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Fans, foes of gay marriage rally in Raleigh

Posted May 17, 2011 2:42 p.m. EDT
Updated May 17, 2011 8:25 p.m. EDT

In back-to-back events on Jones St. today, supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage waged a pitched rhetorical battle over a proposal to amend the state’s constitution to outlaw it. Watch our story below.

Current state law already bans same-sex marriage. But amendment supporters say an “activist judge” could easily overturn the statute.

An estimated 2,000 people turned out for a rally in support of a constitutional amendment. Republicans have been trying for years to get one on the ballot, but former Democratic leaders blocked the measure in both chambers.

“It will get done this year,” House Majority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, promised the crowd.

“Thirty-one states have it in their Constitution,” Senate amendment sponsor Jim Forrester, R-Gaston, told the rally. “Every state in the South except North Carolina has it.”  

The senator’s wife, Mary Forrester, is a marriage amendment advocate with the Concerned Women of America. She told the crowd that supporters of same-sex marriage are a “radical element” that seeks “to alter the course of civilization.”

“You have a voice,” Mrs. Forrester said. “You can make it heard. It is We the People that can make the difference.” 

The headliner of the rally was Tony Perkins, national director of the Family Research Council, a conservative group that fights same-sex marriage nationwide.

“It matters who you vote for,” Perkins said, smiling, as the crowd roared approval. “Elections have consequences.”

“There can be no truce over matters of fundamental morality,” Perkins told the crowd, urging them to lobby lawmakers to support the amendment. “We need to once again celebrate marriage in America as God designed it and God defined it.”

But inside the legislature, a group of clergy who support gay marriage said legislators ought to leave religion out of the constitution.

Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, is the only openly gay state lawmaker currently serving. He hosted a press conference this morning for the NC Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality, some 300 clergy and ministers strong.

“The Bible has been used in this nation to support slavery, segregation, laws against interracial marriage, and to deny women’s rights,” Brandon said, adding that he’s a Christian himself. “Jesus was a compassionate person. And Jesus would not be having a rally outside right now.”

Rev. Anthony Spearman is pastor of Clinton Tabernacle AME Zion Church in Hickory. “This extreme legislation will only cause needless pain and suffering,” he said of the proposed amendment.

“It sends a message to major employers that North Carolina does not welcome a diverse workplace,” Spearman said. “It tells young people who are gay they’re second class citizens, unworthy of basic dignity and equal treatment.”

“It is not fair,” Spearman said. “And it is certainly not just.”

“Martin Luther King Jr. said the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice,” said Rev. Stephen Shoemaker from Charlotte’s Myers Park Baptist. “We’re here to say today it also bends toward inclusiveness.”

“The state of North Carolina has really moved beyond this,” Brandon concluded. “I have 37 thousand people with no benefits. I have 45% of African American boys in my district dropping out of high school. These are the kind of things that I’ve come to work on.”