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Action: Help get out the vote against anti-gay Amendment 1 in North Carolina

Get-out-the-vote tabling at Duke University
dukeGOTV

By Adam Bink

As you’ve noticed here at Prop8TrialTracker.com, we’ve been spending a lot of time lately writing about anti-gay Amendment 1 in North Carolina. There are reasons for that — one, because like Prop 8, it’s a constitutional amendment, only it goes further by banning all forms of partnership recognition including civil unions and domestic partnerships for people of any gender. Two, because there is so much interest in defeating it — evidenced by the hundreds of Courage and P8TT folks making phone calls against Amendment 1, the over 650 people who have donated on our ActBlue page to defeat Amendment 1 (a large percentage from this blog), and discussion in the comments. And last, because we have a real shot at an upset.

We’re going a step further today by launching the 2nd phase of our get-out-the-vote program in North Carolina for Election Day on May 8. Sign up here to head to North Carolina to get out the vote next weekend during the critical 72 hour period before the rest of North Carolina votes on May 8. We at Courage, in partnership with the Coalition to Protect All NC Families, will help take care of housing and travel arrangements, and travel reimbursement is available. Whether you’re coming from as far as Seattle or as close as Virginia, we can make it work.

Here’s why this is so important: as Scottie noted yesterday, early voting totals are ahead of where the Obama/Clinton primary totals were in 2008 (about 121,000 ballots have been cast in a week compared to 102,000 in the same period in 2008), and much of that is driven by opposition to Amendment 1. College campuses are turning out the vote — over half of registered students at Duke University have voted, and there is also a same-day registration program. But the majority of the rest of the state votes on Election Day, and the campaign needs people on the ground to put cards on voters’ doorknobs, drive people to the polls, and more. We wouldn’t be asking if we didn’t truly feel we could win this thing with all the momentum we’ve got. And none of us want to wake up the morning after Election Day if we lose narrowly and realize there is something more we could have done.

I’ll be in the Raleigh/Durham area along with Jacob Combs (Scottie will be holding down the fort here with all the latest), as well as other Courage staff, super volunteers and members. You can come next weekend or any other date that works for you, and there are four staging locations across the state, so you can pick what works for you. You can stay for the weekend, or all the way through Election Day. And again, we’ll help with supporter housing, travel and all the details to get out the vote.

So please, if you can come, sign up for more information, and a member of our staff will be in contact. If you have any other questions, you can drop me a line at adam at couragecampaign dot org. Help save families in North Carolina from this awful amendment, and leave it all on the field. And if you can’t, consider chipping in to help cover expenses for Courage members going to North Carolina to do this hard work. We really appreciate it.

Our e-mail that we just sent to members is below the fold.

(more…)

31 Comments April 28, 2012

WATCH: First TV ads out to defeat anti-gay Amendment 1 in North Carolina

By Adam Bink

Just released by the Campaign to Protect All NC Families. Here’s the first, on how Amendment 1 would take away health insurance from the 5-year-old daughter of Melissa and Libby, a North Carolina same-sex couple who have health insurance through Libby’s employment for the city of Durham and its domestic partnership benefits plan:

http://youtu.be/OlKsycrW1rw

If Amendment 1 passes, they are afraid that their daughter will lose her health care. And the cost of getting her an individual policy is prohibitive.

Here’s the second ad, which tells the story of a North Carolinian who is a survivor of domestic violence and currently has a protective order against her attacker. They were never married. She is afraid that a court could decide that her situation is not “domestic” because they were not married and that her protective order could be put in jeopardy.

http://youtu.be/coAussnLrjY

Of note: her attacker is out of prison and she actually filmed this ad at great risk to her personal safety.

A little reaction: These ads tells the story of how much Amendment 1 overreaches in the fashion of Arizona’s Prop 107 in 2006 banning same-sex marriage and other relationships between unmarried couples of ALL genders (it was defeated 52-48% precisely because it overreached to affect people regardless of sexual orientation or gender). These ads will go up on the air starting this morning (in all markets statewide, according to the campaign) and chip away at the same Achilles’ Heel. According to the campaign’s management last night, the message of these ads tested most strongly in focus groups with North Carolina voters, but they also aren’t so poll-tested as to be flat — they are emotional and most likely resonate.

