Everyone seems to be speaking out against North Carolina’s constitutional amendment on marriage. Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers became the latest on Friday with his impassioned call that we be an inclusive, not discriminatory, state. Gov. Bev Perdue, once wishy-washy on the question, released a video Thursday in which she declares it “just plain wrong.”
And it’s not just Democrats. Former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot, long one of North Carolina’s most respected Republicans, says passing the amendment is unimaginable. Republican Edwin Peacock, even while battling for a seat in Congress from a conservative district, labels it bad for business. Russell Robinson, a Republican and one of our city’s finest citizens over the years, wrote a column for the Observer spelling out the amendment’s foolishness. Tea party darling Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., opposes it. John Hood, perhaps the leading conservative thinker in the state, does too.
So what do the opinions of all these high-profile people amount to? Precious little. With the vote just three weeks away, polls suggest that the torches and pitchforks will carry the day easily.
For those of us who believe that enshrining discrimination into the state constitution is wrong-headed, the campaign to defeat it seems a little too stealth. Yes, a lot of prominent voices oppose it. At last count, the anti-amendment group Protect All NC Families had produced about 100 videos of highly regarded people making appeals against it.
But have you seen any of them? Is the message getting to the rank-and-file voters who need to hear it? Have you seen or heard TV or radio ads against the amendment? Have you received direct mail opposing it?
A lot of influential people oppose the amendment. But unless they ramp up the volume on their opposition, and quickly, their influence will extend no further than their own already-convinced circles.
It’s true that amendment supporters have also been notably quiet. But they can afford to be. Public opinion, at this point, appears to be on their side.
State law already bans gay marriage, and that’s not changing anytime soon. Voters in May will not decide whether to legalize gay marriage or not. Rather, they will decide whether to cement that ban into the state constitution, plus expand it to block civil unions of any kind, gay or straight. The amendment appears to endanger all unmarried couples with regard to domestic-partner benefits, domestic violence laws, child custody and end-of-life arrangements. The courts would be forced to untangle that.
While polls show the public supports the amendment, there is hope for opponents. Public Policy Polling in Raleigh found that the vote gets closer when people understand what it does. In a poll late last month, PPP found 58 percent support the amendment while 38 percent oppose it. But only 31 percent know it bans both gay marriage and civil unions; 28 percent think it bans only gay marriage, 7 percent think it legalizes gay marriage and 34 percent say they don’t know exactly what it does. Told that it also bans civil unions, the vote becomes a dead heat.
We’ve heard only two arguments in favor of the amendment: Leviticus says homosexuality is an abomination to God, and it needs to pass to protect traditional marriage.
Leviticus also forbids eating pork, so maybe the next constitutional amendment should ban N.C. barbecue.
And traditional marriage? David Blankenhorn, an expert witness who testified in favor of California’s constitutional gay marriage ban and one of the nation’s leading defenders of traditional marriage, says N.C. voters should defeat the amendment here because it goes too far. With colleague Elizabeth Marquardt, he wrote in the (Raleigh) News & Observer last week:
“If you want to create a backlash against mother-father marriage – if you want to convince people that the real agenda of marriage advocates is not protecting marriage, but ignoring and ostracizing gay people – then this amendment might be to your liking. But we believe that the cause of marriage is hurt, not helped, by gratuitously linking it to the cause of never under any circumstances helping gay and lesbian couples.”
Powerful stuff, coming from them. But most North Carolinians haven’t read it.
It’s crunch time. Turn up the volume.