Marriage equality is an issue that is slowly gaining more progression. Currently in the United States, nine states, the majority of them in the northeast region, have legalized same-sex marriage, along with the District of Columbia and two Native American tribes. Others like Rhode Island and California recognize this union, though the latter does on a conditional basis, after Proposition 8 passed in 2008. The vast Midwest hasn’t gotten that far yet, though Iowa is an exception. States in the deep South have yet to legalize or recognize gay marriage. Though in Asheville, North Carolina, there is a growing campaign that aims to eliminate the stereotypes and prejudices of the South, and “to assert the full humanity and equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in American life and to increase public support for LGBT rights.”
Run by a dedicated board of directors, organizers and volunteers, the Campaign for Southern Equality (Facebook, Twitter) has spread across the entire nation, but its main focus is in the southern states of the country, due to the fact that LGBT people frequently tend to lack basic protection and rights in this particular region. Southern Equality as a whole aims to provide legal counsel and emotional support for LGBT individuals. However, one of the organization’s causes that has been gaining more national attention in the WE DO Campaign, which involves LGBT couples in the Southern homes requesting and being denied marriage licenses, in order to call for full equality under federal law and to resist unjust state laws.
“We at the WE DO Campaign have been practicing these methods since fall of 2011, but this for of protest has been used by gay couples since the 1970′s. We’re proud to build upon that type of direct action and civil disobedience.” says Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of Campaign for Southern Equality.
“So far, we have completed four ‘stages’ which means we have visited different states and cities, and we encouraged same-sex couples to apply for a marriage license in their community. This is something we will persist with until full equality is granted to everyone.”
The WE DO Campaign recently visited Hattiesburg, Mississippi for their Stage 4. Other towns and cities they have visited include Asheville (NC), Charleston (SC), Greenville (SC), Wilson (NC), Asheboro (NC) and many more.
Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara was raised in North Carolina and is a graduate of Brown University and Warren Wilson College (MFA in from the Program for Writers). She has worked on LGBT campaigns since 2004 and has been interviewed by MSNBC, The New York Times and BBC. Beach-Ferrara is a minister for the United Church of Christ and has expressed how “very lucky” she was to have a home that affirms her beliefs and life.
“One of the wonderful things about the WE DO Campaign is that it sheds light on humanity and the power of people. Although in the end they are being denied the right to marry their loved one, the couples involved still get a great sense of empowerment. Their actions reveal the reality that LGBT individuals and couples are treated as second-class citizens.” continues Beach-Ferrara.
“It’s fantastic to watch these people hold their heads high and watch their community support them. It takes a lot of courage to do what these couples are doing, especially in small towns here in the South.”
For those who are interested in being involved or simply helping out with the WE DO Campaign, visit http://www.southernequality.org/we-do-campaign/. This site details specific ways people can help, such as sending a message of support to the couples, tax-deductible donations and of course, joining in on the action.
“The WE DO Campaign simply addresses the fact that same-sex couples are being treated inhumanely, and that everyone, no matter what your sexuality is, deserves the right to marry the one they love,” says Beach-Ferrara.
To contact Campaign for Southern Equality, call (828) 242-1559, or e-mail at email@example.com. Mailing address is P.O. Box 364; Asheville, NC, 28802.
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