President Clinton speaks with North Carolina residents in the wake of Hurricane Floyd, Sept. 1999
President William Jefferson Clinton is the latest, and arguably the most significant luminary, to lend his voice to the cause of stopping North Carolina's proposed Amendment One to ban gay marriage, civil unions and any legal recognition of any non-married relationships.
The 42nd president of the United States has released a message of unequivocal condemnation that will be used by the Protect ALL NC Families
campaign for automated voter calls.
The statement reads:
"Hello, this is President Bill Clinton. I’m calling to urge you to vote against Amendment One on Tuesday May 8. If it passes, it won’t change North Carolina’s law on marriage. What it will change is North Carolina’s ability to keep good businesses, attract new jobs, and attract and keep talented entrepreneurs. If it passes, your ability to keep those businesses, get those jobs, and get those talented entrepreneurs will be weakened. And losing even one job to Amendment One is too big of a risk. Its passage will also take away health insurance from children and could even take away domestic violence protections from women. So the real effect of the law is not to keep the traditional definition of marriage, you’ve already done that. The real effect of the law will be to hurt families and drive away jobs. North Carolina can do better. Again, this is Bill Clinton asking you to please vote against Amendment One. Thanks."
You can listen to the recording here:
Amendment opponents have already unquestionable won the earned media war, and news of President Clinton's involvement can only help. He remains a very popular person in the state. The campaign estimates it will need an additional $25,000 to properly fund the distribution of this message.
Proponents of Amendment One have called the concern about the collateral damage to women and children "lies" although no credible sources have agreed with them, and many disagree. Clinton is a powerful validator for the essential message that Amendment One does nothing to change the status quo of gay marriage in North Carolina, but will visit real damage to the economy, children, families and all unmarried couples.
Like the Mississippi Personhood Amendment last year, conventional wisdom has decreed this amendment is destined to pass.
The vibe is very different on the ground, however.
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For months, social media sites have buzzed with pop-up groups of grassroots activists all across the Tar Heel state brainstorming and executing new and exciting ways to using photography
, and live events
to voice their objections. And the activity has accelerated of late.
The no campaign's YouTube channel has served up over 130 videos gathering about 475,000 viewers, compared with the yes campaign's 16 videos serving about 75,000 views.
There's almost no visible presence of grassroots support, aside from proponent's network of recruited churches. The yes campaign confirmed their strategy is to quietly work only with churches.
While it's true that every candidate, or initiative heading into a presumptively losing battle says, "Don't believe the polls, they're wrong," there may be solid reasons for questioning the pollster's polling screen. A week ago, Talking Points Memo reported on the possibility of a surprise upset in this race.
Pollsters are likely working from the presumption that North Carolina will be having a more or less typical primary, but this primary is shaping up the be anything but typical. The Raleigh News-Observer reported record turnout at early voting last week: "The first week of one-stop voting has even surpassed the first week in the presidential primary election of 2008 between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton." And we all recall how heated that contest was.
We don't know how they've voted, of course, but we do have a window into who has voted, thus far. The site Carolina Transparency tracks early returns and the tea leaves we can read are encouraging. Early voters are showing high turnout in virtually all key demographics where polling shows opposition is highest, including age, geography, party, gender. Strong turnout in party-unaffiliated bloc is a good sign as opposition there tracks even higher than among Democrats.
Did this influence the decision by National Organization for Marriage' to moneybomb $225,000 into the state at the 11th hour? Are they perhaps panicking about the certainty of their "sure thing" victory? This came after revelations the No campaign out-raised the yes by a 2:1 margin, and is largely funded by small donor in-state donations, while yes is funded approximately 75 percent by a few very large, national out-of-state special interest groups.
Is it possible Bill Clinton was nudged by his daughter Chelsea, who herself engaged in North Carolina's battle on Thursday? Youth vote is key obviously, and early polling sites on the University of North Carolina, Duke and others showed unprecedented levels of turnout.
A filmmaker spoke with some student organizers on several campuses.
