We call on all Duke students registered to vote in North Carolina to vote this week against Amendment One, an amendment to the state constitution that would make all civil unions and domestic partnerships, in addition to same-sex marriage, unconstitutional. It is not hard. Early voting will take place until May 5 in the Old Trinity Room of the West Union Building.
The primary ballot will read when it asks for a decision for or against Amendment One: “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.” Although the language of the amendment seems simple, the repercussions of the legislation are not.
Amendment One would eliminate health care and drug coverage for public employees and children receiving domestic partner benefits. It could also endanger all North Carolinians by allowing domestic violence protections for unmarried couples to be declared unconstitutional. And, of course, it would place further barriers to the legalization of same-sex marriage in North Carolina.
Duke students specifically should care about defeating Amendment One because of the consequences that it has for the University. If Amendment One passes, Duke will have a difficult time attracting top-level LGBT students and faculty, who may opt for careers in states where their rights are secured. This should matter students whether or not they reside permanently in the state, or whether or not they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Duke students are largely recognizing the danger that Amendment One poses. Last month, Duke Student Government unanimously approved a resolution denouncing the amendment. Moreover, sophomore Jacob Tobia, director of LGBTQ affairs and policy for Duke Student Government, has brought his activist savvy to start Duke Together Against Constitutional Discrimination coalition. The impressive mobilization efforts of Tobia and other student leaders have already yielded powerful results: an on-campus voting site and record-setting early voting numbers thus far. Durham County has produced 9,000 early voters, the most by far of any county in the state. Thanks to the efforts of student activists, more than 2,000 of those votes were cast in the Old Trinity Room.
Join the growing movement that recognizes the importance of local politics in the daily lives of Duke students. In deciding to attend this university, Duke students signed up to live in Durham for eight months of the year. Compare that to the one or two months Duke students may live at their parents’ house. For those who think of Duke as their home, North Carolina is home, too. Our peers and professors also call this university and this state home, and we have an obligation to promote the safest and most inclusive environment for them, no matter their sexual orientation.
In the midst of papers and tests, take a few minutes, walk to Old Trinity Room and cast a ballot against Amendment One. Let us defy accusations that Duke is a politically apathetic campus. Let us continue to ride this wave of student activism and mobilization into the presidential election. And let us show current and future Blue Devils that North Carolina is a state that is proud and grateful to have them.