Elected leaders in Orange County stand against Amendment One

Latest poll shows 54 percent support for ballot measure

mschultz@newsobserver.com April 28, 2012 

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt speaks at a press conference Saturday opposing Amendment One. Nineteen Orange County elected leaders attended the event, including from left to right, county commissioners Chair Bernadette Pelissier, Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens, Chapel Hill- Carrboro school board member Mike Kelley, school board member Mia Burroughs (obscured), commissioners Vice Chair Pam Hemminger and Carrboro Alderwoman Lydia Lavelle, who had the idea for the event.

MARK SCHULTZ - MSCHULTZ@NEWSOBSERVER.COM

  • WHAT THE AMENDMENT SAYS “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.”

— Nineteen elected leaders from Orange County declared their opposition to Amendment One outside Carrboro Town Hall Saturday morning.

“People ask me if we’re gonna win this fight,” Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said beneath a giant elm tree. “Damn right we’re gonna win this fight!”

The proposed amendment to the state Constitution would define marriage as between one man and one woman and prohibit other forms of government-recognized domestic union such as civil unions.

North Carolina already has a law restricting marriage to one man and one woman. Opponents say the amendment would affect benefits for municipal and university workers. Business groups such as the Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Greater Durham chambers of commerce also oppose the amendment.

Carrboro became the first town in North Carolina to establish a domestic-partner registry for same-sex and different-sex couples in 1994. Alderwoman Lydia Lavelle, who had the idea for Saturday’s event, and her partner Alicia Stemper became the 39th couple to take that largely symbolic step in March 2011.

Chapel Hill followed with its own domestic-partner registry in 1995. Orange County has offered benefits to county employees’ domestic partners since 2003.

“I think we are very proud as a community to support our same-sex couples, single mothers, single fathers, all types of family relationships that people choose in their lives,” Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton said.

Kleinschmidt, who is gay, said Amendment One is not about same-sex marriage or gay people, as much as it is an organizing tool to get the conservative vote out.

“This state has a history of being a progressive beacon in the South,” he said. “And we’re not gonna let it get extinguished by this animus, this hatred of gay people.”

GOP backs amendment

In a press release last week, Orange County Republican Party Chairman Bob Randall said the proposed amendment preserves a sacred institution. The Orange County and Durham Republican Parties have passed resolutions supporting the amendment.

“Our American culture has become so diluted over these past few decades due to the scourge of political correctness, multi-culturalism, liberalism and their combined effects,” Randall said in the release.

“I believe that Conservatives, even moderates and some sensible Liberals, will draw the line at marriage and 30 states have proved that to be true thus far,” he said.

But Kleinschmidt said momentum is shifting as the May 8 primary approaches

Public Policy Polling’s newest poll found 54 percent of voters support the amendment, down from 61 percent six months ago when the Raleigh-based polling agency first asked about it.

“There is some reason to think a huge upset in two weeks is within the realm of possibility,” the agency reported last week. Fifty-three percent of voters in the state support either gay marriage or civil unions, with 44 percent opposed to any recognition for same-sex couples.

“The proposed amendment would ban both gay marriage and civil unions, but voters continue to be confused about that,” the agency reported. Thirty-six percent correctly identify that it would ban both, while 26 percent think it bans only gay marriage, 10 percent think it actually legalizes gay marriage, and 27 percent admit that they don’t know what it does.

Saturday’s brief event drew no opponents, though one passerby did comment on a local controversy.

Get rid of CVS, he shouted, about the new drug store proposed for Weaver and Greensboro streets.

Schultz: 919-932-2003

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