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Statewide run aims to protest Amendment One

Jen Jones will start running for a cause today. And it’s not going to be just a 5-K — but a 322-mile run to be exact.

Jones, communications director for Equality North Carolina, is leading the Race to the Ballot campaign to mobilize voters against Amendment One, the referendum on the May 8 primary ballot that could place a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

The ban is up for a vote after the N.C. General Assembly passed the Defense of Marriage amendment last September.

“I’m Tar Heel born and bred, and I can’t stand that this is happening in my state,” Jones said. “I want to excite everyone and mobilize for the battle.”

Last week, ENC, along with several other organizations, launched the Coalition to Protect N.C. Families, an anti-amendment campaign. It currently has about 80 member organizations, including the N.C. Council of Churches, the state chapter of the NAACP and the N.C. Democratic and Libertarian Parties.

In just over a week, the coalition collected more than $300,000 from 500 donors.

Race to the Ballot — featuring Jones and a team of media and documentarians — will kick off the campaign’s efforts to rally voters for the state’s primary. Jones will run as the group travels by car with her across the state, trying to mobilize voters.

The campaign will come to UNC on Feb. 16. Jones said she and her team plan to run through the Pit around noon. Voter registration, musical entertainment and speakers will be featured all day.

Jones and her fellow advocacy members plan to visit universities, town halls and churches during the month-long campaign.

“We want to share how this amendment will negatively affect the lives of both straight and gay people,” said Stuart Campbell, ENC’s executive director.

Jeremy Kennedy, the coalition’s campaign manager, said Race to the Ballot is the first of many events planned for the next three months.

One of its awareness goals is to have a million conversations with people across the state before the vote in May. These will include television ads, speeches and rallies.

North Carolina is the last state in the Southeast that does not have a ban on gay marriage.

But marriage is already defined in state law and therefore doesn’t need constitutional protection, as many amendment supporters are arguing, Kennedy said.

“What (amendment supporters) are really saying is, ‘The only family that matters is one that looks exactly how I want it to look,’” he said.

One of Race to the Ballot’s major goals is to get young people involved in its efforts, he said.

“We hope to recruit volunteers on each campus over the next couple of weeks,” he said.

One student leader hoping to work alongside Race to the Ballot is UNC freshman Peter Vogel, the Amendment One chairman for UNC Young Democrats.
Vogel said the UNC Coalition Against Amendment One, which includes Young Democrats and several other student groups, will work to raise support for the cause on campus.

Jones said she thinks many college-aged voters will be against the amendment.

“We want to register students, make sure they know this is coming up and encourage them to vote again and again.”

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