RALEIGH — Despite the fact that the majority of North Carolina legislators do not support the idea of amending the state constitution to prevent recognition of same-sex marriages, a crowd of protesters clamoring for a chance to vote on the issue showed up on the state capital’s Halifax Mall March 6.
According to first reports carried in a story by the Associated Press, which was picked up by news outlets across the country, officials initially put the crowd estimate at 10,000.
“That’s not accurate,” said Ian Palmquist (pictured), executive director of EqualityNC (ENC).
According to Palmquist, organizers from the obscure right-wing religious fringe group Return America initially put figures at 12,000 — but county officials weren’t buying that number.
Reportedly a sheriff who was monitoring the event, and at some point spoke to the crowd in attendance favorably about their efforts, may have been responsible for releasing the inflated numbers to the press.
When officials went back and looked at video footage and aerial photos they quickly revised the numbers, setting the crowd somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000.
Palmquist, who was at the rally, says 3,000 is an accurate assessment.
Ironically though, about half of the crowd asking for the chance to vote weren’t even of voting age.
“A lot of them were children from Christian schools,” says Palmquist. “Notes were sent home to their parents seeking permission for them to be able to leave school for the day and attend the rally.”
Photos on Return America’s website confirm that a large contingent of individuals present for the rally were school age children.
To date North Carolina remains one of just two states in the south that has not passed a constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex marriage. Not surprisngly, the state is experiencing increasing political pressure from religious zealots bent on enacting discriminatory legislation.
Senate leader Marc Basnight and House Speaker Joe Hackney have both indicated they see no need to amend the constitution for this issue.
“Gay marriage is not allowed in this state, so there’s no need to change the constitution,” Basnight told the Raleigh News and Observer. “The constitution is not the place to make law. If so, every interest group would want their issue embedded in the constitution.”
According to ENC’s Palmquist the ban could threaten domestic partner benefits granted by most of North Carolina’s major employers and it could make it difficult for an unmarried partner to get protective orders in domestic violence cases.