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Drama, panel discussion focus on marriage amendment

Panelists, two for and four opposed, presented their arguments about the Marriage Amendment after a presentation of the drama "8" at Blue Ridge Community College. Panelists, two for and four opposed, presented their arguments about the Marriage Amendment after a presentation of the drama "8" at Blue Ridge Community College.

Nearly 300 people turned out last month to see a play about the legal fight for gay marriage and hear a panel discussion about the amendment that would outlaw gay marriage in North Carolina.

The play, called "8," is based on the federal court case that overturned California's Proposition 8, the state ballot question that allowed gay marriage in 2008.


Afterwards, panelists discussed their views on the amendment, two in favor and four opposed. Tom Hill, a Democrat running for the 11th congressional district seat that U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler is vacating, told the audience he favors the amendment and opposes gay marriage.

TomHillCroppedOne of his opponents, liberal Asheville City Council member Cecil Bothwell, opposes the amendment. Hayden Rogers, Shuler's chief of staff and the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, "opposes gay marriage but he's not going to get up here and tell you that," Hill said.

Hill, who gained a measure of short-lived local fame when he publicly called on the Henderson County Board of Commissioners to investigate wrongdoing by Henderson County sheriff Rick Davis, drew gasps from the crowd when he denounced gay marriage as an offense to family values, questioned the Christian faith of some gay marriage advocates and said that "homosexuality is by definition abnormal."

"If I have offended you I have met my goal," he said as he concluded his prepared remarks.

Pam Danz, another panelist who favors the gay-marriage banning amendment, said that the push for gay marriage follows a pattern of decline that has made adultery legal and destigmatized unwed pregnancy. "Why are we hung up on this one-man, one-woman idea? Because as much as we've experimented it around, it still works best," she said.

Gavin CreelGavin Creel, an award-winning stage actor and co-founder of an organization for marriage equality called Broadway Impact, said he did not want to argue religion with gay marriage opponents, join their churches or offend their point of view. He only wanted the same license to marry that the state grants opposite-sex couples, he said.

Dr. Clay Eddleman, a psychiatrist who lives in Laurel Park, and Agudas Israel Rabbi Phil Cohen also spoke against Amendment 1.

The play, based on actual trial testimony and argument, traces the Proposition 8 case brought by renowned attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, a team that surprised some people because of the two men's backgrounds. They had been on opposing sides in the historic Bush v. Gore battle following the disputed 2000 election. Olson went on to serve as Bush's solicitor general.

Two gay men (played by Dale Bartlett and Damien Duke) and two lesbian women (played by Kerry Corlis and Vivian Smith) testify about their long-term relationship and their desire to enjoy the same full rights of marriage that the rest of Americans do.

In the play, an expert for the prosecution testifies under cross-examination that the odds are stacked overwhelmingly against gay men and women in state ballot initiatives. "There is no group that has been targeted more than gays and lesbians," he says. "In more than 200 ballot questions, they lose more than 70 percent. They lose 100 percent over same-sex marriage and adoption."

The play depicts the emotional anxiety of the two teenage boys of the lesbian couple as they sit through testimony challenging their validity of their parents' relationship. One of the moms speaks to the fatigue of having to always explain whether she is a sister, cousin or best friend or her female partner. The character Sandy Steir says she cannot go to the grocery store, a soccer game or PTA meeting without confronting the question of coming out as a gay woman.

"8" is a documentary-style play that demystifies the debate around marriage equality by chronicling the landmark trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Using the actual court transcripts from the federal trial of California's Prop. 8 and first-hand interviews, "8" shows both sides of the debate in a moving 90-minute play. The audience had the opportunity to learn about the historical context of marriage from expert testimony and see the human cost of discrimination.

Containing equal parts drama and humor, Black's script is the perfect way to share this story. This is a story that cannot fully be told in the language of rights and equality. Black removed that stumbling block by creating a play that made the "right" to marry about love, honor, and family.

All across the country, community groups, colleges and professional theatres and performers are staging readings of "8" to spark dialogue and action for marriage equality. The September 2011 Broadway premiere played to a sold-out house of over 1,100 and raised over $1 million to fund the federal lawsuit for marriage equality. The Los Angeles premiere, which took place on March 3, brought together more than 200,000 people, raised $2 million, to show the world that marriage recognition is not just a matter of time, that it is a matter of law.

In the state of North Carolina, in addition to "Citizens of Hendersonville" other groups hosting a reading include: North Carolina Stage Company in Asheville on April 10 at 7:00 pm, Playmaker's Repertory at UNC Chapel Hill, Raleigh Ensemble Players Theatre Company (Cary), Actor's Theatre of Charlotte, Theatre Alliance of Winston-Salem, and Eastern Carolina Artists for Change (Morehead City) – all during the month of April. A list of performances nationwide can be found at

Production notes

The Citizens of Hendersonville, which organized to oppose Amendment 1, staged '8' on April 11. The play, written by Dustin Lance Black, dramatizes the federal trial that resulted in the decision to strike down California's voter-approved gay marriage ban. The cast (with Actors' Equity members starred):

Theodore B. Olson: George Henry

David Boies: Bill Munoz*

Charles Cooper: Preston Dyar*

Judge Vaughn R. Walker: Carol Duermit

Sandy Steir: Kerry Corlis

Kris Perry: Vivian Smith

Jeff Zarrillo: Dale Bartlett

Paul Katami: Damian Duke Domingue*

Elliott Perry: Konrad Sanders

Spencer Perry: Heath Wines

David Blankenhorn, Evan Wolfson: David Earl Hart*

Maggie Gallagher, Dr. Nancy Cott: Brenna Yeary

Clerk, Dr. Gregory Hereck, Dr. William Tam: Zach Walker

Broadcast journalist, Ryan Kendall: G.R. Johnson*

Dr. Ilan Meyer, Dr. Gary Segura: James Faucett*

Producers: Bill Johnson and Richard Carter

Associate producer: Dale Bartlett

Director: Paige Posey

Lighting designer: John Arnett

Projection operator: Alyson Gooch