things, change the North Carolina constitution to require marriage to be between a man and a woman only — one group wants to show citizens statewide a series of films it hopes will change minds and votes.

Wilmington-based Working Films, a company that merges filmmaking and activism, will launch its Reel Equality series in January.

Andy Myers, community-engagement coordinator for Reel Equality, said the documentary series provides a opportunity for voters across the state to talk about the real meaning of family and marriage. Here’s how the series works: Groups that want to screen the six documentaries must go to the Reel Equality Facebook Page and organize screenings in their communities.

“The aim of the project is to get people motivated to take action or at least vote 'no' in May,” Myers said. “Film has the power to do good work." Groups, he said, may pick the best film for their individual communities or choose to show them all.

Earlier this month, according to WRAL, a coalition of mostly religious groups formed to push voters to approve the anti-gay amendment.

The "Vote FOR Marriage NC" organization has filed paperwork with the State Board of Elections. Initial coalition members include the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, the North Carolina Values Coalition, a group of black pastors and the National Organization for Marriage.

If the amendment passes, same-sex civil unions wouldn’t be recognized by the state and the rights of same-sex couples, such as hospital visitation, estate issues in the event of a death and child-rearing issues, wouldn’t be recognized in North Carolina.

An October poll by Public Policy Polling shows the measure could pass.

PPP's first look at the proposed marriage amendment in North Carolina since the legislature placed it on the ballot finds it leading 61-34. Republicans are overwhelmingly in favor of it (80/17) and independents (52/43) and Democrats (49/44) support it as well, although by more narrow margins.
The interesting thing is that 51% of this same set of voters supports legal recognition for gay couples. 22% favor gay marriage and another 29% civil unions, with only 46% completely opposed to granting same sex couples legal recognition. The problem for those trying to defeat the amendment is that 37% of voters who support gay marriage or civil unions are still planning to vote for it. That suggests a lot of folks aren't familiar with how wide reaching the proposed amendment would be and it gives those fighting it a chance- they just have to get their message out effectively to the majority of North Carolinians who do support legal recognition for gay couples that the proposal goes too far.

Myers said confusion over this issue is why Reel Equality is so important. “A lot of education needs to happen before the vote,” he said. “There’s a good percent of people out there who are confused and don’t know what this amendment does.”

That, Myers said, makes it crucial to hit the road with the documentaries that spell out what the amendment means to all gay couples and many straight ones, as well. As Maxine Eichner, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, told the Huffington Post in September, "The Amendment still has the potential to invalidate domestic violence protections for members of unmarried couples, as an Ohio court did with even narrower language in its state’s marriage amendment."

Myers said most of the Reel Equality screenings will likely happen between February and May. So far, no date has been set for Charlotte, but Myers said the Queen City is on the Reel Equality’s radar. "We want to to hit every county in the state,” he said.

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