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PHOTOG FOR A CAUSE: Vote Against Project founder Curtis Brown was at UNCW last week spreading the message. Courtesy of Vote Against.

PHOTOG FOR A CAUSE: Vote Against Project founder Curtis Brown was at UNCW last week spreading the message. Courtesy of Vote Against.

The music is pumping, the models are changing backstage and the photographer is prepping his camera—no this isn’t the latest “Vogue” cover shoot—it is happening right here in Wilmington. The Vote Against Project is capturing smiles on the faces of participants in a romp of political activism meets tons of fun.

The Vote Against Project was founded after the NC General Assembly passed a constitutional amendment that would ban legal recognition for all unmarried couples. On May 8th, voters will head to the polls to decide if Amendment One will be put into law. It all lead Raleigh photographer Curtis Brown to found the project with the hope that he could unite North Carolinians to defeat discrimination.

“From the beginning Curtis got all his friends together and really got us pumped about this project,” Lydia Kinton, recruitment coordinator for Vote Against, says. Brown and his network of volunteers travel all across North Carolina, holding free photo shoots. Participants make a $20 donation to the project in exchange for a T-shirt that boldly reads “Vote Against” across the front and the opportunity to have their own professional photo shoot. All the photographs are posted on the project’s website and participants are encouraged to share them with friends on Facebook and other social media sites to raise awareness about the upcoming vote.

Brown says, “We’ve been quiet for too long. I wanted to utilize my talents as a photographer to raise awareness about such an important issue because it affects so many people, not just the LGBT community.”

The vague wording of Amendment One is unclear and could lead to a number of issues, including undermining current child-custody rights designed in the best interest of children and invalidating domestic-violence protection orders for all unmarried couples. It would also prohibit North Carolina from ever passing legislation that would grant civil unions, bar the state for instituting domestic partnership rights, and strip the domestic partner insurance benefits, currently offered to employees by local governments in Chapel Hill, Durham, Greensboro, as well as Mecklenburg and Orange counties.

Within only 5 minutes of the official start of the Vote Against Project photo shoot at UNCW on February 10th, 10 enthusiastic participants lined up for their close-ups. “I’m here to support the LGBT community.” Mike Owens says before changing his T-shirt. “It’s a step forward in creating equality in North Carolina. I am a Christian man who has gay friends, and I want to show just how much I support them.”

His sentiments were echoed by many of the other participants and volunteers who filed in to the Azalea Coast Room throughout the day. “With all the injustices going on across the nation, it’s North Carolina’s turn to make a stand,” volunteer Royce Friou says. “We can get it right the first time and won’t have to deal with the issues that California has faced after Proposition 8. If it is voted down, we’d be the first in the south to say no to discrimination,”

The Vote Against Project is just one of many creative ways that North Carolinians have found to raise awareness about the May 8th vote. Activist Jen Jones began running a marathon on January 27th in Asheville, and from there zigzagged her way across the state, traveling to town-hall meetings and gatherings to spread her voice of support. So far she’s racked up over 320 miles and her “Race to the Ballot” will end on Friday, March 2nd at 6 p.m. in downtown Wilmington. Her family and friends have invited everyone in Wilmington to greet her near Riverfront Park.

All of these clever campaigns mean nothing if voters don’t get out and vote though, Kinton says. “It’s a lot of fun to take a picture, but it means nothing if you don’t go to the polls on the 8th.”

To stay up to date on the latest Vote Against Project events go to www.voteagainst.org, and for information on Jen Jones’ return to Wilmington, see the “Race to the Ballot Finale in Wilmington” Facebook event page.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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