One more item of note especially to this community: these ads, were co-produced by Chad Griffin, the co-founder of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which sponsored the Perry lawsuit challenging the Prop 8 lawsuit in the courts. Chad is also the incoming President of the Human Rights Campaign.

You can chip in here to help keep these ads on the air and increase their buy.Goal Thermometer

18 Comments April 23, 2012

The question of being a single-issue activist for same-sex marriage, and its consequences

By Adam Bink

Photo courtesy of Advocate.com
GRISANTIBILLBOARDX390

Over the weekend, yet another piece came out on how the four New York State Republicans who voted for same-sex marriage are faring — this time from Bill Keller in the New York Times Magazine.

Keller writes of my fellow Buffalonian Kitty Lambert-Rudd, who along with her wife Cheryl, became the first same-sex couple to wed in New York State when they did so in Niagara Falls. Kitty said something that has been on my mind for some time, and that is whether champions of same-sex marriage in New York State have become single-issue voters, setting aside all or most other concerns for the sake of rewarding the four Republicans who voted the right way on this issue. By way of background, I wrote last July about the hero status attained by Gov. Cuomo, even as he has gone in a regressive direction on many other issues, and this past February on how single-issue donors may delay chances for full equality by emptying their wallets for these four Republicans while overwhelmingly ignoring the Democrats who, by and large, to turn a phrase, “brung us” to the dance from the start on same-sex marriage in New York State.

Here’s out gay Democratic Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell, who helped marshall votes in the Assembly:

Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, an out gay Upper West Side Democrat who led the charge on marriage equality in his chamber, saw the Times story about the gay money going to Republicans and said, “None of it has come to me. Part of this business involves raising money. [Assembly Speaker] Shelly Silver has led the battle and I led the campaign. We put this out front and center when people in the governor’s office didn’t think we could do it.”

Gay donors, O’Donnell said, tell him, “‘We don’t want to take you for granted,’ but that is what has happened. When the larger gay community doesn’t recognize who fought the battle for so long, it makes the next battle harder.”

The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which has passed the Assembly four times, has been blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate and did not pass when Democrats had narrow control two years ago.

“We can’t do that without a strong, Democratic majority,” O’Donnell said of GENDA.

“At my first fundraiser after we won same-sex marriage, only my friends came,” he recalled. “I go to the dinners for the Victory Fund, which does great work and where people buy tables for $10,000. But I didn’t get a single check from any of those donors.”

The group endorsed him, O’Donnell said, but that’s about it.

Now to Kitty Lambert-Rudd in the piece over the weekend, on Buffalo-area State Senator Grisanti (who changed positions on the issue at the last minute and voted for the bill):

The choice of a gay rights tour guide in Buffalo was obvious. Kitty Lambert and her partner were the state’s first gay newlyweds. When the law went into effect, she and Cheryle Rudd — both longtime gay rights activists and, as Lambert likes to say, “two fat grandmothers” — drove from their home in Buffalo up to Niagara Falls for a midnight ceremony. Lambert grew up Mormon, endured a series of husbands in the effort to live up to her religion’s expectations and came out as a lesbian in her 30s. Between them, she and Rudd have five grown children and 15 grandchildren.

Kitty Lambert, who now goes by Lambert-Rudd, got to know Grisanti pretty well during months of lobbying him on the marriage bill, as he struggled with the tension between his Catholic faith and his lawyer’s reverence for equality. The lawyer won. (“I swore with my hand on the Bible to uphold the Constitution,” he told me. “I didn’t swear with my hand on the Constitution to uphold the Bible.”) Lambert-Rudd became so protective of the senator that she began a campaign to register like-minded Buffalo residents as members of the Conservative Party, hoping they could fend off Mike Long’s reprisals. She signed up about 300. This, someone joked, was like getting rabbis to enroll in Hamas to make it less hostile to Israel.

