"Why do you care?"
That's the question that comes up over and over again when I tell people I'm hoping to make a documentary film about Amendment One in North Carolina. It's a question asked not with cynicism, but with wonder, bemusement and a healthy dose of skepticism. In many people's minds, I'm a straight man making a documentary film about a gay issue; if I want people to pledge their hard-earned dollars to my film in an economy that doesn't leave a lot of room for donations, I owe them an answer. I'm happy to oblige.
I care because LGBT men and women are an integral part of my life. They are my neighbors in Jersey City, my cousin in North Carolina, my classmates from high school and college, my teachers and professors, my co-workers and clients -- and above all else, they are my friends. They are all great people who deserve the same opportunities that I have, not because they are great, but simply because they are people. We are all just people who live and work and pay taxes and trust the government to leave us to make our own deeply personal choices about whether or not to commit our lives to another person. And if we choose to make that commitment, we expect to have the same laws govern us all.
I care because I don't believe in legislating discrimination. No matter what your beliefs or feelings about sexuality and gender are, you cannot disagree that laws like Amendment One discriminate. These referendums and constitutional amendments attempt to define some people as "less than." This is 2012 -- our nation addressed our shameful past of discrimination in the 1960s and we thankfully moved forward. Discrimination and intolerance were certainly not eliminated but at least they were no longer legal. So why are we dealing with this again 50 years later? I care because this is another civil rights movement, for our generation, and we have the opportunity to fix this.
I care because I grew up in North Carolina. Even though I haven't lived there for a few years, I consider it my home and most of my family still lives there. When Amendment One passed by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent in May and the nation turned against NC and its residents, I felt both ashamed and defensive for my state. Ashamed that not enough progress has been made, but defensive because I know that most of the people I know and love back home voted against the amendment. So while I took to Facebook and Twitter to defend the 39 percent who not only believed in equality but also showed up to the polls, I wanted to attack the majority too. In the days that followed my anger turned to sadness and I began to understand that attacking them will do no good -- but educating them might. Making this issue about real people might sway them to reconsider. And that's where the idea for this film first flickered to life.
I care because I see a unique and golden opportunity to apply the skills I have acquired during my career to a just and noble cause. I'm not sure how often that might happen, if ever again, and I feel I must take advantage of it now. I will use my technical knowledge, my love for storytelling and my numerous connections throughout North Carolina to make this film that will include as many perspectives as possible. There are over six million registered voters in North Carolina and every one of them has a story to tell about Amendment One. I believe the truth about marriage equality will be self-evident when we tell an intersecting variety of those stories representing both sides of the aisle (and those in between).
I care because North Carolina is but one of 50 states in this country and if a decision on same-sex marriage hasn't been on your ballot yet, it will be soon. There are millions of voters out there who haven't made up their minds yet and this film just might help them decide.
I care because however great or small an impact this film might ultimately have, it is the best I can do to help all of us move forward, together.
To learn more about the movie, click here.
Follow Will Clegg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@willclegg