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Archives – March, 2012

PPP Poll suggests when people understand Amendment 1 in North Carolina, they oppose it

By Scottie ThomastonGoal Thermometer

Public Policy Polling has just released a new poll of likely primary voters in North Carolina who were asked about Amendment 1, the state constitutional amendment on the ballot for the May 8 primary. According to PPP, the news is mostly not good, but there seems to be some hope:

PPP’s newest look at the marriage amendment in North Carolina finds it passing by a wide margin, but also that voters don’t really understand what the ban does and that once they do things get a lot closer.

58% of voters in the state say that they’ll vote yes on Amendment 1, while 38% are opposed to it. Republicans pretty universally support it, 76/20. Democrats are closely divided with 48% in support and 47% opposed. White Democrats are opposed to the proposed ban, but African Americans support it 61/30.

The fact that voters don’t know what the amendment will actually do seems to suggest that there’s a chance that with some more outreach and education, it could be winnable for the equality side:

The marriage amendment which will be on the ballot during the May 8th North Carolina primary continues to lead for passage by 20 points, but if voters are informed of its negative consequences for the potential future passage of civil unions for gay couples, it would narrowly fail.

58% of likely primary voters say right now that they would vote “yes,” while 38% plan to vote “no.” But at the same time, 51% of these voters support some form of legal recognition for gay couples’ relationships, either full marriage or civil unions. 34% of those folks are planning to vote for the amendment. Because of that, if informed that the amendment would ban both marriage and civil unions for gay couples, support goes down 17 points to 41%, and opposition rises 4% to 42%.

Part of the problem is that voters are not well informed about what the amendment does. A 34% plurality say they are not sure on that question. Almost as many (31%) do know that it would ban both gay marriage and civil unions, but then not many fewer (28%) think it would only ban marriage. 7% actually think it would legalize gay marriage. Those who think it bans solely marriage rights are voting 67-30 for it, so 8% of North Carolinians, while misinformed, are voting against the measure simply because they think it bans same-sex marriage alone. Of course, those who think a “yes” vote actually legalizes these unions are voting by the same margin for it.

Democrats seem to narrowly favor the amendment, but interestingly, independents oppose it:

Democrats narrowly favor the amendment from the get-go (48-47), and Republicans do overwhelmingly (76-20), but independents oppose it, 42-55.

PPP finds this notable:

The group most opposed is actually independents, who say they’ll vote against it 55/42. That’s an important commentary on unaffiliated voters beyond this issue- they lean Republican in North Carolina right now because they’re unhappy with the economy, but they’re not hardcore social conservatives. The GOP needs to be careful about going too far out on a limb on social issues if it wants to keep its support with independents.

According to these results, it will come down to making sure voters are fully informed about what the amendment will do. Voters seem largely in support of the concept that marriage is between a man and a woman, but they aren’t willing to deny all recognition to all gay couples across the board. Voters don’t seem to know the amendment denies civil unions and possibly other protections to loving gay couples along with marriage.

The results suggest this knowledge would change the outlook:

When voters are informed that the amendment bans both gay marriage and civil unions their tune changes quite a bit. Only 41% of voters say they’ll support it knowing that, while 42% are opposed. So despite the large current lead for the amendment, there is some hope for those trying to defeat it.

And this is why the fight in North Carolina is so important and necessary. It’s close and it seems possible that the campaign could help make sure enough voters are informed about what’s in the amendment before May 8th. Without outreach and education things certainly look a lot more bleak, but bringing down the numbers of supporters of the amendment to 41% does not seem too far out of reach.

18 Comments March 29, 2012

North Carolina House Speaker makes a surprising admission, leading to more Republican opposition to Amendment One

By Jacob Combs

Earlier this week, Scottie wrote about an article published by John Hood, president and chairman of John Locke Foundation, a major conservative think tank in North Carolina, in which Hood came out in oppostition to the discriminatory Amendment One, writing, “I think amending North Carolina’s constitution to forbid gay and lesbian couples from receiving any future legal recognition, including civil unions, is unwise and unfair.”  As Scottie wrote in his post, Hood is one of many leading Republican voices who have come out against the ballot measure, a group that includes prominent Charlotte Republicans Sally and Russell Robinson, and Renee Ellmers, one of the state’s representatives in the U.S. House.  Even more importantly, the group of prominent Republicans opposing Amendment One seems to be growing after an unusual comment made by a North Carolina lawmaker earlier this week.

Thom Tillis, the Speaker of the North Carolina House and a supporter of Amendment One, spoke to a student group at North Carolina State Monday and predicted that the amendment would pass with about 54 percent support.  But Tillis didn’t stop there, instead going on to make another prediction: that Amendment One would be repealed within 20 years due to the demographic reality that younger voters are more supportive of marriage equality and will slower replace older voters who oppose it.

