I’m sitting here thinking about all of the blood, sweat and tears poured into this battle to defeat Amendment One here in NC. It looks like is NC had the highest turnout for a primary here in a quarter century — 34.37 % (2,164,074 ballots cast out of 6,296,759 voters). Only 18% were expected to vote.

But the forces of bigotry won this round. (WRAL updated 12:43 AM; full election results can be found here):

The marriage amendment captured 61 percent of the vote in unofficial results.

David McLennan, political science professor at William Peace University in Raleigh, said some of the wide margin could be attributable to confusion over the amendment.

“About 10 percent of the people polled across the last two months thought that voting for the amendment was voting for gay marriage,” McLennan said. “I’m not saying that makes up all the difference. Twenty-two points is a pretty wide margin.”

…North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber criticized the measure’s passage.

“The voters of North Carolina were led to vote on a trick amendment that now places hate discrimination and division in our constitution, an amendment that violates the fundamental protections of equal protection under the law and sets up the precedent of majorities voting on the rights on minorities,” Barber said in a statement.

But in the end, more on the other side [final: 61%-39%] felt motivated to show up and cast a ballot and too many people decided not to bother. And unfortunately, they chose to determine the civil rights of a minority in the name of “protecting” marriage — something that wasn’t in any jeopardy to begin with.

I can feel good about the city in which I live, Durham, where the amendment was shot down 70%-30%.

As someone who lives here and has to live in the aftermath of this loss, there aren’t enough words to express how grateful I am to so many people some who put their lives on hold, spent time learning about and writing about NC than you ever thought you would; people of all ages, faiths (or none at all), and political persuasions calling, and building coalitions offline and online to make it clear that what happens in NC is important to the equality movement at large.

There has been hard work from people on their own time and dime, hard work by the Campaign to Protect All NC Families, and yeoman work by individuals who wrote letters to the editor, made phone calls and canvassed to grab every last voter they could to the polls. This is what helped this record turnout take place.

We were able to highlight the broad political opposition to this amendment — progressives, conservatives, libertarians — and show the narrow and narrow-minded band of support for the amendment. The problem is that the latter was deep, and frightened by the bible beating and threat of something happening to “traditional marriage,” whatever that is in a country with a 50% divorce rate.

Building the coalition — assembling the diverse partners involved in this battle has been quite a handful, and it has paid off in dividends. The social justice infrastructure that has grown and been extended and is highly visible now — this can have lasting political repercussions for progressive politics in North Carolina — and that helps the equality movement nationally in the end.

What is the key issue here is that a battle about marriage and legal rights for unmarried couples is not what North Carolina needed, and was forced into it by craven lawmakers and bigots who wanted an easy political club — homophobia — as a GOTV tool. It shouldn’t have been on the ballot in the first place, but it was, prematurely leapfrogging an issue that the state was not ready to handle.

As I’ve told my marriage equality advocate friends many times, for those of us in states where we do not even have employment protections — you can be fired for being LGBT here, no questions asked — we won’t see same-sex marriage until the U.S. Supreme Court makes it happen.

The coalition-building here has afforded North Carolinians for the first time to discuss the rights of LGBT neighbors and friends. It has shown the country that yes, the South has politically active voters of strong faith that are against discrimination for all of the right reasons — it’s not a matter of religion at all, but about the separation of church and state and protecting and extending the rights of minorities, not restricting them.

For those clinging to that notion in order to hide their own homophobia it has become challenging to defend their decision to vote for the Amendment. Not for those who see no separation of church and state, mind you, but those who are fuzzy on what they choose to believe in the Bible when it suits their needs.

But we won’t forget the support and love from many on the ground here and in digital space around the country.

The majority of North Carolinians voting today don’t believe that my civil marriage (legal depending on what state we travel to), should be recognized.  While perhaps some subset probably didn’t know they were banning civil unions and domestic partnerships (at this point, one has to believe these folks are pretty dense), the most vocal proponents of Amendment One not only wanted to “protect marriage,” they wanted to punish lesbian and gay couples. Apparently even at the expense of economic development and jobs or collateral harms to unmarried opposite couples and children, or what will now be legal chaos over all of these harms and the possible impact on private contracts as well.

It’s hard to view anyone who believes that is moral in any sense of the definition.

But what they cannot do is shove our relationships back into a closet. We are here, we are families. We are taxpayers.

5:26 AM: I slept for about 3 hours. Cried a bit, fell asleep, woke up congested, wishing I could roll the clock back to 2010 and stop the turnover of our legislature to the GOP. That’s where the nightmare began on a host of issues here in NC. Need to sweep the cockroaches out of the NCGA. Time for some dark humor. I responded to a Tweet by Field Negro:

 

The statement from Protect All NC Families is below the fold.

Statement from Jeremy Kennedy:

Tonight’s results were disappointing, not just for gay and lesbian North Carolinians, but for the hundreds of thousands of non-traditional families who may face the harmful impact of Amendment One. Our campaign may have fallen short this evening, but your work over the past several months did not. Your efforts and dedications achieved many victories along the way, and demonstrated to North Carolina and to the entire country that discrimination and victimization will not achieve easy victories.

Tonight’s result was truly historic. This amendment began with a forty-point lead just a few months ago – but you, undeterred and undaunted, worked to educate your fellow citizens about its harms. Your work has made a difference not just in North Carolina but in our country as a whole. People from all over the country can now look to North Carolina as an example of a state that fights to protect, defend, and support all of its citizens.

Our campaign was a rejection of the divisive vision offered by the National Organization for Marriage and similar organizations who advocated for this damaging amendment. Just as they have done in many other states, these organizations injected millions of dollars of funding into a messaging campaign that framed the Amendment as a fight to protect “family,” never admitting that it stood to endanger families, children, and individuals across our state.

Over the course of the campaign we showed them that North Carolina was better than this amendment, and better than their divisive tactics and misleading messages. We may lost in the polls tonight, but in the final days of this campaign we succeeded in reframing this debate, replacing divisive messaging and scare tactics with pragmatic discussion and empathy.

We would like to thank you and everyone who fought against Amendment One. Over the course of the campaign we were inspired by the tens of thousands of people we met at events, encouraged by the thousands of volunteers who stepped up and spoke out, and awed by the 11,000 people who contributed financially to our success.

All of our efforts were boosted by a historic coalition that came together across North Carolina, and our spirits were lifted by our diverse and courageous allies. Our partners include Equality North Carolina, HRC, the NC NAACP, ALCU-NC, Blueprint NC, Replacements, Ltd., Southerners on New Ground, and dozens of faith communities and community organizations.’

Together, we have proven to North Carolina and the entire country that fear tactics, discrimination, and division may compete with love, compassion, and solidarity in the short term, but we know that the time is coming for true equality. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “the arc of the moral universe Is long, but it bends toward justice”

Finally, I want to say to all North Carolinians, gay and straight, who I have met during this campaign: you are worthy of love and acceptance. Your family cannot be defined by discriminatory amendments or statutes. I ask that we continue to support one another, fight for one another, and work together to move this state and our society closer to our ideals -closer to our creed that ALL men and women are created equal.

Thank you for your support over the course of this journey and I urge you to please continue to work with all of our coalition partners on behalf of equality in North Carolina and beyond.

Best,

Jeremy Kennedy