Georgia Congressman John Lewis in a still from Southerners for the Freedom to Marry's first web ad.
Georgia Congressman John Lewis in a still from Southerners for the Freedom to Marry’s first web ad. The campaign will feature leaders like Lewis and devote $1 million to marriage equality in the South.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina’s highest-ranking openly gay mayor, Mark Kleinschmidt of Chapel Hill, is among several leaders across the South joining together for the new Southerners for the Freedom to Marry.

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt.
Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt.

The campaign, from the national Freedom to Marry, will devote $1 million in across several states to build support for marriage equality in the South. Freedom to Marry says the campaign will include field work and media outreach. The group is led by a bi-partisan group of elected officials and other leaders and chaired by Georgia U.S. House Rep. John Lewis, Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and George W. Bush advisor Mark McKinnon of Texas. Kleinschmidt is among 12 other co-chairs and represents North Carolina. South Carolina’s U.S. House Rep. James Clyburn represents South Carolina.

“Our investment in the South comes at a pivotal time in the marriage movement,” Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, said in a release. “The South is home to hundreds of thousands of loving, committed same-sex couples – and to a majority of the nearly 50 federal marriage cases now underway in courts across the country. Our new campaign will give voice to the many in the region now ready to move forward, including clergy, business leaders, conservatives, and family members, to show that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry.”

The new campaign kicks off with a nearly two-minute web ad featuring Congressman Lewis (see it below). In it, Lewis says, “You cannot have rights for one segment of the population — for one group of people — and not for everybody. Civil rights and equal rights must be for all of God’s children.”

Other leaders in Southerners for the Freedom to Marry include: State Rep. Patricia Todd (D), Alabama; TV producers Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Fayettville, Ark., Mayor Lioneld Jordan (D), Arkansas; Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R), Florida; Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D), Georgia; Musician and author Lance Bass, Mississippi; and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D), Texas.

The campaign is also being led in partnership with the national Equality Federation, the regional Campaign for Southern Equality and several state-based equality groups, including: Georgia Equality, Equality Alabama, Equality Florida, Equality Louisiana, Equality Texas, Equality Virginia, Equality North Carolina, South Carolina Equality, the Equality Network of Oklahoma and the Fairness Campaign of Kentucky.

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Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.