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New poll: majority of North Carolinians oppose marriage amendment; major newspapers also nix it

Also read – The Truth About the Discriminatory, Job-Killing, Harmful, Family-Unfriendly, Divisive, Anti-LGBT Marriage Amendment.

Good news – and I hope the elected proponents of bigotry are taking note as the short session nears in North Carolina’s General Assembly. Via Equality NC:

Fifty-six percent (56%) of North Carolina voters oppose or strongly oppose an amendment to the state constitution that would ban same-sex marriage, a five-point jump in the last two years, according to a February 2011 Elon University Poll, a non-partisan polling service.

The poll also showed a strong majority (57%) of North Carolinians support marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples, revealing a dramatic 9% increase in public support for marriage equality in only two years. This result mirrors two separate polls conducted by Public Policy Polling in March and July that also reveal majority support of legal recognitions for same-sex couples.

“Over the past year, Equality North Carolina has had thousands of conversations with citizens from across the state of every age, race and background who oppose this discriminatory legislation and the harm it would cause to LGBT North Carolinans, our economy and our state’s reputation,” said Alex Miller, interim executive director at Equality NC. “These polls reflect these findings and track with national data that suggests the appetite for constitutional bans of same-sex marriage is waning. When our legislators push this anti-gay marriage amendment, they do so without the approval of the majority of the citizens of our state.”

And what about opponents of equality? You may not be surprised that they cling to one poll that is carefully crafted to avoid language that THEY KNOW is a loser for them. The lying liars brigade…

The unbiased Elon polling data aligns with two additional North Carolina polls from Public Policy Polling and six national polls released in 2011, while also countering recent assertions from anti-gay amendment supporters like the N.C. Values Coalition’s Tami Fitzgerald, who have pointed to a single poll from the conservative Civitas Institute in Raleigh, which says “a large majority” of North Carolina voters support holding a vote to rewrite the state constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. However, the right-wing think tank’s poll uses misleading language to falsely inflate support for Senate Bill 106, the most extreme version of two proposed bills being considered.

By its wording, Civitas carefully avoids telling voters that this type of revision to the state’s founding document would also ban civil union and domestic partnerships, legal recognitions which most North Carolina voters surveyed by Elon University and Public Policy Polling do support.

In fact, the Civitas query purposefully leaves out many of the amendment’s most apparent harms, including:

  • not only banning marriage to same-sex couples, as state statute already does, but also prohibiting any other form of relationship recognition, such as civil unions or domestic partnerships.
  • stripping public benefits for same-sex partners of city and county employees and potentially jeopardizing private benefits such as health insurance for same-sex couples, unmarried opposite-sex couples, and their children; and
  • removing even the most basic protections currently available to same-sex couples, as well as challenging private contracts between these couples.

This strategy of “omission” was exposed in recent online post by the North Carolina affiliate of the anti-LGBT group Concerned Women for America (CWA), whose legislative liaison, Mary Frances Forrester (wife of long-time anti-LGBT amendment primary sponsor, Sen. James Forrester), warned supporters of certain language to avoid “at all costs,” including the phrase, “ban same-sex marriage”, despite the act that banning same-sex marriage is precisely what HB777 would do, and SB 106 would go even further by also banning civil unions and domestic partnerships, including those between unmarried heterosexual couples. Mrs. Forrester wrote, “(Saying ‘ban same-sex marriage’) causes us to lose about ten percentage points in polls. Don’t use it. Say we’re against ‘redefining marriage’ or in favor of ‘marriage as the union of husband and wife’ NEVER ‘banning same-sex marriage.’”

These fearful bigots are losing their grip; even all of the major newspapers in the state have come out against the amendment. More below the fold.

It’s quite clear that most North Carolinians are looking to the future, yet the fear-mongering, ignorant legislators in favor of sullying our state constitution with an anti-LGBT amendment “protecting marriage” are living in the past.

Newspapers across the state, large and small, have published editorials opposing the amendment. It’s no surprise either. With unemployment high, and a state budget in crisis, it’s offensive to anyone in the reality-based community that the Republicans who claimed they had some sort of mandate in 2010 to get people back to work, are wasting so much precious time and effort to foment institutionalized bigotry. No one elected them for this, and government in residents’ lives seems to be quite, ahem, arbitrary for these pols. The Shelby Star:

The problem with a ban on same-sex marriage is that government is involved in marriage at all. Why should a commitment between two people require a government license? In effect, the license is the government giving persons permission to marry.

Eliminating any government definition of marriage would not require those with a moral objection to same-sex marriage to recognize or approve of it. Companies would not be forced to provide benefits to same-sex couples but could decide what is in the company’s best interest. Most importantly, marriage rights for all couples would be better protected if the rights of some individuals are not expressly forbidden.

The Raleigh News & Observer’s editorial on Friday outlined just how hostile and historically obscene its heritage is.

Unveiling their plans the other day, leaders of the Republican-dominated legislature said North Carolinians deserve a chance to vote on such a vital topic – would it have been a good thing if we’d voted on preserving racial segregation in 1960? – and that the rising tide of accommodation to gay marriage in other states (where, somehow, the sky has not fallen) means we must erect a constitutional barrier here.

…Relatively new this year is the argument by Democratic leaders that an amendment that forbids gay marriage and even civil unions – which the Senate’s version does – would discourage big corporations, which increasingly have accommodated themselves to domestic-partner benefits and the like, from locating in the state. Not to mention companies started or headed by gay businesspeople, who surely would feel a singular chill.

Republicans counter that private firms would still be able to offer such plans. Perhaps, but if the amendment passes, the state’s legal structure would be strongly tilted against the whole idea. As the Senate’s language flatly states, “Marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.” Clearly state and local governments, and all their subdivisions, would be barred from recognizing any other arrangements. To say the least, that would not be a plus for employee recruitment.

Just as clearly, hostility to gay marriage – and to gays – would be cemented in the constitution, a document better suited to expanding rights than to constricting them. It’s likely that in coming years such an amendment will seem as illogical, discriminatory and downright unfair as states’ former laws that outlawed interracial marriages.

Because a three-fifths margin is needed in both the House and Senate, a handful of Democratic votes will be needed in the House, although not in the Senate, to advance the Republican-sponsored amendment. The week of Sept. 12 would be a fine time for House Democrats to show some of that same solidarity their GOP colleagues are known for. They should vote no, and they should be joined by some of the more libertarian-minded Republicans, who surely must have doubts about imposing the state constitution between two consenting unrelated adults who wish to commit to that most conservative of social institutions, marriage.

With all of that said, if these bills manage to pass, the governor, Bev Perdue, cannot stop it from going to the ballot. And at that point, it’s which side manages to get their constituency out to the polls to vote. We know the fundies are experts at doing that. So we need to stop the legislation here.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding