For these runners, the purpose of the race runs much deeper than victory – it’s about sharing information along the way.
This month, Elon University will welcome Race to the Ballot, a team led by Jen Jones, communications director for Protect NC Families, currently running 322 miles across the state from Asheville to Wilmington to raise awareness about what they believe are the detriments of Amendment One. Docketed for the May 8 ballot by the state legislature, the amendment would more strictly define marriage in North Carolina by prohibiting civil unions and rights for domestic partnerships and voiding the benefits domestic partners currently receive.
The Feb. 15 Race to the Ballot at Elon is jointly sponsored by a total of nine campus organizations at a time when knowledge about the issues is equally as important as registration, planners of the event at Elon said. The university is just one of many stops along the journey as the team aims to initiate “1 million conversations” about the impacts of the amendment.
“A lot of the reason there is so much confusion is people just don’t understand it,” said junior Laura Sturm, vice president of SPECTRUM, Elon’s queer-straight alliance. “By educating them on the truth behind it, people may not be more accepting, but at least be more tolerant and really understand what the legislation is and why it’s affecting everyone, not just the LGBTQ community.”
With gay marriage already illegal in the state, Sturm said the key factor to remember is that, should Amendment One be voted down, no laws in the state will change.
Elon’s version of Race to the Ballot will kick off at College Coffee Feb. 14, where representatives from Elon and the movement will be on hand to register voters and distribute pledge cards promising opposition to Amendment One. Beginning at 7 p.m. the next night in McKinnon, a free event will intertwine education about the amendment with entertainment, including performances by all four of Elon’s a cappella groups.
But it’s not enough for just the LGBTQ community to come out against the amendment, said senior Jess McDonald, outgoing president of SPECTRUM.
“(Straight allies) hugely outnumber the LGBTQ community and this issue highlights that because it’s all about the numbers,” she said.
McDonald said she plans to host more voter registration drives throughout the semester, particularly in response to the increased voting regulations in the state, including photo ID laws and a proposal to shorten the early voting period.
“These bizarre laws are clearly trying to lessen the voter pool,” she said. “While we still can, we need to be registering everyone we can to vote.”
While marriage lies at the heart of the debate, sophomore Kevin Moore, president of SPECTRUM, said he views it as an issue of morality.
“Even if you speak about religion, religion says you’re supposed to get married,” he said. “The sanctity of marriage should allow everyone to get married. The amendment is a big deal because it goes against what everyone in this day and age should stand for.”