Jeff Deluca, UNC Senior: You know that quote from [bill proponent] Thom Tillas really just says it all, that this amendment, if it passes is going to be repealed in 20 years. And I think our attitude is we just want to save our state the time, the money, the hassel and just do it now, and use this vote as a means to speak out for the kind of future we want to see for the state of North Carolina.
We don't want discrimination in the constitution, our generation just feels really differently about a lot of the issues that are at stake here, and this is a chance for us to speak our minds.
John Michael Watkins, UNC Senior: On this issue, there just such a generational divide. I think students know just how wrong this amendment is, just how many people it harms, conservatives, Republicans of our generation, and Christians too. There's a lot of Christians on this campus voting against this amendment.
The reason they're so against this is because they just really don't understand why the older generation put this on the ballot in the first place.
It's disconcerting to rational minds to think this amendment is even able
to pass when one looks at the breadth, diversity, quantity and quality of the opposition. Why would anyone even entertain voting for it?
Equality Matters compiled an exhaustive list here, which includes a good summary of Republican and conservative objectors. The progressive blog Blue NC has compiled a really overwhelming list of groups and individuals that oppose Amendment One, they have broken it down into five broad categories:
- Business Leaders
- Professional Leaders and Associations
- Civic and Community Groups
- Political Leaders
- Religious Leaders and Groups
They've also made the list available as a PDF
so it can be printed and distributed. However the vote turns out, it can be said that this ballot initiative in NC in 2012 was the first time the progressive coalition really came together to fire on all cylinders.
The question just becomes: is it enough in NC to defeat America's taste for theocracy?
Proponents have essentially conceded they have no answer for the secular opposition arguments made by business, legal, medical, family professional and civic groups.
They may have their political supporters in theory, but even Republicans seem to be shying away from publicly speaking in support, while a great many have spoken against it. One of the bill's key original sponsors even publicly repudiated it on video, saying "I will definitely vote against it because I think it goes too far." Ouch. That has to leave a mark.
Only the religious argument remains in dispute. Proponents have pretty much relied exclusively on the theocratic, "God intended marriage to be one man, one woman" talking point to argue for the amendment's adoption.
What's new in NC is the Christian left has very much answered the call of social justice and leapt to their feet in a way we've seen far less of before. Over 400 faith leaders and organization count themselves in the opposition coalition, and have been very actively engaged, speaking out and hosting events and phone banks. Opponents include over 100 black clergy signing on to a letter of opposition.
The NC chapter of NAACP under the leadership of Dr. Rev. William Barber has also shown a previously unheard of level of support for the opposition coalition on this measure.
Despite early voting, the bulk of voters will cast their decision on Tuesday. A strong progressive GOTV effort is essential for any hope of undermining the hidden iceberg that is the GOTV machine of the churches.
If Amendment One fails, ultimately the coalition that slays it down will look a great deal like the one that carried North Carolina for Obama in 2008. NAACP, Planned Parenthood, feminists, Democracy for America, MoveOn and Daily Kos have all joined the effort to get out the vote. There does seem to be an unfortunate hold out.
Rumors are that OFA has a GOTV email scheduled for Monday, and they have made a decision not to mention or encourage a no vote on Amendment One. Hopefully these are erroneous reports or the decision will be revisited. The omission is a bit strange since President Obama is already on record with his opposition.
This harkens back to an especially unfortunate and painful episode in 2009 when OFA reached out to residents in Maine to enlist their help on an out-of-state election. In the blast, OFA did not so much as mention the ballot initiative that the LGBT community and their allies were working so hard to defeat in their very own state. No one on the left wants a repeat of that ugly and offensive chapter.
What you can do to help defeat Amendment One:
5:52 PM PT: The Protect ALL NC Families campaign has just released a video they are calling "Closing arguments." It is a good three-minute compilation of the wide breadth and diversity of North Carolinians standing up against Amendment One.
It ends with NC state senator Eric Mansfield (D-Cumberland county) saying, "We won't go without a fight."