I wondered how she felt about laboring to save the political skin of a conservative Republican who disagreed with her on abortion rights and a slew of other issues.

“Mark’s politics,” she said. “Wow. But I made a commitment to support anyone who recognized my rights as a gay person. Because that is my calling right now, it tends to be my full focus.”

Not surprisingly, gay marriage is more likely to be a decisive issue for gays than for opponents. But if you parse public opinion, you find the acceptance of gay marriage is not just growing; it is accelerating. This is driven, of course, by the overwhelming support of young voters, but also by white Catholics, who have grown more open-minded on gay rights as they have become more affluent and educated, and as their children return from college with more liberal attitudes.

Adding to the inexorability is a factor pollsters refer to as “salience,” a measure of how much an issue means to you. It figures heavily in what politicians decide is safe to do. Most Americans favor restrictions on guns, for example, but gun control is stymied by salience: the people who want full gun rights care far more about the issue than those who oppose them. Opponents of gay marriage used to hold their opinion more passionately than supporters. But as more Americans have openly gay children, siblings, friends and neighbors, the supporters feel just as strongly.

Clearly Kitty decided to set aside other concerns, as is her right, because this issue is her full focus. And there is something to be said for ensuring that National Organization for Marriage, which has promised to defeat the “New York Four,” does not win that narrative — nor the seats. On the other hand, being a single-issue activist has consequences, not the least of which are on LGBT equality, with a host of other important bills and work pending in New York State on HIV/AIDS, gender identity, homeless LGBT youth, bullying and more — issues on which neither Grisanti nor the rest of his caucus are on the progressive side of equality.

And so the open question for you: when is it appropriate for same-sex marriage to be the overriding issue of importance, and is it to you? Should it ever be? And where does it get our movement for full equality, if it is?

15 Comments April 17, 2012

Action: Sign up for a Courageous Conversation to defeat North Carolina’s anti-gay Amendment One

By Adam BinkGoal Thermometer

We know one of the best tools we have to change hearts and minds are personal conversations. Ads, direct mail and other traditional campaign tools, but sometimes nothing can move a person like “Mom, I need to talk to you about how I want to marry the person I love.”

Many of you have generously contributed to help get the Campaign to Protect All NC Families up on TV with their ads later this month — now we’re taking the next step here at Courage by launching our member-to-voter contact tool, Courageous Conversations to Defeat Amendment One. It’s simple: pledge to have a Courageous Conversation on Amendment One with someone you know in North Carolina who is a “Yes” or undecided. You name and their first name will appear on this map. We’ll send you talking points and a how-to guide for a successful “story of self” conversation. You tell us how the conversation went and we’re able to see what messages are working and which aren’t, and increase the total number of voter contacts overall.

Why is this so important? Why bother? Well, as we’ve written here repeatedly at P8TT, large majorities of North Carolinians oppose Amendment One when they find out what it does. Public Policy Polling Director Tom Jensen:

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. It’s just going to take a lot of education and effort over the final six weeks to make sure voters really understand exactly what they’re voting on.”

Moreover, the poll found 34% say they are “not sure exactly” what Amendment One does, and 28% think it would only ban same-sex marriage. Many people don’t even know it would ban relationship recognition between opposite-sex couples, or two sisters living together. Further, Elon University’s poll earlier this week found 60% of North Carolinians oppose an amendment that bans marriage and civil unions. We have a window of opportunity here, folks, if we do the hard work to get the word out on Amendment One. The numbers show it.

So please, if you know someone in North Carolina who is “Yes” or undecided on Amendment One, or even needs some firming up on the issue, pledge to have a Courageous Conversation. We’ll get you everything you need. And if you don’t know anyone, you can still share this action over e-mail, Facebook and Twitter with people you know who do know someone. Let’s get the word out on Amendment One.

An e-mail I wrote to Courage members is below for more.

Courage Campaign

Dear Adam:

We have just over a month until North Carolina votes on Amendment One to ban marriage equality and civil unions — and a new poll shows 60% of North Carolinians oppose an amendment which does that. Polls and experts believe a robust campaign that educates voters on what Amendment One really does can win. We need only the courage to try… and the courage to talk to every North Carolinian we know about Amendment One. At the end of the day, what you do may win the last vote we need to defeat Amendment One.

