Yesterday North Carolina passed Amendment One, a constitutional amendment initiative that not only puts the existing ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution, but will also ban civil unions and domestic partnerships and could actually make things difficult for heterosexual couples that co-habitate. Despite – or perhaps because of – confusion about the consequences of the measure, 61% of voters supported the amendment yesterday.
The immediate reaction from the activist community in North Carolina was that they would “look at all legal options and political options” to overturn the amendment. That would include repeal bills in the legislature and perhaps actions on specific activities potentially covered by the amendment in the courts.
But there’s another wrinkle with this outcome. The 2012 DNC convention will take place in Charlotte, with President Obama set to accept the nomination at Bank of America Stadium, where the NFL’s Panthers play. And some activists are unhappy about the fact that Democrats will celebrate in Charlotte four months after the state took rights away from LGBT families.
So a nascent petition on Change.org to move the convention out of North Carolina has already gained nearly 14,000 signatures in a matter of hours. This plays into the controversy this week over the President’s “evolution” on marriage equality (though I wouldn’t be surprised to see Democratic defenders use the broad passage of Amendment One as proof that the President cannot get too far ahead of public opinion if he wants to compete in a state like North Carolina, which he won four years ago), as well as his declining to sign an executive order ensuring anti-discrimination protections for LGBT workers at federal contractors. This has already led to donor boycotts by some top LGBT fundraisers, and now there’s this distraction around the convention site.
For the record, President Obama formally opposed Amendment One. He didn’t campaign against it, as Bill Clinton did, but he did send the message that he rejected discrimination and the denial of rights and benefits to same-sex couples. After the vote, Obama’s campaign released a statement where he pronounced himself “disappointed in the passage of this amendment.”
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But Obama pointedly cancelled a trip to North Carolina yesterday, on the day of the vote. Those organizing the Change.org petition would perhaps ask why it would be OK to go four months later to hold the convention in a state that formally voted for second-class citizenship.
The larger point here is that this controversy isn’t likely to go away. And the DNC convention, instead of a PR event for the President’s re-election, could be dominated by this conversation about gay rights, from the addition of a marriage equality plank to the platform to the protest against the convention site. There are already waves of criticism against the selection of Charlotte – North Carolina is a right-to-work state, there are no union hotels in Charlotte for attendees to stay at, it has a reputation as “Wall Street West” and is the home of Bank of America (there’s a rather large protest in Charlotte today, in fact, at the BofA shareholder meeting) – and this just gets layered on.
It just makes things more difficult, and the Obama campaign will have a devil of a time talking their way out of it.
UPDATE: I don’t know that Obama endorses marriage equality today with ABC News, but this is an interesting leak.