Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fight Intensifies Over NC Marriage Amendment

Via the AP:
RALEIGH — In public places and behind the scenes, lobbying is gearing up ahead of the General Assembly session next month when lawmakers could consider putting a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on next year's ballot.
Campaigns for and against the proposed constitutional ban are already including petitions, pulpit messages, rallies, billboards and phone banks, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported today.
The gay rights group Equality North Carolina on Sunday set up at the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Durham with stacks of postcards for patrons to sign urging lawmakers to withhold their support for the proposed ban. The group hopes to have 50,000 to deliver to legislators by next month.
"Just because two guys want to be together or two girls want to be together, what effect does that have on me?" asked theatergoer Joseph Sawyers, 31, of Raleigh. "It doesn't bother me at all. It has nothing to do with me."
On the other side of the issue, the executive director of the Christian Action League has spent days in face-to-face lobbying and vote counting.
"There's a lot of groundwork to be laid," the Rev. Mark Creech said. "Not only do you have to have all the votes that are needed, in the long run, you need to be in the best position so you can win North Carolina."
It's already illegal for same-sex couples to marry in North Carolina. The proposal would let voters decide whether to amend the state constitution to state that marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic valid legal union recognized in the state.
Thirty states already have constitutional language defining marriage. Minnesota lawmakers this year agreed to place an amendment defining marriage on the ballot for 2012.
Three-fifths of all members of the House and Senate would have to approve putting the question before voters in November 2012. Republicans hope a constitutional amendment on gay marriage would increase turnout of conservative voters in 2012 and boost their chances against Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue and President Barack Obama.
Obama narrowly won North Carolina's electoral votes in 2008 and signaled he aims to contest the moderate Southern state again. Democrats decided to hold their convention in Charlotte. An Elon University poll in February found that 37 percent of the state's residents support or strongly support a marriage amendment, down from 43 percent in March 2009. A December poll of registered voters by the Civitas Institute, a Raleigh think tank, found that two-thirds supported an amendment.
With Republicans in control of the General Assembly for the first time in a century, religious conservatives see this year and next as an opportunity to advance a gay marriage amendment sidetracked for years when Democrats held power.
"Our organization is pushing to say to our legislature, 'We want you to vote on it,'" Said Ron Baity, president of the conservative Christian organization Return America.
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