Not surprisingly, Tillis’s comments set off a bit of a firestorm.  Chris Fitzsimon, of the liberal blog N.C. Policy Watch, wrote, “Apparently the speaker believes it is OK to discriminate against people for the next 20 years or so until the people inevitably rise up to stop it.”  Fitzsimon does an excellent job of pointing out Tillis’s hypocrisy on the issue: for instance, he voted to send the amendment to the ballot even though house speakers rarely vote on proposed bills, yet said in a TV interview Monday that he is hesitant to support the amendment now because he believes that the Republican Party stands for limited government intrusion into people’s lives.  A Tillis spokesperson, however, told N.C. Policy Watch that the speaker still supports the amendment.  If you think this position makes no sense, it’s because it doesn’t.

Tillis’s comment has only served to bring out even more prominent Republicans to voice their opposition to Amendment One.  Bob Orr, a former state Supreme Court justice and former executive director of the conservative North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law, told the Charlotte Observer yesterday, “Any provision that has to be put into the ‘miscellaneous’ section of the constitution immediately raises questions about whether it should be in the state constitution.  It’s probably not a provision that ought to be in.”  Orr predicted that if the amendment passes, its fate will likely be decided in federal court.

In addition, Richard Vinroot, a one-time Republican gubernatorial candidate in North Carolina and mayor of Charlotte, also announced his opposition to Amendment One yesterday.  Speaking to the Observer, Vinroot said, “My reaction, was, ‘My gosh, the legislature wants us to put something in the constitution that the leader of our party – the speaker of the House – doesn’t think will stand the test of time for more than a decade.  I can’t imagine amending the constitution for something he believes is that tenuous.”

North Carolina remains a tough battle for marriage advocates, with one poll from last week showing 58 percent support for the amendment, with 36 percent of voters opposing it.  Nevertheless, this is the first time that a state-wide marriage amendment has gained such vocal opposition from politicians on both sides of the aisle, a fact that only serves to support just how flawed and discriminatory Amendment One is.  There is still time for more voter education before May 8, and advocates in North Carolina have an impressive and ever-growing slate of conservative voices to cite as they attempt to convince voters to defeat the constitutional amendment.

7 Comments March 29, 2012

Family Research Council DVDs handed out at North Carolina event

By Scottie ThomastonGoal Thermometer

At an event in North Carolina at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, videos that were made by the Family Research Council were handed out to attendees while speakers railed against gay people in the state.

DVDs made by the Family Research council were distributed in the pews of Binkley Chapel, where the event was held, containing sermons, videos and church bulletin inserts for pastors looking to energize their flocks on the issue.

“North Carolina is not really the first state to move to protect marriage,” said Kenyn Cureton, vice president for church ministries at the research council. “In fact, North Carolina is the only Southern state not to, so don’t let us down, guys.”

Richard Land who heads up the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention said that a future Supreme Court decision might hinge on decisions of states like North Carolina:

Land said he believes the U.S. Supreme Court would be hesitant to allow couples of the same gender to marry if other states join the 29 already with amendments defining marriage as between a man and a woman. That could change if states like North Carolina reject such amendments, he said.

“If we lose, they will exercise their judicial imperialism,” he said. “That’s what’s at stake.”

Land went on to argue that this is not a question of “sexual freedom” – as if a loving couple expressing their feelings through a long-term commitment is somehow related to sexual freedom – but one of religious freedom. He worries that if gay couples are allowed to marry. Christians will be ostracized to the same extent that “the KKK” is.

Not to be outdone, other arguments were hurled at the visitors of the event:

“It would lead people who love dogs to marry dogs and people who love ice cream to marry ice cream.”

That’s what Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor of Christian ethics Daniel Heimbach — presumably at least a little tongue in cheek — had to say at a forum on the marriage amendment on the campus today. The event in the campus chapel attracted several hundred people.

Heimbach was making the point that same-sex marriage redefines and ultimately ruins the institution. And so, taken to its logical extreme, marriage could be anything anyone wants it to be, and that’s bad for society, he said.

This is the type of rhetoric North Carolinians are being subjected to right now. Somehow discussions of voting no on the amendment have turned into people wondering aloud if people will be able to marry ice cream. Hopefully, these arguments won’t win the day.

