In NC, Sebelius says defeating Amendment One is “great template” for Obama in November

This could be an important development. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius spoke out against North Carolina’s ant-marriage amendment last night in Charlotte:

She suggested in her 14-minute speech at the Charlotte Convention Center that gays, lesbians and other Obama backers in this key swing state use the May 8 vote on the amendment as a sort of practice run for the effort needed in November to keep North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes in President Barack Obama’s column.

“I know there’s an important election in early May in North Carolina,” Sebelius told the North Carolina gala of the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest gay and lesbian civil rights group. “And I think it’s a great template for what needs to be done to organize people and turn out people for November. North Carolina is hugely important in this next (presidential) election.”

It could be a great template. Obama for America is putting together a massive organization in North Carolina. The state is a top priority for the President’s reelection. So, this is a two-way street. OFA should put its muscle behind defeating Amendment One. It would be a good practice run for them, too. Last October, the President said, “we’ve got to work hard to oppose” these kinds of measures that “are looking to enshrine discrimination into state laws and constitutions.” If he really means “we,” he can start in North Carolina.

We’re going to be writing a lot about North Carolina over the next ten weeks. It’s winnable. The campaign to defeat the amendment is called Protect All NC Families.

Pam Spaulding, who is one of my favorite North Carolinians, has an excellent post about the campaign to defeat Amendment One:

NC is not a throwaway state, or the Obama campaign wouldn’t bother coming here, let alone holding the convention in Charlotte — they have touted this selection in press release after press release. Yes, the state is full of newcomers, and plenty of progressive natives are here as well — the state has changed — more of its population is in urban/suburban areas, not rural regions. It’s absurd to compare the NC of 1970 to 2012 – the political reality is that the 2010 elections is the only reason we’re facing the amendment battle. As long as Dems held the General Assembly, the bill died over and over.

And, she wants the President and First Lady to weigh in since her home state is so important to them:

And how about the President or the First Lady doing an anti-Amendment One video? He’s on the record as opposing such amendments, so there’s no controversy in stating a factual position — it can only help. It would certainly send a signal to those waffling on whether fighting discrimination is just as important as fighting for equality and it would help remind people that there is a stake in getting out to the polls.

In January, Tom Jensen from Public Policy Polling, which is based in North Carolina (and is probably the best polling outfit anywhere), explained that we can win this one:

North Carolinians are increasingly having doubts about the state’s proposed amendment to ban gay marriage. When PPP first polled on it in October 61% of voters said they would support it. That’s ticked down to 59%, 58%, and now 56% over the course of our last three polls. It’s still leading for passage by a healthy 56/34 margin but the trendlines have to be encouraging for those hoping to defeat it.

The decrease in support for the amendment may reflect voters in the state becoming more aware about just how far reaching it would be. 57% of North Carolinians support some form of legal recognition for gay couples- either full marriage rights or civil unions- to only 40% who are completely opposed to any rights for same sex couples.

There are a lot of voters who are fine with civil unions but not with gay marriage who are planning right now to vote for the amendment, not realizing that it would ban civil unions too. But some of those folks are starting to move out of the ‘yes’ column, and getting a bunch more of them to will be the key to defeating the proposal.

Jensen wrote something similar in December.

This is the first battle of 2012. We keep saying we have momentum. We need to prove it. Two weeks ago, on “Up With Chris,” Maggie Gallagher said marriage was on the ballot in North Carolina. She wants to keep their record of winning on referenda intact. If we win, it’s a win for marriage. If we lose, it’s another loss for marriage.

If we don’t, it’s our own fault. Pam’s conclusion is spot on:

Not all states are in the same position as Maryland in 2012. In NC and Minnesota we have different battles to win, and all of them are important. I only wish that more of my LGBT peers and allies felt the same way.

One last thing: A lot of people are donating a lot of money to the Democratic convention in Charlotte. Some of those folks really should be contributing to the campaign to defeat Amendment One as well.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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