On Tueday, North Carolina voted in favor of Amendment 1 -- a constitutional amendment stating that "marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state." Immediately after, Jenn Halweil took to the site change.org to petition the Supreme Court and the White House to repeal Amendment 1. Her petition "1 Million Against Amendment 1" had received 127,568 signatures by Thursday morning. PolicyMic caught up with Halweil to ask a few questions about the petition, and what she hopes will be the future of gay rights in America.
1) What inspired you to draft this petition?
It was the right thing to do.
2) What was the process and why did you choose change.org as your platform?
Of all the petition websites, change.org seemed the most dedicated to helping foster causes and avoid spam. The home page didn't ask me to make a donation to keep the lights on, and it had a high Google page ranking so I signed up. It took me less than five minutes to create the petition and link to my Facebook account ... I was amazed by how easy it was to give this issue a voice.
3) What is your plan when you reach one million signatures? Do you expect the amendment to be repealed, or do you just want one million voices to be heard?
If this is the part where I am supposed to tell you that I have a grand vision for how this all plays out, then sadly I must confess that is not the case. I do sincerely hope the amendment is repealed. Initially I created this as a way for those who feel marginalized by our electoral system to be heard.
I picked one million for a number of reasons -- it is an extremely large, almost unfathomable number, and I had heard that just over 1 million people voted for Amendment 1. My hope is that it all comes full circle -- begininng with the collective effort of one million individual voices and ending with the overturning of one grave injustice. I never expected in 24 hours that we would have over 120K signatures, but it has been really inspiring to watch this grow and take on a life of its own. I have received thousands of emails and Facebook messages. Some people want to share their stories, others want to organize rallies, design inspirational t-shirts and posters, write songs, create viral videos, and elevate this cause even further.
My goal is that this petition will become a stepping stone to greater dialogue about issues of equality, justice, and activism both in North Carolina and the U.S. As for what to do after the 1 million mark, it will take a community to get us there, so it seems only fitting that we decide as a group what to do next once this first milestone is achieved.
3) Do you think that a platform like change.org has the power to make substantial political changes?
Absolutely. I truly believe that technology can help foster greater equality than has ever been achieved before. Change.org provides people with the opportunity to come together as a community, to share their voices, and to be heard. For me this is a key component of democracy, and one I believe we do not yet utilize to the fullest potential in this country.
4) In your petition you equate the issue of same-sex marriage to historic watershed moments like the overturning of the Jim Crow Laws. Is the U.S. on the cusp of this type of historic breakthrough? Do you find this moment in history similar to the Civil Rights Movement?
I was raised to understand that nothing worth having in life comes easy. Freedom and equality cannot be given -- they are earned with sweat, tears, and a little elbow grease. Numerous laws have been overthrown, including the Jim Crow laws and the recent tyrannical regime in Egypt, and the sense of community that was created in overturning these unfair laws has been profound -- enough to expand countries and launch nations.
Where others see North Carolina and the U.S. as having failed by passing this unjust law, I see hope -- an opportunity to learn and grow. It has been powerful to watch the people in our state -- and outside of it -- rally behind repealing this hateful law, and to witness democracy in action via social media.
5) What is your reaction to Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage. Do you think his opinion will inspire more people to sign the petition?
What took so long!? ... just kidding. The White House states on their website [that for your petition], 'You have just 30 days to get 25,000 signatures in order to get a response from the White House.' By the time I woke up this yesterday morning we had over 40K in under 12 hours. I like to believe Obama's endorsement is a sign that he heard us, but that being said, we are FAR from done speaking. It is my hope that the majority of Americans will sign this petition, and start asking some sincere questions about the state of social justice in this country, and what we can do to keep her from drowning.
Check out Halweil's petition here.