North Carolina Artists Speak Out Against Amendment One

By Chris Toenes

shirlette ammons (mosadi music, collaborator with Dynamite Brothers)

shirlette ammons with her parter, Kai

shirlette ammons with her parter, Kai

Amendment One is messed up on so many levels. As an openly Queer Black Woman Artist, I see the intersections of racism, classism, and homophobia in the fine print of Amendment One, efforts to disavow the various ways we define family. My beautiful and brilliant partner of 8 years works with an organization called SONG (Southerners On New Ground). SONG is part of the Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families’ Steering Committee and Kai (my partner) and I have extensive ‘pillow talks’ about the numerous ways this amendment endangers the fundamental human rights of dignity and safety for all people. I am also a part of a community (artists, organizers, activists, etc.) that works everyday toward a liberation of ideas, actions, choices and bodies. I would further posit that NC is in the midst of a creative and cultural shift and our voices are important in defining the south (and the world) we want to live and love in. Defeating Amendment One is imperative to that process.

Sara Bell (Lud, Regina Hexaphone, Shark Quest)

Sara Bell

Sara Bell

One of the things that always makes me proud to be from North Carolina is our state’s amazing civil rights legacy.  The Freedmen’s Convention.  Cherokee resisters and Henry Berry Lowrey.  The Durham Manifesto.  Sit-ins in Durham and Greensboro.  The first SNCC meetings held at Shaw University.  Dean Smith and Charlie Scott integrating ACC basketball — and Chapel Hill restaurants in the process.  The list is so long.  For every heroic success here has been a bloody struggle, but history always shows how disgusting hatred and bigotry reveal themselves to be.  All of these insane attempts to legislate marriage will prove to be just as ugly, but it’s not going to happen without a fight.  We can’t let this amendment pass. This is our Brown v. Board of Education, people: get ready, there’s a train a-coming…

Dave Cantwell (Cantwell Gomez and Jordan, In the Year of the Pig)

My main problem with this proposed amendment is not that I “have gay friends” or anything like that, but that in our country, we simply do not put basic right up to a vote.  The principles represented in the Bill of Rights are there to protect the minority voice, as undemocratic as that may seem.  Even if a majority of people thought gay marriage was “icky,” that has nothing to do with the rights homosexuals are due; it’s just not a situation in which the majority rules.

Perhaps we caused problems when we decided to make marriage an institution of government.  But, that’s the system we have.  And we are not in the business of systematically denying rights to others — even if most people think we should.

Kerry Cantwell (Actual Persons Living or Dead)

Kerry Cantwell

Kerry Cantwell

There has not yet been a firm, logical argument against gay marriage that withstands the test of reason: religious debates avoid Jesus’ New Covenant (to love others as He has loved us), HIV/AIDS debates are all debunked by the CDC, arguments that gays can’t procreate are ridiculous (just ask my gay friends who are parents), and the “What’s next?  Marrying your children?” argument is a ridiculous slippery slope fallacy.  The truth: if we let gays marry, then we have to acknowledge that they are human, like “us.” We have to validate their existence as legitimate, and that scares the hell out of people who just don’t know any better. Look at history: we fear what we don’t know. We’d rather keep marriage for the straight “good Christian” people who, perhaps, have serial marriages, withstand abusive relationships, give birth out of wedlock, transmit STDs through extramarital affairs, who then go pray for the souls of the damned on Sunday than to let two people who love each other and are committed to each other have a chance to screw it up the way straights do.

John Darnielle (the Mountain Goats)

I’ve been married since 1998, and in 2011, we welcomed our son Roman to the world right here in North Carolina. The bonds that unite us as a family are the same bonds that unite all families: love, trust, commitment. These sacred bonds also unite us with people who love one another everywhere: in our community, in our state, in our country, around the world and across the ages. They are the same for all people no matter who they love.  “The institution of marriage” isn’t threatened by gay marriage: it is strengthened by it; when we welcome all who love into a circle, what force can stand against it?

I brag on North Carolina everywhere I go. People talk a lot of trash about the South, but it was other states that wrote hatred into their constitutions, not us. I am hoping hard that my fellow North Carolinians, both natives and people like myself who feel like we’ve finally come home, will vote to allow everyone to celebrate their love in the same way.

Jeffrey Dean Foster (longtime Winston-Salem Americana artist)

Jeffrey Dean Foster

Jeffrey Dean Foster (Photo by Diana Greene)

Amendment One should be voted down because it threatens all civil unions and domestic partnerships. If passed it would effect domestic violence prevention, end of life decisions, hospital visitation and child custody rights.  But really, amending our state constitution to specifically deny civil rights to any group of tax-paying, law-abiding citizens is simply wrong. It seems designed to demonize and hurt the LGBT community specifically.  I love North Carolina and the fact that it is a melting pot of cultures and opinions, not all of which I agree with, but which make it a richly woven place to live. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Vote NO on Amendment One.

Pierce Freelon (The Beast)

My older brother is getting married to his fiancé this July. Their marriage would have been illegal in the state of North Carolina 50 years ago because ignorant and bigoted North Carolinians believed that God intended for marriage to be between one white man and one white woman. Under the guise of “defending traditional marriage” North Carolinians like the late Senator Jesse Helms sought to rally his base by playing on their fears of integration, posing questions like “do you want your son or daughter to marry a Negro?”— and advocating for same-race marriage legislation.

Thank God justice and common sense prevailed and those laws were overturned.

Most North Carolinians will agree that legalizing interracial unions did not hurt traditional marriage. On the contrary, my brother and his fiancé, and other interracial couples, have strengthened the institution of marriage by making it more inclusive, and reflective of the community.  Strength comes from love and inclusiveness — not from divisive bigotry.

Just a few decades later, we’re facing the same legacy of close-mindedness manifested in Amendment One, which seeks to define marriage in the state of North Carolina as between one man and one woman. The arguments are identical to the arguments used against interracial marriage, with opponents claiming “this is what God intended” and “we’re defending traditional marriage.” Trampling the civil rights and dignity of the LGBT community does not “defend” traditional marriage — it weakens it and denies a valued part of our community equal protection under North Carolina law. This is wrong.

And if defending “traditional marriage” means my brother and his fiancé wouldn’t be able to get married this summer, or my Jewish band-mate and his Christian wife wouldn’t have been able to get married, or my gay and lesbian friends, colleagues and community members are treated as second-class citizens — then we need to bury traditional marriage with Jesse Helms.

Shirlé Hale (Free Electric State)

Shirlé Hale

Shirlé Hale

A vote AGAINST Amendment One is a vote FOR the rights of Families and their children, no matter what type of family.

Certainly, in this day and age, the expression of love, in no matter what form, should be held in the highest regard and the rights of those expressing that love should be protected, not shattered.

To quote JFK, “The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”

Jenks Miller (Mount Moriah, Horseback)

Jenks Miller

Jenks Miller

Amendment One is a travesty of governance.  It thrusts our state government into areas that are absolutely inappropriate for any democratic government’s involvement.  It is a desperate attempt to further entrench bigoted ideas whose time has long since passed.  It is shameful.  I’m confident the people of North Carolina will vote it down.



Shane Perlowin (Ahleuchatistas)

Shane Perlowin

Shane Perlowin

The fact that a measure to write discrimination into our state constitution is on the ballot seems an unfathomable throwback to darker times.  Miserable people in power wish to deny human rights to citizens of this state…  How poisonous and disgusting.  It should go without saying that I fully support the right of the LGBT community to have their partnerships recognized under the law should they choose to marry.


Nathan Price (DiggUp Tapes)

Nathan Price of DiggUp Tapes believed the amendment issue was so important he is setting up an awareness show with multiple bands at Kings Barcade. The event is May 4 at Kings Barcade, with a lineup to be announced.