If you know someone in North Carolina who is planning to vote Yes or is undecided on Amendment One, will you pledge to have a “Courageous Conversation” with that person about why it’s important to vote NO on Amendment One? We have talking points and advice for you to get started.

If you don’t, please click here to share our “Courageous Conversation” program over e-mail, Facebook and Twitter so your friends, family and colleagues can contact someone they know!

Sometimes the most courageous act is a simple conversation with someone you know and love. These conversations aren’t easy. But that is why they are so important. Ads, direct mail and headlines help, but when it comes to an issue as personal as equality, it comes down to the messenger. That means YOU talking to your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. Our research shows that the most effective way to change someone’s opinion about equality for same-sex couples is to have someone they know and trust explain to them why it matters.

It will take courage to have that conversation. But if anyone has it, it’s you. You just have to open the door.

Click here to pledge to have a “Courageous Conversation” with someone you know who is plans to vote Yes or is undecided on Amendment One. We’ve got talking points on Amendment One and a guide to help you get started.

And if you don’t know someone in North Carolina who could use a Courageous Conversation, click here to share our voter contact program with family, friends and colleagues, so they know what’s at stake and can reach out.

One “Courageous Conversation” at a time can change the hearts and minds of those in our lives about Amendment One. And if we defeat Amendment One, it will send a shockwave across the country.

Thank you for giving the gift of equality and doing your part to beat Amendment One,

Adam Bink

Director of Online Programs, Courage Campaign

5 Comments April 5, 2012

Op-ed: The Case for Victory in North Carolina

This piece was originally published at The Advocate.Goal Thermometer

By Adam Bink

On any given day, conventional wisdom is king in American politics, particularly inside the DC Beltway. America will never elect a black man with the middle name “Hussein.” John McCain’s campaign is broke — he’ll never win the Republican nomination for president. The 2011 “personhood” initiative banning abortion and contraception will pass overwhelmingly in conservative, anti-choice Mississippi. An unknown Republican state senator could never win Ted Kennedy’s seat in hard-core blue Massachusetts. The list goes on.

Most often, these predictions are made by people who take only a cursory glance at the issue. Take Amendment One in North Carolina, a ballot measure to ban not only same-sex marriage, but all forms of relationship recognition (such as civil unions and domestic partnerships) in the state of North Carolina — for same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples.

If you follow conventional wisdom, you probably took one quick look at: (a) a map, (b) a poll, (c) a date on the calendar, (d) the issue, and concluded by thinking, Oh, North Carolina is a conservative southern state, May 8 (Election Day) is primary day for Republican presidential candidates, more than 50% of North Carolina voters say they’d vote for Amendment One, marriage is an icky gay issue. This is a sure loser.

But smart politics isn’t about a glance at whatever the media tell us matters most. Some of the biggest upsets have come unexpectedly because underlying dynamics go ignored. Consider:

1. North Carolina voters support Amendment One… until they learn what it does. On March 29, Public Policy Polling (PPP), one of the most respected independent polling firms on the issue of same-sex marriage, found that support for the measure plummets when those surveyed understand the broad harms of Amendment One. Although the poll finds majority support for Amendment One, it also reveals that support falls below 50% when they learn what it does — and a 34% plurality say they are “not sure exactly” what Amendment One does, while 28% think it would only ban marriage. These numbers follow Elon University’s poll in mid-March that showed 57% of likely voters oppose an amendment “that would prevent civil unions and domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.” It leaves a window for a successful campaign if it’s fully funded to educate voters on what Amendment One would really do. PPP’s Director Tom Jensen emphasized this point: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. It’s just going to take a lot of education and effort over the final six weeks to make sure voters really understand exactly what they’re voting on.”

2. Conservative support for Amendment One is crumbling.
In just the past week, North Carolina Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis conceded that future generations are likely to repeal Amendment One within 20 years, given the age trend in support for same-sex marriage. Former Charlotte Mayor and Republican gubernatorial nominee Richard Vinroot came out opposed to Amendment One, joining other elected leaders like Tea Party Congresswoman Renee Ellmers. And John Hood, known as “the voice of conservatism in North Carolina” as president of the conservative John Locke Foundation, wrote in his statewide syndicated column that Amendment One is “unwise and unfair.”

3. The pro-equality coalition opposing Amendment One is diverse, deep and unified.
President Obama, who rarely speaks out on state ballot measures, went out of his way to release a statement via his campaign on March 16, noting that Amendment One would “single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples.” He joins the North Carolina NAACP, the North Carolina Council of Churches, Alliance of Baptists, and dozens of other faith leaders in speaking to North Carolina’s African-American population and Democrats in general. Cathy Bessant, former head of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and the top North Carolina official at Bank of America (which is headquartered in Charlotte and is one of the largest employers in the state) filmed a video against Amendment One. Democratic Gov. Bev Purdue, Sen. Kay Hagan, and every other state Democratic officeholder who has been asked have all also spoken out against Amendment One. Progressive organizations like Courage Campaign and the Human Rights Campaign along with bloggers from sites like Pam’s House Blend, DailyKos, AMERICABlog are working daily to defeat Amendment One. Even Democratic National Committee Chairwoman and Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, herself a supporter of marriage equality, said she would “certainly consider” funding the campaign to defeat Amendment One, and is in talks with the Coalition to Protect NC Families.

4. The conventional wisdom that only Republicans will vote in this election is flat wrong.
It’s wrong for three big reasons: One, North Carolina has early voting beginning on April 19 (including same-day registration) and an unusually large college student population with more than 300,000 voter-eligible college students, the overwhelming majority of whom is opposed to Amendment One. Two, North Carolina has a competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary on May 8 to replace retiring Gov. Perdue, which will drive voters generally opposed to Amendment One. And three, just because Republican presidential candidates are on the ballot doesn’t mean Republicans are rushing in droves to go vote. The New York Times recently reported that total voter turnout in Republican primaries as a percentage of eligible population has declined since 2008, reflecting a lack of enthusiasm for the candidates. Not only that, but with Mitt Romney pulling away from the field, conservative voters will be even less likely to have a reason to go vote on May 8.

5. Opponents of Amendment One have stepped up to help fund the campaign. A Courage Campaign and netroots-fueled moneybomb launched one week ago pulled in over $50,000 on ActBlue and $90,000 overall online, pushing the campaign across the $1 million raised mark. The Human Rights Campaign has invested heavily in defeating Amendment One. With 30 staff in seven offices across the state, North Carolina is now the second-best funded campaign in the South to defeat a constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage with still more than a month to go.

6. Supporters of LGBT rights can defeat this kind of amendment.
Why? Because we’ve done it before. In 2006, voters in Arizona (another so-deemed “conservative red state”) defeated Prop 107, a constitutional amendment with remarkably similar language to Amendment One and a measure that also banned any form of relationship recognition for same-sex or opposite-sex couples, which proved to be its fatal flaw. If Amendment One passes, straight sisters living together and dependent on one another (think “Golden Girls”) could not make financial arrangements they need. Opposite-sex couples who choose not to be married but need similar rights and protections would be harmed. Children of same-sex couples would be stripped of protections, and the elderly would also be harmed. Even domestic violence protections for women are at risk. Arizona State Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who chaired the coalition that defeated Prop 107, pointed to their successful “bait-and-switch” strategy that focused on taking away domestic benefits and legal protections from unmarried partners of any gender. This is fatal Achilles’ Heel of Amendment One at which the Coalition to Protect NC Families is already pricking.

7. North Carolina isn’t just another southern state.
North Carolina was one of a few southern states to vote for that black man with the middle name “Hussein” to be president. North Carolina is the only southeastern state without a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. North Carolina is the first and only state in the South that legally protects students from bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as the first in the South to enact any sort of protection for people based on gender identity/expression. The notion that North Carolina voters are just too southern and can’t be educated on what Amendment One is and why they should vote No is condescending and a flawed assumption.

