From the beginning of their efforts to remind gays and lesbians in North Carolina that they remain inferior to heterosexuals in the state, the campaign to pass Amendment 1 has tried to minimize the true effect and purpose of the amendment. They claim, in an apparently deliberate distortion of their own research on the legal effects, that the amendment "only" defines marriage as between a man and a woman. They had to make this defensive statement because the opposition has pointed out the vagueness of the amendment's language - that the phrase the "only domestic legal union" will be a marriage between a man and a woman means that the amendment would eliminate domestic partnerships and the opportunity to pass civil unions. North Carolinians support civil unions for gays and lesbians, and all the Democratic candidates for governor have said they do as well.
The opposition has successfully defined the amendment as broad and far-reaching, and now, it seems that the proponents' failure to stay on message is reaching a new level. Take this example, from an article about today's attempts by the proponents to conflate the civil ceremony of marriage to a broader religious, Biblical notion:
Amendment backers also want churches to show a video in favor of rejecting domestic partnerships and defining marriage as only between one man and one woman.For a campaign that has worked so hard to pretend that the amendment "only" defines marriage as between a man and a woman, it seems an odd choice to actively promote a video purporting to advocate the erasure of domestic partnerships from North Carolina law. It's even more strange when you consider the constant reminder from the opponents that eliminating domestic partnerships will affect domestic violence law and protections. Are the proponents now admitting outright that they want to eliminate even domestic partnerships, no matter the consequences to couples, gay and straight alike? Are they admitting they are okay with getting rid of children's health benefits associated with domestic partnerships?
And their inability to control the message has turned virtually all media coverage off of their campaign and tactics. Here's what happens to media coverage when a campaign goes off the rails:
And from Lambda Legal, here's how the narrative on this amendment looks now:
Virtually ALL the news headlines are a nightmare for the bill's proponents:
It has not been a good week for supporters of North Carolina’s antigay Amendment One.And from NC Policy Watch:
Poll numbers are dropping. Proponents of the amendment were caught lying. A growing list of experts and leaders has come out against the measure, including the governor, a senator, the attorney general, a former state supreme court justice and a Republican congresswoman favored by the Tea Party, former office holders and candidates, and clergy.
As if that weren’t enough, one of the measure’s sponsors in the legislature now says he’ll vote no. And even the star witness against marriage equality in California’s Prop 8 trial has come out against Amendment One.
It’s easy to see why even people who oppose marriage equality are going public with their opposition against this amendment. An unfortunate state law already restricts marriage to different-sex couples. But Amendment One would also ban civil unions and domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.
A sense of panic appears to be setting in among the forces who want to write discrimination into the North Carolina constitution. And for good reason.Keep in mind that while some of these are LGBT-leaning sites, many are not, and news coverage from regular news outlets is decidedly turning against this thing. Talking Points Memo recently ran this headline:
Are Opponents To NC’s Marriage Amendment On The Verge Of An Epic Comeback?NPR did a segment on conservative, religious and libertarian opposition to Amendment 1.
If you're working to enshrine bigotry in the state's constitution, this is not something you want to read in a state newspaper:
No one is hurt by gay marriageThe proponents are focused almost exclusively on religion and the Bible, which seems like a terrible idea considering the people they need to sway are independents and moderates -those who believe so strongly in the Bible that they would write this into the state constitution will probably come out to vote either way, so it's really a lost opportunity to persuade middle of the road voters that this is a legitimate attempt to run the government and not a right-wing religious takeover designed to enshrine bigotry and hurt families and children with unmarried parents in domestic partnerships.
I don’t agree with the opposition, but I understand where a lot of it comes from. Many of you feel the Bible condemns homosexuality.
The Bible has a lot of rules, but only ten commandments, and Jesus prunes even those to their essence in Luke chapter 10: Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength and mind… and love your neighbor as yourself.
Man, that “love your neighbor” part is hard.
Because what love really requires, in the end, is that you accept your neighbors for what they are. If they’re hurting you in some way, of course you can take recourse, but this is the thing about gay marriage: It hurts no one. It just bothers people. And we don’t have a right not to be bothered.
Please don’t try to argue that gay marriage undercuts the institution of marriage. If we made marriage as hard as getting a college degree, maybe. But in North Carolina, all you need for a marriage license is a willing (straight) couple and 60 bucks. When my wife and I got our marriage license in South Carolina, they gave us a little bag of soap and detergent and tissues. They figured a lot of new marrieds didn’t have much to live on.
If you truly think marriage is sacred, don’t ever spend a day in divorce court.
And today, a newspaper in North Carolina reported on its anti-amendment letters the paper has received. The opponents of the amendment are increasingly motivated and strongly opposed, and they've been waging a letter-writing campaign to newspaper editorial boards in the state, working hard to define the message. The proponents, seemingly oblivious to the fact that newspapers, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook exist, are now very upset with newspapers for printing anti-amendment letters.
Amendment critics, busy writersJust so we're clear here: their editorial board is printing pro-amendment articles when they come in. They're even printing letters from known hate groups (who have enthusiastically endorsed the amendment, of course.) And that's not enough. Their message has gotten so far away from them that they are even unhappy with coverage of letters to the editor in support of their position.
The caller, a Cary subscriber whose name I couldn’t catch despite repeated tries, spat out her words as if something vile were on her tongue.
“I just want to say how utterly, utterly disgusting the editorial page was this week like it has been so many times before,” she told me in her voice mail message. “This Amendment One, there wasn’t one letter for it, and you talk about trying to be fair and balanced. I don’t think you have a clue.
“Many of us are for this amendment, and yet you just print the negative. It’s really sad that people are so blind.”
From the other side we’ve heard surprisingly little. But a common theme seems to boil down to this: North Carolina has to make this constitutional change to remain in God’s good graces.
Anyone is perfectly entitled to believe in the sanctity of one man-one woman marriage, but how is writing that belief into the state’s constitution not the furtherance of one particular religious code by the force of law?
I checked on the marriage amendment letters we had run on the seven days ending Thursday. By my count there were five pro-amendment, 18 anti. A fair sampling of those received? You bet – tilted toward the pro.
So what happens to all the otherwise acceptable letters – i.e., reasonably clear, properly signed, not form letters, not nine yards long – that don’t make it into the print edition? To the extent that we can manage it (because editing letters and processing them for production in any format is labor-intensive), we put them online.
On Friday, April 20, for example, we posted 12 marriage amendment letters in our Opinion Shop blog. The score: one for the amendment and 11 against. Many of the opponents were writing in rebuttal of a letter we had run in print a couple of days earlier from a policy expert at the Family Research Council in Washington.
Opponents of the amendment have pushed hard to get early voters out to the polls. The news reports that this is working out:
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Intense interest in a ballot measure that would change North Carolina's constitution with a ban on gay marriage or other domestic unions is generating a surge in early voting.I can't imagine there is a surge in early voting based on the same, tired messaging, the same distortions, the same appeals to religion we've seen every year in the history of the LGBT rights movement. That could indeed be the case, but it's hard to believe that is the case, when there are obvious far-reaching harms the amendment would cause, and the last poll shows that more people are beginning to understand what the amendment will do.
Their message - that the amendment "only" defines marriage as between a man and a woman - has lost the day. Indeed it's hard to even find reporting that accepts that as true now. Even most straightforward reporting is skeptical of the oft-repeated narrow claims. And now that the amendment's backers are appearing to abandon the assertion, by showing videos urging the abandonment of domestic partnerships, I'm sure more voters will feel justified in their skepticism. Hopefully they will feel justified enough to vote no on May 8.
- Contribute to the campaign on ActBlue so they have the resources they need to get our message out.
- Sign up for a Courageous Conversation about Amendment One with someone you know in NC.
- Follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter.
- Download social media tools and yard signs to show your opposition to Amendment 1.
- Volunteer to Call for Equality – a national, virtual GOTV phone banking effort against Amendment 1.