Many of the campaign events are to the LGBT crowd that are already paying attention and will already be voting against it.  Something like this will help spread the word to people who wouldn’t normally vote who could tip it to our side and we need that shit cause the polling shows it’s gonna be close. The main focus of this is not to raise money, just to get the word out so anyone who can vote, will go vote against it.

Letha Rodman-Melchior (Dan Melchior und das Menace)

One of the things I love most about North Carolina is the acceptance of all that live here. It, to me, has been a place that is open to all walks of life, a beautiful place where everyone belongs, where everyone can be exactly who they truly are. I think all families should be protected, everyone should have equal rights, what does it matter if people are married or not. I have friends that are not married that have children — why should they be treated differently than a family that has a document?

Amendment One is something I cannot understand — it is absolutely outrageous. The amount of people that would be harmed is frightening. If North Carolina passes Amendment One, then I’d be forced to leave North Carolina.


Scott Weaver (Snagglepuss, Babyshaker)

I feel three things when the subject comes up:  Bored, because it shouldn’t still be an issue; saddened, because I know that people can be quite cruel, even regarding love and people’s differences; and pissed off, because I will not be judged, regulated, or treated by anyone as a second class citizen. It’s important to inject these feelings into the music that you make, even if it’s not direct. I have always been able to put it out there in Babyshaker and Snagglepuss, and am lucky to have band mates who not only support me in that, but also walk the walk when it comes to standing up for what’s right.

Isaac Jones (Braveyoung)

This should provide ample proof of the backwards nature of our political system. People building careers off of bigotry. People imposing an out-dated and arbitrary morality onto those who elected them into their position. It’s a completely detestable game these people play with our lives. Anyone who thinks hetero-normativity is the only answer for healthy families is willfully ignorant and has absolutely no right to sit in a position of power. Fortunately, the facts are on the side of the LGBT community, and the nonsense these dogmatists spew makes less and less sense as time marches forward. We will unravel it, with or without the imposition of law.

Graham High (Museum Mouth)

The great (pronounced horrendous) thing about Amendment One is that it says, Hi. We’re North Carolina. If some of our state representatives have the remotest moral conflict with the person you are, they will not only make whatever you do illegal, they will make it DOUBLE ILLEGAL. That’s right, they’ll pass a law and then write a constitutional amendment tailored specifically to discriminate against you and other people like you.

Trying to wrap my mind around how this even made it to the ballot makes me nauseous. You can’t talk compassion to anyone these days. It’s forbidden in today’s politics. I can’t help but think that we have to wait for the next few generations of extreme “family values” politicians to be flushed out of our government before any progress is made for gay rights. And I’ll be dead long before then.

Jon Lindsay

On behalf of myself and the band, we would like to stand in 100% solidarity with those who oppose Amendment One. It is a rare issue that will drive us out of the woodwork of art making into statement making; but we’ve yet to see a better reason to publicly join with the voices of reason in our state than the one that comes before us on May 8. I spend over half of my time away from my Charlotte, NC home playing music. The entire sentiment behind the music that we make in this band is ultimately one of community, love for our brothers and sisters, and the absolute acceptance of all people and their right to be free and equal in our great land. Being from North Carolina is a badge I wear proudly on my sleeve, and one that we find endears us to new friends around the world in our travels. There seems, rightfully, to be an understanding out there that we are, in fact, a progressive, forward, loving and magical state where greatness abounds. Let us not tarnish our wonderful good vibes with this filthy and feeble attempt at hateful politics that comes before us soon. More importantly, let’s stand up and do what is right by our brothers and sisters, and continue to show the ever diminishing — yet obviously more desperate than ever — contingency of NC’s bad apples, that the BUNCH, my friends, is sweet. And always will be. Fuck the dumb shit.

Add your voice in the comments section.

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