17 Comments March 28, 2012

Action: Ask Landmark Theatres to screen documentary re: No On 1/Maine campaign

By Adam Bink

John over at AMERICABlog Gay brings up a worthwhile issue. Landmark Theatres is the largest art house theater chain in the country, and is considering screenings of “Question One,” the excellent documentary regarding the No on 1 campaign in Maine, in its cinemas nationwide. You might think, why would we want to give the right-wing a chance to tell their side of the story, as it were. Easy: because they do a great job of painting themselves to look like completely awful and incompetent human beings. Mark Mutty (remember him?) even goes into explaining how he outright lied about same-sex marriage. Example from Bill Nemitz of the Portland Press Herald newspaper:

[Mutty] insists that the central campaign theme for “Yes on 1” – that same-sex marriage, if not repealed, would be required teaching throughout Maine’s public schools – was “hyperbole” and “not a completely accurate statement and we all know it isn’t.”

Um, awesome. So while it’s a fair documentary, it definitely shows a certain perspective.

John explains further:

Question One is the story of the campaign to repeal/save marriage equality in Maine back in 2009. Produced and directed by gay film maker Joe Fox and his co-producer/director James Nubile, the movie takes the approach of following both campaigns, the good and bad (as it were), from behind the scenes, up until election night. I saw it last fall and thought it was really well done, in addition to quite damning of the religious right. Now, we’ve teamed up with Joe F. and James to ask Landmark to show the movie. Given all the intensity around marriage equality across the country, the timing couldn’t be better.

What’s most interesting about the documentary is that even though it’s “fair” – both sides get to tell their story – the anti-gay campaign does a bang-up job of indicting themselves by the end of the film. Their campaign manager, Mark Mutty (who works for the Catholic Diocese of Maine), makes it clear that they lied to the people of Maine in order to take away our civil rights. And the mastermind behind the lies was Frank Schubert, who did the same thing on Prop. 8 (won by telling voters the lie that we were coming after their children) – and, no doubt, will again. The admissions are damning. And that’s one good reason for anyone who is interested in the quest for marriage equality to see this film.

So here’s how you can help:
1. Email Landmark Theatres: [email protected]

All you need to do is send a quick email to Landmark, telling them you’d like them to show “Question One,” the documentary about the marriage equality battle in Maine, in their theaters, and that of course you’ll go the show and tell your friends about it. Use this email address: [email protected] The film’s directors will then hand deliver the emails to a Landmark executive. If you want, put your home town in the subject line of the email, so that the geographic diversity of interest is clear on its face just by looking at the subject lines.

2. Tweet this post (@LandmarkLTC)
3. Share this post on Facebook.

We aren’t surprised that the other side lies. It’s just stunning to see it in their own words. And, it’s critical for our straight allies to know this, too. Just this we learned that the National Organization for Marriage, NOM, is trying to incite a race war in order to win the fight on marriage equality. Again, not surprising to us. But, it’s clearly captured the attention of the traditional media.

The duplicity of the anti-LGBT industry needs to be exposed. The true story of how dirty they are in the way they handle these anti-gay campaigns – a story told in their own words – needs to be seen by as many people as possible. And, getting “Question One” into Landmark’s theaters in 21 cities would be a major step in the right direction. You can watch the six minute trailer here.

I just e-mailed Landmark Theatres. Please take a second to do the same. Question One is a great documentary and it would be a smart endeavor for Landmark Theatres to expand to a wider audience. Here’s what I wrote:

To Whom It May Concern,

As a patron of Landmark Theatres for many years (our own E Street Cinema is one of my favorites), I’m writing to encourage you to screen Question One in your theatres nationwide.

I had the privilege of working on the No On 1 campaign for many months in 2009, helping external allies organize actions online and blogging on the ground in Maine for several weeks. It was an incredible experience I would very much like to share with my friends, in particular my boyfriend — but they can only read the blog posts and watch some of the videos I put on YouTube. Question One is a remarkable documentary that digs into the fight on the ground in an extremely compelling way. As we face several referenda on same-sex marriage in many states this year, a trip with friends here to see Question One would be a great precursor to engaging in these fights for the rest of the year.

Thank you for your consideration.

Adam Bink
Director of Online Programs
Courage Campaign

3 Comments March 28, 2012

Help is on the way, but will it be enough?

By Matt Baume

A big win for marriage in New Hampshire, and California Democrats pledge to help the campaign to stop an anti-gay measure in North Carolina. But with alarming poll numbers out this week, will that help be enough?

Anti-gay activists got a smackdown last week in New Hampshire, where the legislature overwhelmingly rejected a bill to eliminate marriage equality. It was huge bi-partisan success, with a majority of Republicans and all but one Democrat voting to protect LGBT couples’ rights. Anti-gay politicians could try again next year, but so far their momentum has dwindled with every attempt.

And fresh off our success in New Hampshire, Ohio organizers are pushing for marriage. Thousands rallied in Cleveland this weekend, and over 200 couples staged a mass wedding. Earlier this year, organizers had attempted to overturn the state’s Constitutional ban on marriage. But the Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected their petition on technical grounds. Now Freedom to Marry Ohio has announced that they expect to resubmit a revised petition later this week. Additional rallies are planned for the evening of Wednesday, April 11th.

