Voting ends today on N.C. Amendment One

Lisa Neff, Staff writer

Voters in North Carolina’s primary are deciding now whether they’ll join a confederacy and become the last state in the South to add an anti-gay marriage amendment to their constitution.

The May 8 ballot contains Amendment One, which would amend the North Carolina Constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman and bar legal recognition of any same-sex relationships – marriage, civil union or domestic partnership.

Support for the amendment comes from Billy Graham, Vote for Marriage NC, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, the North Carolina Republican Party, Catholic bishops in Charlotte and Raleigh and the North Carolina Values Coalition.

Opposition comes from the Human Rights Campaign, the Coalition to Protect NC Families, Equality North Carolina, Log Cabin Republicans, the North Carolina Democratic Party, Gov. Bev Purdue, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, several local government councils and more than 75 North Carolina CEOs who signed a letter asking state lawmakers not to send the amendment to voters.

Hagan, in a video released on April 26, said, “I believe that Amendment One has far-reaching, negative consequences for our families, our children and our communities. … And I do not believe there is any reason that we should amend our state’s constitution to take away people’s rights.”

White House officials, responding to press questions earlier this spring, have said that the president opposes anti-gay initiatives such as Amendment One, but in an April 24 speech in the battleground state that will host the Democratic National Convention in September, he did not address the issue.

Polling on some version of a North Carolina amendment has been taking place since at least 2009, two years before lawmakers voted to place an initiative on the ballot. An Elon University poll consistently has shown majority opposition to an amendment, but percentages from Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm, have shown majority support.

The gap in the PPP surveys narrowed, however, as the calendar advanced to Election Day.

Recently, PPP reported, “The amendment is still favored for passage, but it’s looking like less and less of a sure thing.”

The newest poll showed 54 percent of voters in the state support the amendment and 40 percent oppose the initiative. When PPP first polled on the question six months ago, the amendment’s support was at 61 percent.

The new poll also found that as voters become more educated about the scope of the amendment – that it bans recognition of same-sex partnerships and unions too – their support falls away. PPP found that just 36 percent of voters correctly understood the meaning of the amendment. Among informed voters, support is at 38 percent.

Based on those statistics, PPP speculated, “There is some reason to think a huge upset … is within the realm of possibility.”

With voters’ positions changing, the pro-gay Protect All NC Families released two TV campaign ads in the first week of balloting and intensified its voter outreach efforts, with volunteers working from offices in Greensboro, Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham and Asheville.

“The campaign is turning into a dead heat,” said Protect All campaign manager Jeremy Kennedy.

A focus is on rallying young voters on college campuses, including Winston Salem State University, Central University, Bennett College and North Carolina A&T State University. North Carolina Central University and North Carolina A&T State University both released statements condemning the amendment.

And on April 19, college students in Greensboro rallied and then marched to the polls aiming to get out 40 percent of the campus vote on the first day of early voting.

“Students joined in from every college in Greensboro to march,” said Human Rights Campaign activist Lauren Waters.

Anti-gay marriage amendments are embedded in constitutions in the Southern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

Download a PDF of the current issue of Wisconsin Gazette and join our Facebook community.