Voters in North Carolina will take on LGBT issues May 8 with a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages and civil unions. Despite having previously claimed to be personally opposed to same-sex marriage, with views on the issue that are still “evolving,” President Barack Obama has come out against the ballot measure within the key November swing state.
“While the president does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the president has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples,” Cameron French, Obama’s campaign spokesman for North Carolina, said in a statement.
“That’s what the North Carolina ballot initiative would do, it would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples. And that’s why the president does not support it,” he said.
French’s statement echoes remarks made by Obama spokesman Shin Inouye last September to the Washington Blade, an LGBT-focused newspaper published in the Washington D.C. metro area.
The Charlotte Observer writes that the president’s place in the state matter has the potential to energize the Democratic base in the Tar Heel State, which in 2008 made President Obama the first Democrat to win North Carolina in 32 years.
Gay activist Tom Warshauer, who works for the City of Charlotte, told the Observer that the president’s stance was “great news” – even if the his view of same-sex marriage is still “evolving.”
“It’ll certainly make people less frustrated” with the president on the issue, Warshauer said.
“We’d rather have people be for full equality,” Warshauer said. “But this amendment is writing discrimination into the Constitution … and is just unnecessarily mean-spirited. … And it’s important for young people to hear from the leader of their country that this shouldn’t be happening.”
Others have argued that the president is out of line in weighing in on a state issue.
“I think President Obama has no business inserting himself into the people’s business in North Carolina,” Tami Fitzgerald, chairwoman of Vote for Marriage North Carolina, which supports the amendment, told the Observer. “The people of North Carolina cannot sit by and let marriage as defined as between one man and one woman be destroyed by a handful of political activists or by the president.”
ABC News notes that the president had declined to specifically take a position on same-sex marriage as it was under debate in both New York and Washington. The president has opposed the federal Defense of Marriage Act and opposes a federal marriage amendment to the Constitution. POLITICO’s Alexander Burns writes that the White House’s decision to address the issue in North Carolina may be “a measure of how much Democrats are banking on a changing upper South that endorsing gay rights in North Carolina would be viewed as a politically palatable option.”