8. The nationwide trend in favor of relationship recognition for same-sex couples has never been stronger.
North Carolina faces Amendment One when local and nation public opinion has shifted to majority support in favor of legal recognition for same-sex couples. Over the past year, state after state has moved to enact relationship recognition for same-sex couples, whether it’s legalizing marriage equality (Washington, Maryland, New York), defeating attempts to take away legal recognition (New Hampshire) or enacting civil unions (Illinois, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Delaware). Courts have struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8 repeatedly. Even the U.S. Senate has gotten into the act, with the Senate Judiciary Committee voting to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act last September. You could say, Sure, but that’s not in North Carolina. But every time news is made showing progress towards equality, we help move hearts and minds of everyone — including North Carolinians.

So I’ll take the wager that the most progressive southern state out of them all has come a long way on this issue, and is poised to come even further on May 8 — if we suspend our disbelief that Amendment One will pass just because conventional wisdom says it will. We’ve seen bigger political upsets, and with just over a few weeks to go until May 8, our movement is poised to see another one.

ADAM BINK is Director of Online Programs for Courage Campaign, an online organizing network that empowers more than 750,000 grassroots and netroots activists to push for progressive change and full equality in California and across the country. Learn more about our work to help defeat Amendment One at www.couragecampaign.org, and do your part to help defeat Amendment One by chipping in on ActBlue.

3 Comments April 2, 2012

Equality round-up, March 31, 2012

By Adam Bink

A few things around and about:

  • Another great video from the folks at the You Can Play Project. Attention to the NHL is particularly high right now as playoffs are only a few games away (and my Sabres are on the cusp of squeaking in):

  • NOM’s Starbucks boycott appears to be yet another #FAIL (just like their Summer for Marriage tour and Vota Tus Valores tour). Although spokespeople are supposed to say “we’ve seen no effect,” my favorite part is this at a recent shareholder meeting (Schulz runs the company):

“I would assure you that the senior team of Starbucks discussed this, and it was, to be candid with you, not something that was a difficult decision for us,” Schultz said to a burst of applause from the stock-holding crowd. “We made that decision in our view through the lens of humanity and being the kind of company that embraces diversity.”

When pressed by another NOM spokesman whether it is “prudent to risk the economic interest” of the company to support gay marriage, Schultz remained unfazed. He explained that Starbucks employs 200,000 people—with the obvious subtext that the number includes lots of gay people.

  • Just an amazing response to our moneybomb fundraiser to help fully fund the campaign to defeat Amendment One in North Carolina. If you glance to the top right of P8TT, you’ll see (as of this post) $14,271 in from 424 Courage members and P8TT readers. Just outstanding! Thank you so much to everyone who dug deep. The moneybomb raised over $50,000 this week on ActBlue, another $32,000 through the ProtectNCFamilies.org website, plus additional support from large donors who called in to push the campaign over the $1 million mark raised. Remember, both Tom Jensen at Public Policy Poling and Celinda Lake, the respected pollster, said a fully funded campaign can beat Amendment One. We still have a ways to go, though. If you haven’t chipped in, consider packing your lunch next week and throw in $5, $10 or $15 to help get the campaign’s first ads up on the air. Children and families are depending on it, and early voting starts on April 19. Meanwhile, Courage will be rolling out our member-to-voter contact program next week and organizing GOTV.
  • Need more convincing? Check out P8TT friend Karen Ocamb on how we can win and how a win will change the movement.
  • If you missed Scottie’s breaking post last night, House Republicans vote to intervene in yet another DOMA case.
  • Via Sagesse in Quick Hits, Maggie Gallagher steps back from the NOM memo, saying it made them sound “too big for our britches.”
  • Next week (April 4) is a big hearing on the Gill v. OPM and Massachusetts v. HHS cases in the 1st Circuit in Boston, and we’ll have preview and day-of coverage here at P8TT. You can get started with this piece by Jacob here. Mary Bonauto will be arguing on behalf of GLAD and Maura Healey for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

What else are you reading this weekend?

16 Comments March 31, 2012

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