The California Democratic Party has pledged its support to the campaign to defeat an anti-gay constitutional amendment in North Carolina. Our side will need all the help it can get to win that election: a poll last week shows voters supporting the anti-marriage amendment 58 to 36 percent. 

But a Michigan tribe is considering an amendment to their constitution that would legalize marriage equality. The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians is currently accepting public comment on the measure.

And finally this week a marriage equality bill has passed an initial round of debate in Finland, and now heads to committee. The bill’s chances of passing this year aren’t great. Despite widespread public support for marriage equality, conservative MPs have held back marriage reforms for Finland for the last few years.

Those are the headlines. Don’t forget to subscribe to this channel for weekly marriage news updates, and do your part for marriage equality by sharing this video with family and friends.

4 Comments March 28, 2012

House Speaker Boehner faces skepticism, questions over DOMA defense

By Scottie Thomaston

Next month, the First Circuit Court of Appeals will hear a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that was passed in 1996 and has faced legal challenges beginning at the time Massachusetts legalized marriage for gay and lesbian couples in 2003. It’s the first DOMA case to reach an appeals court and could help push the challenge to the law’s constitutionality to the Supreme Court.

The Republican-led House is defending the law since the Department of Justice concluded that it is unconstitutional and withdrew their defense. The House, and particularly Speaker John Boehner, is facing tough criticism from conservatives and from Democrats. House Democrats want to know where the money is coming from:

Subcommittee ranking member Mike Honda (D-Calif.) questioned CAO Daniel Strodel as to where he had gotten the funds that were later transferred to the House’s Office of General Counsel.

Strodel testified that the money had come from the House Salaries, Officers and Employees account. The Department of Justice had not contributed any funds to the House’s defense of the law.

Honda questioned why, in a time of increasing congressional fiscal austerity, the House could find funding for an “unconstitutional law that separates all of us.”

House Republicans have received $750,000 so far to defend DOMA and the cap has been increased to $1.5 million. House leadership isn’t saying whether that cap will be reached or not:

When asked if the legal costs were likely to exceed $1.5 million, Kircher remained cagey, saying he was beholden to his client, House leadership.

“It’s hard to know how much we will ultimately spend because it’s hard to know how this litigation ultimately plays out,” he said. “Obviously the name of the game here is to get some case before the Supreme Court and get a resolution on this issue.”

And transparency has been an issue throughout this endeavor. It’s not just that House Democrats are concerned and trying to make a political issue out of it. There is a real, palpable sense that House leadership has been trying to defend this law as quietly as possible with no fanfare. And there is confusion over the contracting process:

House Republicans have still not explained where the money they plan to use to pay Bancroft will come from.

“The entire contracting process has lacked any semblance of transparency,” said the Democratic members of the House Administration Committee in a statement on Tuesday. “Our letters of warning and our questions about how any of the numbers were reached and where the money would come from have gone unanswered. Now, we find that Speaker Boehner’s hand-picked lawyers have exhausted the half-million dollars we were told would be the total cost and they need an additional $1 million dollars — or 300% of the original contract, to continue the work.”

Even conservative groups and identified hate groups are questioning the transparency of Boehner’s leadership on this issue and wondering why their “allies” in Congress aren’t speaking up:

“They hired Paul Clement, and they think their job is done. While the Obama administration ignores DOMA, Speaker Boehner has forgotten that the checks and balances also include Congress,” said Tom McClusky, senior vice president of the Family Research Council.

The council sees a challenge of the law’s definition of marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman” as a threat to religious freedom — a potent political argument Republicans used to criticize the Obama administration’s recent requirement that health insurers, including those of religiously affiliated organizations, provide contraceptive coverage.

“I wish that our allies would do more. They are being intimidated into silence by Republican leaders,” McClusky said.

Indeed on several occasions Boehner has refused to discuss his own beliefs about DOMA. Paul Clement, the lawyer defending DOMA, also refuses to say what his personal beliefs are.

The House won’t even take a vote to affirm the Defense of Marriage Act even though in 1996 it passed with bipartisan support. Brian Brown from the National Organization for Marriage commented:

Last year, conservative lawmakers raised the possibility of a House vote on the merits of the constitutional issue, said a GOP aide familiar with the discussions. But party leaders said they preferred to pursue the legal option, the aide added.

“There was discussion of a reaffirmation of DOMA,” said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage. “But that wouldn’t do anything legally. DOMA is already the law.”

With challenges to the law piling up and decisions forthcoming over the next several months, this questioning will only increase.

15 Comments March 28, 2012

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