Gay-marriage backers to rally when Democrats convene

David Webb, an organizer of the Pride Charlotte Festival, held Saturday, said the coming convention is an opportunity.
David Webb, an organizer of the Pride Charlotte Festival, held Saturday, said the coming convention is an opportunity. (AP)
Posted: August 27, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in the host state of the Democratic National Convention has stirred anger and resentment among advocates for marriage equality, many of whom converged on Charlotte over the weekend for the city's gay-pride festival.

Organizers said they hoped the festival would draw attention to the issue and create momentum that lasts through the political convention that starts the following week. Some of the thousands of protesters expected at the convention will be demonstrating for same-sex marriage.

"We're excited that the convention is in Charlotte," said David Webb, one of the pride festival's organizers. "But we also want to show that we're united and will continue to push for change."

When North Carolina voters passed the constitutional amendment in May, supporters of gay marriage first demanded that Democrats rethink Charlotte as the location of their convention. But advocates have since seized on the party gathering as a high-profile chance to make their message heard - with support from the party itself. The national party is expected to approve marriage equality as part of its national platform during the convention being held Sept. 4-6.

For the first two days, the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte's downtown will be the main venue. On the last day, President Obama will make his acceptance speech at the 74,000-seat Bank of America Stadium, where the city's NFL team plays.

Webb said public events like the festival and convention are important opportunities to rally same-sex couples who were discouraged by the North Carolina vote.

"It's an opportunity for the community to say, 'Yes. The state may have passed an amendment limiting our liberties, but we're going to keep fighting.' This is an opportunity to show the community and ourselves that, you know what, we're not down and out," he said.

At Saturday's Pride Charlotte Festival, thousands of people attended for the food, fun, and entertainment. But others said they were drawn because they were upset with the recent vote to ban same-sex marriage and wanted to show solidarity.

Deborah Foster, 31, a waitress, said she and her friends wanted to send a message: "The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is not going to go away," she said. "There's strength in numbers. "

Foster has been with the same woman for two years. They want to get married but can't in their state.

"We just have to stay visible and strong. That's why I'm going to the protest. We have to make our voices heard," she said.

When the Democratic Party picked Charlotte for its convention, the proposal to change North Carolina's constitution was not on the ballot. Like so many states, North Carolina already outlawed same-sex marriage.

Voters approved the amendment declaring that marriage between a man and woman is the only legal domestic union, prompting supporters of same-sex marriage to urge Democrats to move the convention. Obama stated his support for gay marriage a day after the North Carolina vote. The national Democratic Party's platform committee recently endorsed same-sex marriage.

The convention creates an opportunity for more dialogue about same-sex marriage, said the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrar, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, which supports same-sex marriage.

"This convention is a way to highlight some of these contentious issues because North Carolina helps illustrates what's going on," she said.

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