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Marriage Amendment Opposition Called One of NC's Largest Grassroots Efforts

May 7, 2012

WILMINGTON, N.C. - On this eve of North Carolina's May primary, at least one outcome is known: The grassroots effort by opponents of the state's Marriage Amendment is one for the history books. Almost 8,000 people have donated at least $2.3 million to educate voters on the referendum. Amendment opponents used traditional methods such as canvassing, and more innovative approaches through social media.

Sherre Toler served as the director of elections in Harnett County for almost 12 years before she resigned in January to work on the anti-amendment campaign.

"It touches at the very core of who we are as North Carolinians to say that we are going to write discrimination into our Constitution."

The Marriage Amendment could affect domestic-partner benefits and domestic-violence protection. Supporters of the amendment insist that it simply protects marriage between a man and a woman. Opponents say that already is protected under state law.

Daniel Kreiss is an assistant professor in journalism and mass communications at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He has been studying the campaign against the amendment since February and says opposition leaders have successfully used social media as one of the tools in their efforts, raising almost one-third of their funding from online donations. Their efforts have added dimension and understanding to something that might otherwise seem uncomplicated, Kreiss notes.

"One of the innovative things the campaign has been doing has been reframing this in terms of all the potential harm that could come from such a seemingly simple amendment."

Public opinion has moved by seven percentage points toward opposition to the amendment in the past six months, according to Policy Polling. More than 2,000 volunteers have worked 600,000 hours in phone banks and door-to-door canvassing to educate voters about the amendment's impact.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC