Tuesday, May 15, 2012

French economy stalls, posing challenge for Hollande

updated 5/15/2012 4:51:24 AM ET

PARIS (Reuters) - France's economy stalled in the first quarter as household consumption flatlined, businesses pared back investment and exports slowed, underlining the challenge facing Socialist President Francois Hollande as he takes office on Tuesday. 

It may add to his drive to push the euro zone to adopt growth as well as austerity policies.
The euro zone's second-largest economy posted zero growth in the first three months of the year, the INSEE national statistics institute said, after an anemic expansion of just 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter, revised down from 0.2 percent.

While the data indicated France's nearly 2 trillion euro economy avoided recession, it painted a grim outlook for 2012 and strengthened Hollande's case for a shift away from austerity in Europe towards more growth orientated policies, ahead of a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel later in the day.

"There was no good surprise," said Philippe Waechter, chief economist at Natixis Asset Management. "There was weak consumption, no investment."

The zero percent growth figure was in line with the forecast of a Reuters poll of 31 economists and showed France's economy returning to stagnation after just two consecutive quarters of positive growth.

Its weak performance was cast in sharp relief by better-than-expected growth in Germany, where the economy expanded by 0.5 percent in the first quarter, bouncing back more strongly than expected from a small fourth-quarter contraction.

Growth in household consumption, the motor of France's economy, picked up slightly to 0.2 percent after 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter.

But capital investment fell 0.8 percent, after growing 1.3 percent in the fourth quarter, amid reports of companies struggling to access credit and holding back capital spending until after the April-May elections which gave France its first Socialist president since 1995
Net trade contributed a negative 0.1 percent to growth, as imports grew by 0.7 percent due to demand for refined petroleum products. Export growth slowed to 0.3 percent, amid weakness in southern European economies.

Restocking by companies provided a slender 0.1 percent boost to overall GDP growth.
"Export growth slowed, probably due to weak demand from France's main trading partners (Italy and Spain), which absorb around 15 percent of exports," said Joost Beaumont, senior economist at ABN Amro.

"Meanwhile, companies put investments on the shelf, most likely reflecting the uncertain economic outlook as well as tight lending conditions," he added.

Beaumont predicted these negative factors would remain in place, resulting in a slight contraction in second-quarter GDP. Thereafter, a fragile recovery would take hold, restrained by the need for ongoing fiscal consolidation in France and the economic weakness in its trading partners in southern Europe.

Hollande forecasts growth of 0.5 percent this year and 1.7 percent for 2013 but some expect him to lower these forecasts at July's extraordinary session of parliament to review the budget.

Despite becoming the figurehead for the fight-back against austerity in Europe, Hollande has pledged to respect France's EU commitment to cut its deficit to 3 percent of GDP by 2013, from 5.2 percent at the end of the year.

He aims to balance the budget by the end of his five year mandate - something no French president has achieved since 1974.

(Additional reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey and Brian Love. Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)

France's 'Monsieur Normal' takes office

... unmarried

Updated at 09:55 a.m. ET Tuesday: Just as we were getting used to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Napoleonic style, rather large ears and twitchy manner, and his knock-out French-Italian wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy’s catwalk charm, breathless voice and bling, it’s out with the old and in with the new.
On Tuesday, Francois Hollande, so bland a politician that he turned “Monsieur Normal” into a cool campaign moniker, was inaugurated as the ninth president since the larger-than-life Charles de Gaulle created the Fifth Republic in 1958. But He is the very first to assume France’s most powerful job… unmarried.

And unheard of. Even the Musketeer-like Sarkozy rushed to divorce his long-time spouse, Cecilia, and marry the celebrity Bruni just to do the honorable thing. But Hollande – a self-proclaimed social Democrat – will enter the Elysee Palace, not with a spouse at his side, but with a twice-divorced “partner”: Valerie Trierweiler, an elegant but take-no-prisoners reporter who, at 47, is 10 years younger than Hollande. They’ve been a couple since Hollande left his ex-PARTNER of some 30 years, Segolene Royale -- the French Socialist politician, former presidential candidate, and mother of his four grown children. (She, like Hollande, has never married.)

Louise Roug of Newsweek and the Daily Beast discusses whether there will be a fiscal revolution in France following Francois Hollande's victory in the country's recent presidential elections.
Trierweiler, the next first lady -- or ‘Premiere Dame’ -- brings her own baggage into this unusual presidential relationship. Having worked all of her adult life to support her three boys, she says she has no intention of  “retiring” as first lady – a ceremonial, non-job in France with no bureau, staff or real budget – or of living off the state.
“I think she wants to remain herself,” said French author and political analyst Nicole Bacharan. ‘Which is already a challenge as a first lady. She wants to remain true to the kind of mother she is and professional woman she is.’’
A challenge, that will be. When asked how the unmarried couple could pay state visits, for instance, to conservative Arab countries or the pope, Trierweiler dismissed the need for such travel and warned that she and Hollande would never marry under pressure “of protocol.” Now, such an attitude will no doubt shock some of the more straight-laced among us. But Bacharan believes the American public will by and large take to this smart, independent, working French mom with the chic neck scarves. She’s got what it takes to make her own mark, but in a very un-Bruni way. ‘’Trierweiler doesn’t seek celebrity. She doesn’t seek the limelight. She has fallen in love with this man who happens to be the president of France, but she wants to play a low, discreet role,” said Bacharan.
 In this sense she should hit it off with the U.S. first lady, Michelle Obama, when the two are expected to meet at Camp David next week -- the French first couple’s first foreign visit. Both women are educated, articulate and independent, middle-class mothers who influence their "significant others" mostly from the sidelines, and in private. Trierweiler, a media professional for more than 20 years, has already improved Hollande’s image -- his slimmer looks, modern glasses and better-fitting suits all have her stamp of approval. "I think she’s very smart, very protective," said Chris Dickey, Newsweek’s Paris correspondent. "She not only asserts her influence -- she protects her influence of her partner.’’

Lemouton Stephane / Abaca file
Valerie Trierweiler
Hollande’s comfortable defeat of the conservative Sarkozy -- as anticipated as it was -- has shaken Europe’s status quo. And his contentious tax-and-spend approach to growth and deficit reduction has triggered a hot debate on both sides of the pond. But it’s unclear how much -- if at all -- Trierweiler’s ideas have influenced Hollande’s leftist politics, or his economics. Refreshingly, their bond seems -- above all else -- to be emotional. "I didn’t choose to have a public life," she’s told a French magazine. "I chose Francois. But I will adapt." And who would’ve guessed that, behind Hollande’s gravely voice and charmless demeanor, there breathes ... a romantic? "It’s very rare to succeed professionally AND meet the woman of your life," Hollande confided to a French newspaper. "That chance is fleeting, but I chose to seize it!"
In fact, "Mr. and Ms. Normal" are anything but, even by French standards: an unmarried presidential couple with seven children, two ex-husbands and an ex-partner who happens to be an arch- rival, between them. But, let’s cut the new stars of the global political stage some slack. They are, after all, French -- for whom "doing it your way" is the 11th commandment. And when it comes to the French presidency --  a depository of dead war heroes, resistance leaders and monster egos -- an unassuming bureaucrat and his discreet -- if feisty -- partner, both with complicated personal lives, may fool us all and actually bring the "normalcy" that most French voters wanted.  Now wouldn’t THAT be abnormal?

Jim Maceda is an NBC News foreign correspondent based in London who has covered France since the 1970s.

Bill Clinton, Paul Ryan headline fiscal summit talks

Bill Clinton began playing a role in presidential politics 40 years ago when he ran Democratic nominee George McGovern’s Texas operation in the Democrats’ ill-fated 1972 campaign. As a candidate, as a strategist and advocate (for his wife in 2008) and as a symbol, Clinton is hard to beat for sheer durability.
Zachary Laux / AP
Former President Bill Clinton speaks at the Times-Union Center's Terry Theater on Friday, May 11, 2012, in Jacksonville, Fla. Clinton's talk was park of Mayor Alvin Brown's economic summit.
So far in this election cycle Clinton has been used by both President Obama’s campaign and by Mitt Romney in his effort to defeat Obama.

Last month, Obama ran an ad of Clinton praising him for ordering the Navy SEAL attack that killed Osama bin Laden. “Suppose they’d been captured or killed. The downside would have been horrible for him,” Clinton said in the ad.

Last week in a speech in Michigan, Romney used Clinton to draw an unflattering contrast to Obama: "President Clinton made efforts to reform welfare as we know it. But President Obama is trying tirelessly to expand the welfare state...."

And on Monday in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, 2008 GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz. used Clinton’s free-trade record as president to criticize Obama for not negotiating trade accords with India and other nations.

“After four years, this (Obama) administration still has not concluded or ratified a single free trade agreement of its own making,” he said, arguing that this was “a shameful record.”
“I know we’re in an election year, and I’m not here to beat up on the administration; that would be easy enough for me to do,” said McCain. “But it requires presidential leadership, and it requires setting priorities. President Clinton set the free trade agreement between the United States and Canada as a priority, and Congress then reacted.”

Obama, he implied, had failed to display Clinton-like leadership.

Bill Clinton as symbol and a source of wisdom can be a flexible campaign instrument – used in different ways by Democrats and Republicans depending on the circumstances.

Although McCain praised Clinton on Monday, it was quite different back in 2000, when McCain was vying with George W. Bush for the GOP presidential nomination. McCain ran a TV ad in which he accused Bush of running an ad that was allegedly Clinton-like in its dishonesty.
“His ad twists the truth like Clinton. We're all pretty tired of that,” McCain said in his 2000 ad.

And four years ago, when Romney was vying with McCain for the GOP nomination, he used that very same McCain 2000 ad to attack the Arizona senator for daring to draw a similarity between the man whom most Republicans hated (Clinton) and the man whom most of them loved (Bush). “Comparing Bush to Clinton? He was wrong then, and he's wrong about Mitt Romney now,” Romney’s ad said.

On Tuesday at a non-campaign event with implications for the Romney-Obama battle, Clinton will make remarks at the third annual fiscal summit organized by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

Peterson, who served as commerce secretary under President Nixon and later headed Lehman Brothers and the private equity firm the Blackstone Group, has been a champion of reforming the entitlement programs and reducing the national debt.

At last year’s Peterson fiscal summit, Clinton angered progressives by his friendly backstage chat with House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wisc. It came just a day after Republicans had lost a special House election in upstate New York – in part due to Ryan’s budget proposal to redesign Medicare into a premium support plan with limited payments.
In their backstage tete-a-tete, recorded by an ABC News camera, Clinton told Ryan, “I’m glad we won this race in New York, but I hope the Democrats don’t use it as an excuse to do nothing on Medicare.”

And he cordially invited Ryan to give him a phone call “if you want to talk about it.”
What got lost in some of the ensuing commentary was what Clinton had said about Ryan’s proposal in his on-stage remarks to the Peterson event: “I just think his Medicare proposal is, on the merits, wrong” and would lead to those on Medicare becoming “poorer” or older people would use less  medical care, “get sicker and die quicker.”

The problem, Clinton said, is “rising medical costs. Medicare is a part of a whole health care system than has a toxic rate of inflation and a spending base today that’s not sustainable.”
But having said that, Clinton added, “I applaud Congressman Ryan for making a suggestion” even though “on the merits it doesn’t work.”

The lesson of that New York election was “not that we can’t talk about Medicare and we have to tippy-toe around,” Clinton said at last year’s fiscal summit.

Obama has mocked Romney for using the word “marvelous” to describe Ryan’s budget proposal and Democrats have made the Ryan plan a central issue in House and Senate campaigns this year, which is all the more reason why it will be worth listening to what Clinton has to say about Ryan at this year’s fiscal summit.

Physician: Zimmerman had broken nose, black eye

When the tragic story of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin consumed the nation over the past few months, a number of questions were raised about racism, vigilantism, and self defense laws. However, the most important question was always the first one; what exactly happened that fateful night?

However, tonight, ABC World News broke information about the injuries Zimmerman received that may shed more light on just how that night went down.

ABC, who were also first to break the bloodied images of Zimmerman’s head that disputed video seemingly showing him unharmed, have now obtained Zimmerman’s detailed medical records.

The three-page medical report is part of the discovery -- stacks of documents and CDs – currently being examined by the prosecution and the defense, ABC News reported.

The document describes Zimmerman as having suffered two black eyes, wounds to the back of the head, as well as a broken nose but that he declined both hospitalization after the encounter as well as a follow up with an ENT doctor. The doctor who wrote the document also writes that Zimmerman suffers from stress and “nausea” when thinking about the night and was strongly advised to see a psychologist.

Trayvon Martin timeline: Key events in the Sanford, Fla. shooting case 

On the night of the shooting, police officials from Sanford, Fla. said that Zimmerman told them he had used the gun in self-defense.

After more than a month of legal handwringing, during which the case was being intensely scrutinized by the media, Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder for Martin’s death on Feb. 26. The prosecution contends that Zimmerman tracked the teen, who was returning to the gated community, where his father’s girlfriend lived, after buying snacks at a corner store.

It also states that, prior to the shooting, Zimmerman had been prescribed the drugs Adderall and Temazepam, medication that ABC points out “can cause side effects such as agitation and mood swings, but in fewer than 10 percent of patients.”

Of course, none of this proves exactly what the events were that led to Martin’s death. But they are important facts to add to this sad, sad story.
He was charged on April 11; he was released from jail 12 days later on $150,000 bail.

George Zimmerman May Be Charged With Hate Crime By FBI, Report Says

Since the shooting, debate has raged over whether Martin attacked Zimmerman before being shot, punching him in the face and hitting his head against the pavement.

Martin’s family, pointing to surveillance video from the police station, note that Zimmerman didn’t have any apparent wounds. Zimmerman’s attorney argued that the footage was of too-low quality to determine whether he had been injured.

 Watch the video from ABC News below:

ABC News Reports Medical Records Support George Zimmerman’s Account Of Broken Nose And Scalp Injuries

First Thoughts: A day of contradictions


A day of contradictions for Team Obama… And a contradiction for Romney in Iowa… That NYT/CBS poll -- things that make you go, hmmmm… Pro-Obama Super PAC doubles down on Bain… JP Morgan Chase loss spurs more talk about regulation… NE SEN primary day: Establishment front-runner beware!... And WI Dems complain about a lack of DNC money for the upcoming recall.

Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images
President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign fundraiser May 14, 2012 at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City.
*** A day of contradictions: Yesterday certainly felt a day of contradictions for the White House and the Obama campaign. First, on the same day the campaign unloaded on Mitt Romney and his work at Bain Capital, you saw the president attending a fundraiser hosted by the president of the hedge fund giant Blackstone Group. Then, as the White House has been doing everything it can to portray the president’s gay-marriage announcement as anything BUT political, there was Obama raising money at a LGBT fundraiser hosted by Ricky Martin. Not surprisingly, the latest New York Times/CBS poll (whose methodology were a tad circumspect of… more in a few) finds that a resounding 67% of respondents believe the announcement was made for mostly political reasons, versus 24% who believe it was done out of principle. “The results reinforce the concerns of White House aides and Democratic strategists who worried that the sequence of events leading up to the announcement last week made it look calculated rather than principled,” the New York Times writes. That’s why, we guess, Vice President Biden apologized to the president -- his comments on “Meet the Press” guaranteed the gay-marriage story would be more about process and politics and not conviction.

The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd talks about President Barack Obama's address to the graduates of Barnard College, which gave a nod to women, in hopes of growing the gender gap, and an embrace of enthusiastic donors happy with his new gay marriage stance.
*** Romney’s own contradiction: Yet here’s a contradiction for Romney: As he campaigns today in Iowa, his team has unveiled a new web video featuring unemployed Iowans. But the unemployment rate in Iowa is at 5.2%, one of the lowest in the nation and a level usually considered near full employment. Could this election be as simple as this: Romney needs the electorate to feel the economic doom and gloom these voters in this Romney web video express, while Obama wants the mentality on Election Day to be more reflective of what the 58% of folks told USA TODAY/Gallup about where the economy will be in 2013… It’s the usual optimism vs. pessimism meme but with a twist… both campaigns want to sell “better days ahead” with Romney serving up change as the answer and Obama serving up “don’t change horses just yet.”

*** Things that make you go, hmmmm: Speaking of that New York Times/CBS poll, it shows Romney at 46% and Obama at 43%. But get this: It also has the president’s approval rating at 50%. (How is Obama’s job approval at 50%, but his head-to-head number is 43%?) And given that this poll was a “call-back survey” -- with the respondents first interviewed back in April -- it feels like we need more poll data to make sense of all the events of the past two weeks. The gay marriage announcement. Obama’s campaign kickoff. The Osama bin Laden anniversary. The April jobs report. We respect the work the folks at the NYT/CBS do, but there are a lot of contradictions in the results, which simply means we should wait for more data. And guess what: Our NBC/WSJ poll is going into the field in the next 10 days. When you’re polling for a news organization, you usually want to be the first. But given all the news from the past two weeks, it’s not a bad thing to have the public have enough time to digest everything that has happened. By the way, we can tell that both Team Obama and Team Romney are nervous how the last couple of weeks have played, and the campaigns weren’t in the field last week.

*** Pro-Obama Super PAC doubles down on Bain: Yesterday’s Obama campaign’s two-minute Bain ad launched plenty of discussion and analysis – including here on First Read – but it’s worth noting that it’s a limited buy. According to Smart Media, it’s just for one day (May 16), and buy so far is less than $100,000. But guess what: The pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA Action is now going up in the same five states (CO, IA, OH, PA, and VA) with its own Bain ad on the same story about Romney and Bain (a Kansas City plant closing). The buy information for this ad is $780,000 from May 15 to May 21. We’re guessing that Team Romney might feel compelled to respond to with more than a web video like they did yesterday.

*** J.P. Morgan loss spurs fight over regulation: J.P. Morgan Chase’s $2 billion loss is giving President Obama and Democrats fodder. "This is why we passed Wall Street reform," Obama said in a preview clip of his appearance today on “The View.” Obama added, "You could have a bank that isn't as strong, isn't as profitable making those same bets and we might have had to step in and that's exactly why Wall Street reform is so important.” Sen. Carl Levin, head of a Senate subcommittee on investigations which looked into the 2008 crisis, said on PBS that he believes what J.P. Morgan did would have been illegal under Dodd-Frank. “[W]hat this bank did in this case, by their own data, is not reduce the risk. They were dramatically increasing the risk by their own data. That is not permitted by our law,” Levin said. Mitt Romney would want to repeal Dodd-Frank. But Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who appeared with Levin, called for a hearing on the J.P. Morgan deal to better understand what they did.

*** On the trail: Romney campaigns in Des Moines, IA at 3:05 pm ET… Meanwhile, at 10:55 am ET in DC, Obama delivers remarks at a National Peace Officers memorial service.

*** Veepstakes watch: Rob Portman, in DC, attends a panel discussion at the Peterson Foundation Fiscal Summit

*** Establishment front-runner beware! It’s primary day in Nebraska and Oregon, and the marquee contest is the GOP Senate primary in the Cornhusker State. A week after a relative outsider defeated the establishment in Indiana -- with Richard Mourdock’s victory over Dick Lugar -- could the establishment favorite in Nebraska (Attorney General Jon Bruning) get a scare today? The New York Times’ Zeleny: “For months … Bruning has been seen as the leading contender in the primary, enjoying a fund-raising advantage and the backing of top Republicans here and in Washington. But as the primary approaches on Tuesday, the outcome is far from certain and the contest has become another potential wild card in the battle for control of the Senate, with outside groups feverishly trying to influence the race. Deb Fischer, 61, a rancher and state senator who is seeking statewide office for the first time, appears to be gaining ground on Mr. Bruning.” There’s a third candidate, state Treasurer Don Stenberg, who’s also in the mix. In today’s GOP, we’re not sure anyone wants to be the establishment front-runner anymore. David Dewhurst, watch out…

*** The DNC and the Wisconsin recall: The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reported yesterday that Wisconsin Democrats are angry with the Democratic National Committee for not ponying up money for next month’s recall. “Considering that Scott Walker has already spent $30 million and we’re even in the polls, this is a winnable race,” a Wisconsin Dem tells Sargent. “We can get outspent two to one or five to one. We can’t get spent 20 to one.” But Wisconsin Democrats must not have gotten the same memo that the DSCC and DCCC did -- that the DNC’s money this cycle is going to be dedicated to the presidential contest, especially given all the GOP-leaning outside money. What’s more, what happened to all of labor’s money? If we remember correctly, the DNC didn’t spend a dime in last year’s state Senate recalls in Wisconsin. That said, there’s a A LOT riding on next month’s recall….

Countdown to WI recall: 21 days

Countdown to GOP convention: 104 days

Countdown to Dem convention: 111 days

Countdown to Election Day: 175 days

Exit Sarkozy, enter Hollande: Socialist sworn in as French president

Laurent Cipriani / AP
French President Francois Hollande waves from his car as he drives down the Champs Elysees in Paris after his inauguration on May 15, 2012.

Christophe Ena / AFP - Getty Images
French President-elect Francois Hollande arrives for his inauguration on May, 15, 2012 at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
Reuters reports — Francois Hollande became French president on Tuesday in an official handover ceremony that makes him the country's first Socialist leader since Francois Mitterrand.
Outgoing President Nicolas Sarkozy greeted Hollande on the steps of the Elysee presidential palace, and took him inside to transfer nuclear codes and other secret files ahead of a short swearing-in ceremony attended by around 400 guests.
Hollande was due to fly to Berlin later in the day for his first meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Fred Dufour / AFP - Getty Images
Hollande is awarded "Grand Maitre" in the Order of the Legion of Honor, from chancellor of France's National Order of the Legion of Honor, General Jean-Louis Georgelin.

Mehdi Fedouach / AFP - Getty Images
Hollande, right, walks on the red carpet towards his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy prior to the start of the investiture ceremony.

Lionel Bonaventure / AFP - Getty Images
Sarkozy, left, welcomes his successor Hollande upon his arrival at the Elysee Palace.

Jacques Brinon / AP
Hollande's partner Valerie Trierweiler, right, shakes hands with Sarkozy's wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy before the presidential handover ceremony.

Jacky Naegelen / Reuters
Journalists work as a man sweeps the red carpet in the courtyard of the Elysee Palace.

Patrick Kovarik / AFP - Getty Images
Sarkozy and his wife leave the Elysee Palace after the formal investiture ceremony.

A Look at What Happened on Amendment 1 in North Carolina

Posted: 05/13/2012 2:31 am
I spent much of the spring working on defeating anti-gay Amendment 1 in North Carolina. After the election I returned back from the Raleigh/Durham area and had a chance to chew on the outcome of Amendment 1. It's been my habit, after major wins or losses, to reflect on what went right and what went wrong, and offer some thoughts (see Maine 2009 Part 1 and Part 2, along with the 2009 New York State Senate fight on same-sex marriage here and here). Below are some of those along with some analysis.

The Composition of the Electorate Drove the Outcome

Over at the Institute for Southern Studies, Chris Kromm describes this best: Republican leadership and the rank-and-file in the General Assembly, joined by some Democrats who felt pressured on the issue, decided to help motivate and drive turnout in 2012 using Amendment 1 as a vehicle. Primary electorates tend to be older and, on this issue, more conservative -- witness nearly 50 percent of early votes in this election being from those aged 60 or older. Primaries also tend to favor communities with what Chris describes as "more established turnout vehicles" -- in this case, churches whose memberships were in favor of Amendment 1. Durham's Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend sat back in the war room on Tuesday night and noted how much church rank-and-file on the ground drove -- literally drove, in some cases -- pro-Amendment-1 voters to the polls.

So while turnout overall was remarkably high -- 2.138 million voters turned out, narrowly beating the previous high for a primary (2.125 million voters in 2008) -- one person aptly compared the election to the 2004 Kerry campaign. I worked for an organization driving pro-Kerry turnout (America Coming Together) in Cleveland that year, where we hit our vote goals in precinct after precinct. The problem was that pro-Bush turnout was even higher. Also of note to consider: The vote goal for the Campaign to Protect All NC Families was 508,000, meaning, if we turned out 508,000 voters who vote against Amendment 1, we were likely to win. The total number of raw votes against Amendment 1 was beyond expectations and far beyond the goal -- 832,863. That's over 300,000 more. But again, pro-Amendment-1 forces also did well on the ground. From that point of view, we did our job on turnout -- but did not get far enough on persuasion.

"We Didn't Lose, We Just Ran Out of Time"

Given the data on turnout and composition of the electorate, one way to look at this is the old Vince Lombardi football adage: "We didn't lose, we just ran out of time." Given the composition of the primary electorate, would a vote on Amendment 1 in the general election have fared better? Unclear, though likely. The reason is because the campaign was able to cut a 27-point lead for Amendment 1 far down, and because polls over time showed that the more North Carolinians knew about Amendment 1, the less they supported it. What's more, remarkable numbers of North Carolinians did not understand what Amendment 1 did. One need only read the polling memo on April 24 from Public Policy Polling's (PPP) Tom Jensen (bolding mine):
There is some reason to think a huge upset in two weeks is within the realm of possibility. 53% of voters in the state support either gay marriage or civil unions, with only 44% 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. Just 36% correctly identify that it would ban both while 26% think it bans only gay marriage, 10% think it actually legalizes gay marriage, and 27% admit that they don't know what it does.

When voters are informed that the proposed amendment would preclude both marriage and civil unions for gay couples only 38% continue to support it with 46% in opposition. Voters obviously will be more tuned into the amendment debate over the final two weeks of the campaign than they have been to date, particularly as the against side's tv ads hit the air, and it seems quite possible that as voters become more and more informed about the amendment they will continue to move more and more against it.
This much is certain: There was, and is, a long way to go on persuasion. But the Campaign to Protect All NC Families and allies like us at the Courage Campaign (our members made a total of 75,689 calls to voters) were making headway: The number of voters that misunderstood Amendment 1 shrank over time. We just didn't get far enough fast enough.

Seth Keel, center, is consoled by his boyfriend, Ian Chambers, left, and his mother Jill Hinton, during a concession speech at an Amendment One opposition party Tuesday, at The Stockroom at 230 in downtown Raleigh, N.C. (Travis Long - AP) 

Why Did Amendment 1 Pass by Such a Large Margin?
The final result -- 61 percent for Amendment 1, and 39 percent against -- was not what many observers, including me, expected. The final three PPP polls had Amendment 1 passing with 55 percent for, 54 percent for, and 55 percent for, respectively. What's more, there were many indications of a possible upset, or at least the margin being much closer. Reasons:
  • President Clinton, considered by many to be the most popular political figure in the state, recording a robocall against Amendment 1, which began airing to hundreds of thousands of voters on Sunday, May 6.
  • There were significant indications that early voting went in our favor, including the fact that 23 percent of early voters were voting for the first time in their primary, indicating young voters (who were overwhelmingly against Amendment 1).
  • A record of ballots (approximately 508,000) were cast during the early voting period, which again was expected to be a boon against Amendment 1, though in reality it indicated higher turnout on both sides of the issue.
  • The Campaign to Protect All NC Families outspent Vote for Marriage NC by over $1 million.
  • There were significant moments in earned media against Amendment 1 during the final several weeks. We've covered them all at Prop 8 Trial Tracker, but among the highlights were House Speaker Thom Tillis admitting that Amendment 1 would probably be repealed in 20 years or so; one of the legislative sponsors of Amendment 1 changing his mind and announcing his plans to vote against Amendment 1 because it goes too far; the "protect the Caucasian race" comments by the wife of a state senator supporting Amendment 1 that made national news; major figures and surrogates like Jim Rogers (the CEO of North-Carolina-based Duke Energy), Cathy Bessant (North-Carolina-headquartered Bank of America's widely respected lead official in the state), the North Carolina Pediatric Society, the North Carolina Psychological Association, the North Carolina State Board of Education, Chelsea Clinton, President Clinton, North Carolina Attorney General Cooper, and even Jason Mraz, Wilco, and other celebrities coming out against Amendment 1 in the final weeks. All of these generated significant earned media around the state and, in some cases, nationally.
Unfortunately, it was not enough. The question is why. I spoke to a polling official affiliated with the campaign after the results came in on election night, who had an easy explanation for the 6- to 7-point difference. First, most of the 5 to 6 percent of voters who were undecided swung in favor of Amendment 1 (though many decided to stay home). Second, there was the margin of error on the PPP polls listed above. Third, the increase in turnout among voters for Amendment 1 outdid those against and did not line up with the turnout model used in the polls. Last, and this is my own argument, but studies (most notably Egan's NYU paper) have shown a Bradley effect in polling on same-sex marriage, where voters tend to tell polling firms they would vote for equality when later they cast a vote against it. Add all that up and there's your 6 to 7 points. It may not be that simple, but it helps explain why the final polls were so far off the final result.

Was Amendment 1 Worth Fighting Against, and What Did We Accomplish?

The questions many ask themselves after such a resounding loss is whether the initiative was worth fighting against, and what was accomplished by the movement. Both are worthy questions in the pursuit of reflection.

First, I know I join many in the campaign against Amendment 1 who fought because Amendment 1 took away rights and made people's lives worse, specifically the people who had or may one day obtain domestic partnerships in places like Durham, Carrboro, and other localities around the state that offered them. On election night I stood next to North Carolinian couples who just had their rights forcibly annulled and whose children who may lose their health insurance.

A word on the importance of this: Here at The Huffington Post journalist Lila Shapiro has a piece examining a split in the gay rights movement. I'm quoted:
Adam Bink, the director of online programs at the Courage Campaign, a group that has been working to get voters to the polls in recent weeks, says that the movement can't afford to give up on gay couples who don't have the relatively good fortune to live in Minnesota or Maine.

Said Bink, "I think it's really important that we don't leave any state behind."
For me and many of the people who gave money, made phone calls, blogged, traveled to North Carolina to get out the vote, and engaged in other actions (along with organizations like HRC, which invested heavily in both money and staff, and its incoming president, Chad Griffin), this wasn't just about marriage -- and for others, if it wasn't, then it wasn't worth spending time on. "Marriage" is the word right now: Winning marriage in more states is sexier than defeating a constitutional amendment banning it in a state where it was already banned. That's the first thing, and, winnability arguments aside, much of the reason that many people who normally care about gay rights didn't care about Amendment 1.

The second reason is that much of the media, by and large, focused on this as a "marriage" issue, though many journalists, to their credit, correctly noted that it banned any other form of relationship recognition for people of all genders. The problem was that much of the gay rights movement got it wrong: A tiny percentage of people realize that many same-sex couples in North Carolina already have legal recognition for their relationship, and Amendment 1 just took it away. So many took a quick look at this and either misunderstood or outright ignored what else Amendment 1 does. Durham and Carrboro aren't "big cities" like New York or San Francisco. The average person who cares about gay rights probably hasn't been there and will never travel there. But as noted by Charlotte's Matt Comer of Q-Notes, Amendment 1 will now derail ongoing Charlotte city council discussions of extending benefits to same-sex partners of city employees because, well, it's banned. This isn't written to blame anyone but to note that the level of engagement by the gay rights community on Amendment 1, both at an organizational level and at an individual level, was far lower than for other initiatives. It raises a concern about engagement for other "flyover states" where people assume we'll lose because they took a look at a poll, a date on the calendar, and a map... or because they honestly don't really care that much unless it's about winning marriage. Rights for same-sex couples, no matter the label attached to them, matter too, and when couples lost them like they did on Tuesday, that hurts all of us as a movement.

But even if marriage is your only concern, there's another importance to this. It is critically important to win one or more of the states that are voting this year on same-sex marriage, before the Supreme Court considers the issue sometime in the future. Most legal observers commonly believe the Supreme Court follows the states on many issues, and this one is likely to be no different. We are now still winless on ballot questions over same-sex marriage, having lost over 30 of them. And this year we are now 0/1. And so Amendment 1, like all of these other states, extends beyond domestic partnerships in small(er) towns to a broad impact on our movement for marriage equality.

On to the question of what we as a movement accomplished by fighting Amendment 1. First, we certainly moved the needle in the state. I shudder to think what the result would have been if people like many of those reading had not put time, money, and other resources into trying to change people's minds on Amendment 1 and marriage generally. Just because the outcome was poor doesn't mean nothing good happened. If, as many expect, a Supreme Court or other court decision striking down laws banning same-sex marriage does not arrive, and a campaign to repeal Amendment 1 is needed in the next two years, four years, or longer, well, then we've done much of the work. Starting from a base of 39 percent, or higher if one considers the potential composition of the electorate in a general election, is not spectacular but also nothing to sneeze at. On a broader scale, the next time a national poll is released showing a slim majority favoring same-sex marriage, we did some of the work to nudge those numbers a bit. And the next time a North Carolinian considers something as personal as the orientation of someone they love, or whether to attend a same-sex couple's wedding, that phone call or door knock or ad may have made just a bit of difference.

Slowly, we are progressing toward full equality, thanks to everyone who gave, called, traveled, clicked, talked, blogged, and everything else you did to help make that possible.

It was their FIRST KISS:

Gay marines in homecoming clinch reveal they fell in love online while one of them was serving in Afghanistan

  • Sgt Brandon Morgan and Dalan Wells were reunited after six months apart
By Laura Cox

The gay marine whose homecoming kiss with his boyfriend went viral yesterday has revealed that their passionate embrace was the couple's first ever.

Sgt Brandon Morgan, of Oakdale, California, told how a four year friendship with Windward Oahu artist Dalan Wells turned to long-distance love while he was serving with the US Marines in Afghanistan. 

He said: 'We couldn't talk, I can barely talk now, his hands went numb, my legs were shaking, our first kiss after just knowing how we felt about each other'

Sgt Brandon Morgan's embrace with boyfriend Dalan Wells has gone viral in the blogosphere after it was posted on Facebook.
Welcome home: Sgt Brandon Morgan's embrace with boyfriend Dalan Wells has gone viral in the blogosphere after it was posted on Facebook.

The iconic image of Sgt Morgan leaping into the arms of boyfriend Dalan Wells was taken by friend Dave Lewis and posted onto Facebook. 

Since going live on Saturday the photo has received thousands of comments and tens of thousands of 'likes' or shares.

Brandon Morgan spent six months in Afghanistan with the US Marines before being reunited with Dalan Wells.
Dalan Wells stopped off at Safeway on the way to meet Morgan at a Hawaii air base so he could buy him a carnation and pikake lei. 

Shy: Dalan Wells (left) stopped off at Safeway on the way to meet Morgan at a Hawaii air base so he could buy him a carnation and pikake lei.

Morgan added: 'Most of the responses have been like oh my god I can't believe you're in love, congratulations. My mom's happy that I’m finally happy, my parents are ecstatic.'
'We were actually cornered in the supermarket this afternoon, like you're the famous guys aren't you?' Morgan said.

'We were at the commissary on base, we were just trying to get milk. Everybody says, 'oh you're a hero'. I'm not a hero. The heroes are the ones that paved the way for me, to allow me to do this.'

But not everyone has been so encouraging. Negative, anti-gay comments have been written on Facebook as well.

Morgan said; 'There are those who are going to take this the wrong way. Somebody called my mother and said 'what did you do to raise your son so wrong?'

'I can only hope no one does anything drastic or too crazy but I am not afraid. I lived my whole life in fear, I don't fear them anymore.'

Sgt Brandon Morgan and Dalan Wells told in a interview how they have been branded heroes in the gay community.
Sgt Brandon Morgan and Dalan Wells told in a interview how they have been branded heroes in the gay community
Wells almost missed Morgan stepping off the plane because he was in Safeway buying a carnation and pikake lei to give his beau. But he made it to the hanger just in time for a huge welcome home smooch.

Despite Wells describing himself as a 'very shy, private person' the boys' have become role models within the gay community.

He said: 'If this saves one kid who says, you know look at this guy, he went and joined the Marine Corps, his life is great, then maybe that will give them the courage to hang on, and make it another day.'

The pair were separated for six months while Morgan was on tour with the Marines. Their reunion comes five months after the military's ban on openly gay service expired.

The ‘don't ask, don't tell’ policy that had banned openly gay men and women from serving in the US military ended last September.

Morgan and Wells follow in the footsteps of Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta of California and Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell of Los Angeles who in December became the first lesbian couple to share the traditional home coming first kiss.

Morgan and Wells' homecoming kiss comes after Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta (left) and Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell became the first lesbian couple to share the coveted kiss.
Tradition: Morgan and Wells' homecoming kiss comes after Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta (left) and Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell became the first lesbian couple to share the coveted kiss.
They were seen embracing on the pier at Virginia Beach, Virginia after their ship docked following an 80-day deployment to the Caribbean.

Speaking at the time of the kiss Snell said she believed their experience wouldn't be the last one for gays and lesbians in the military.

'I think that it's something that is going to open a lot of doors, for not just our relationship, but all the other gay and lesbian relationships that are in the military now,' she said.

Gay Marine Homecoming Kiss Goes Viral

Uploaded by on Feb 28, 2012
Good for them. Love is love.

It was their FIRST KISS: Gay marines in homecoming clinch fell in love online while one of them was serving in Afghanistan Sgt Brandon Morgan and Dalan Wells were reunited after six months apart

The gay marine whose homecoming kiss with his boyfriend went viral yesterday has revealed that their passionate embrace was the couple's first ever.

Sgt Brandon Morgan, of Oakdale, California, told how a four year friendship with Windward Oahu artist Dalan Wells turned to long-distance love while he was serving with the US Marines in Afghanistan.

He said: 'We couldn't talk, I can barely talk now, his hands went numb, my legs were shaking, our first kiss after just knowing how we felt about each other'

The iconic image of Sgt Morgan leaping into the arms of boyfriend Dalan Wells was taken by friend Dave Lewis and posted onto Facebook.

Since going live on Saturday the photo has received thousands of comments and tens of thousands of 'likes' or shares.

Morgan added: 'Most of the responses have been like oh my god I can't believe you're in love, congratulations. My mom's happy that I'm finally happy, my parents are ecstatic.'.....

Brokered convention taking shape

Jeffrey Phelps' photo

New developments are dashing any hopes Romney would escape the RNC unscathed and emerge on the other side as the easy Republican nominee.
Surfacing Thursday was a damaging and revealing run-down of the circumstances revolving around who is and isn't a “bound” delegate and what may end up being a game changer for Paul.
With 11 states now in the books for Paul, to Romney's 18 and only 11 states left to start their primary or caucus process, Ron Paul has seemingly "stolen" enough delegates in the undecided states and will likely gain enough in states to come, virtually assuring a brokered convention at the RNC in August.
In addition to developments stating there may not actually be such thing as a “bound” delegate at the national level after all, Ron Paul may actually be truly nipping at Romney's heels, despite recent establishment media reports that state otherwise.
Current, typical “estimates” show Romney around 200 or fewer delegates away from locking up the nomination. The problem with that scenario is the fact that Romney has actually only officially won 18 states thus far and may not be able to gain enough delegates between now and Utah's last primary in June to garner the required 1,144 delegates necessary to win the nomination.
Aside from automatically discarding Santorum's and Gingrich's seven total states and all those combined delegates as not yet being countable for either Paul or Romney, it's starting to look as if there will not be enough delegates left for Romney to have a chance of winning the nomination outright.
Especially considering many of the remaining “at-large” delegates will be largely split between Paul and Romney as the race continues to unfold. Romney is likely to continue winning the majority of the delegates in the states where winner takes all, and Paul is likely to continue winning the states that hold a separate delegate selection process, much like the 11 states he's already taken.
The combination of the delegates Paul has won in those 11 states, the delegates taken in the seven states Gingrich and Santorum combined to win, in addition to all the delegates Paul is going to continue to win in the states that have yet to officially conclude, all combine to a total likely superseding the amount Romney could afford the other candidates to reach in order to get to 1,144 by Tampa.
There's only so many available.
The media still generally refuses to update the actual totals, based on the current manipulation tactic that has people largely believing many delegates are “bound” to vote for the candidate that won their particular state, typically in proportion to how much that candidate may have initially won by, among other deciding factors.
As it turns out, that may not actually be the case at all. It may turn out that taking the time to figure all that out may have actually been, instead, a waste of time .
The current perception given by elite media is based on there being a rule in place “binding” party delegates to vote for the candidate that won certain “bound” states, whereas actual RNC rules prohibit state election rules or party platforms from having any influence on the eventual delegates and how they decide to vote at the RNC.
Those laws were already clearly explained by the RNC in 2008 when this very issue arose, ironically enough, regarding a John McCain delegate in Utah that wanted to switch their vote to, none other than, Mitt Romney when they reached the RNC.
Attorneys for the RNC have clearly stated the Republican and Democratic parties are, in essence, non-binding, non-governmental private clubs and do not hold any weight with regard to actual GOP election laws and the 'official' caucus that takes place at the RNC, every 4 years.
According to, Jenneifer Sheehan, Legal Counsel for the RNC, plainly stated in a 2008 letter to Nancy Lord, Utah National Committeewoman, several weeks before the convention,
“The RNC does not recognize a state's binding of national delegates, but considers each delegate a 'free agent' who can vote for whoever they choose.
The national convention allows delegates to vote for the individual of their choice, regardless of whether the person's name is officially placed into the nomination or not.”
This means, much to Romney's dismay, of all the delegates that finally make it to Tampa, just as it was determined to be the case for one of his '08 delegates, are all allowed to vote for anyone they choose, even if that happens to be Rick Santorum, for instance.
The twist to the story however is that the vast majority of the delegates emerging from the states thus far, that aren't Romney's, have actually stated to be voting for Ron Paul.
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KXIX FOX 19 Cincinnati: Reality Check: Why all RNC delegates are 'Free Agents' and unbound
RT (@RonPaulcom / Youtube): Ron Paul Wins 11 States, Establishment Media Remains Silent Response to “A rogue convention? How GOP party rules may surprise in 2012”
Utah County GOP: Mr. Jenkins Goes to St. Paul
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KXIX FOX 19 Cincinnati: Reality Check: RNC Breaking Their Own Rules and Why The Republican "Bound" Delegates May Not Be?
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Mitt Romney Rallies vs. Ron Paul Rallies 2012.

4 Worst Media Misrepresentations of North Carolina's Anti-Gay Amendment One

North Carolina's anti-same-sex-marriage Amendment One passed last week amid a lot of wild media speculation, especially about black voters. We set the record straight.
Photo Credit: davecito via Flickr
 On Tuesday, May 8, just over 20 percent of North Carolina’s registered voters turned out to vote in the State’s primary election. They voted by a margin of 61 to 39 percent in favor of the controversial constitutional Amendment One. That Amendment states, "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized."

Amendment - Define Marriage - Ballot Issue
2895 of 2895 Precincts Reporting - 100%

NameVotesVote %


The first Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly since 1896 voted on September 14, 2011 to put the Amendment up for a vote and require only a simple majority for it to pass. Two powerful state organizations, the conference of the NC-NAACP and Equality-NC, joined forces shortly after, and worked tirelessly to mobilize communities throughout the State to oppose the Amendment. Despite their efforts, it was no surprise that the Amendment passed, as constitutional amendments to restrict the rights of LGBT citizens had already passed in 30 other states. Both before and after the election, the controversy has been widely misrepresented in both State and national media. Here are four of the most important corrections to what you have heard.

1. The Amendment’s scope is far broader than a mere constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Headlines throughout the United States, from the Los Angeles Times to Politico, announced on May 8 that North Carolina had passed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. But the headlines misrepresent the meaning of the Amendment and fail to underscore any of its implications beyond marriage.

This happened by design. The two major groups supporting the Amendment in North Carolina, Vote for Marriage NC and NC 4 Marriage, insisted on referring to Amendment One as a “marriage amendment” from the beginning, and they lied to the public – and the media – about what the Amendment will actually do. For example, Vote for Marriage NC’s website focuses on ensuring that the definition of marriage in North Carolina be understood as “the union between one man and one woman.” In fact, marriage has long been defined this way in North Carolina, but North Carolina residents who are not skilled at legal interpretation – that is, most North Carolinians – were led to believe that we were merely voting “for” or “against” a ban on gay marriage. Unfortunately, much of the media accepted this characterization too uncritically, and never really explained the Amendment’s scope to the public.

First, gay marriage was already banned in North Carolina in two different legal documents. The first, NC General Statute § 51-1, states, “A valid and sufficient marriage is created by the consent of a male and female person who may lawfully marry, presently to take each as husband and wife…” A second statute, the North Carolina Defense of Marriage Act, came into effect in 1996. Section 3 of that legislation clarifies the legal definition of marriage in the state, reading, “[T]he word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”

Amendment One goes a step further. It amends the Constitution to state, "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized." By instantiating this statement in the State Constitution, Amendment One takes challenges to the law out of voters’ hands and places it with State – and possibly federal – courts. In other words, voters cannot simply move to repeal Amendment One.

But the Constitutional change is not the end of it. Tracy Hollister, a full-time community activist who has led discussions and seminars on the legal implications of Amendment One throughout the State, says that just three words, "domestic legal union," make this Amendment far more drastic than the previous statutes because they open the way for very broad interpretation. In other words, a domestic legal union can be defined far more broadly than legal marriage.

Hollister tells AlterNet, “If the writers of the amendment wanted the amendment to simply codify existing laws into the constitution to prevent the ban on same-gender marriage from constitutional challenges, it would have said, 'Marriage between one man and one woman is the only marriage that shall be valid or recognized in this state." Instead of using the term marriage, they used the term "legal domestic union" and significantly broadened the language to have unintended consequences for families, children, women and seniors.”

UNC-Chapel Hill law professor Maxine Eichner has spoken extensively to delineate the definite consequences of the Amendment as well as the possible consequences. She says the Amendment definitely bars the state from passing same-sex marriage or civil union legislation, which extends rights to same-sex couples, in the future. Furthermore, it bans the State from passing domestic partnership laws, which extend legal rights to unmarried couples, no matter their sexual orientation. Not only that, but it invalidates “existing partnership benefits by municipalities for all unmarried couples,” no matter their sexual orientation. In other words, as Protect All NC Families, the coalition organization set up to fight Amendment One, explains on its website, the Amendment eliminates “health care, prescription drug coverage and other benefits for public employees and children receiving domestic partner benefits."
If this were not bad enough, there are a number of possible consequences to the Amendment that will need to be adjudicated in the courts. Protect NC Families explains the possible consequences as follows:
  1. “A child of an unmarried parent could lose their health care and prescription drug coverage, putting the child’s health at risk.
  2. “A child could be taken away from a committed parent who has loved them their entire life if something happens to the other parent.
  3. “Amendment One threatens existing child custody and visitation rights that are designed to protect the best interests of a child.
  4. “Amendment One bans all other legal relationship recognitions—prohibiting North Carolina from ever recognizing civil unions and domestic partnerships. Thousands of North Carolinians rely on these legal protections. Removing these rights creates far-reaching and long-lasting harms for families from all walks of life.
  5. “Amendment One would interfere with protections for unmarried couples to visit one another in the hospital and to make emergency medical and financial decisions if one partner is incapacitated.”
In addition to these problems, Amendment One could have devastating implications for current domestic violence protections in the State. Currently, domestic violence statutes are extended to protect all women, not merely women who are abused in the context of heterosexual marriage. There is some precedent for worrying that Amendment One will change this. When

Ohio voters passed a similar amendment, according to Protect All NC Families, it “meant relationships other than marriage were no longer recognized under domestic violence statutes...[and] that domestic violence statutes protecting unmarried women were unenforceable until the state’s Supreme Court unraveled the legal mess some three years later.” 

But significant damage was done during those three years; 27 domestic violence convictions were dismissed or overturned, and no protections remained for women who were not married to their abusers.

It’s impossible to say whether or not the vote may have gone differently if all North Carolinians had known just how dangerous the Amendment would be. But the media certainly bears part of the blame for continuing to refer to the Amendment as a “constitutional ban on gay marriage” without exploring its full scope. Surely correct information may have swayed some voters on May 8 and resulted in a different outcome.

2. “Black social conservatives” cannot be blamed for the passage of Amendment One.
The “Black vote” in North Carolina has received a great deal of scrutiny this week. There seems to be an unsubstantiated assumption in the media that Black voters are intrinsically homophobic. Rev. Dr. William Barber, President of the NC conference of the NAACP (NC-NAACP) tells AlterNet that he participated in media interviews in which journalists presumed that the Black community would be deeply divided by the Amendment – so much so that the debate over Amendment One could negatively affect President Obama’s chances of winning North Carolina in November. Barber, who oversees many NAACP chapters throughout North Carolina, and Ferrel Guillory, Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications at UNC-Chapel Hill, both tell AlterNet that they do not believe the issue of gay marriage will diminish Obama’s support among Black voters in North Carolina. Furthermore, Barber says, the Black churches and NAACP chapters with whom he works throughout the State do not see gay marriage as an agenda-setting issue. That is, he says, he works with people who prioritize such issues as poverty and economic inequality, not the Christian Right’s family values agenda.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), an anti-gay organization classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, devoted extensive organizational power and resources to the statewide movement in favor of Amendment One. And they did this explicitly by using race as a wedge that they hoped would divide Black communities in North Carolina. In March, LGBT rights organization the Human Rights Campaign uncovered NOM documents that straightforwardly discussed the organization’s anti-gay marriage strategy throughout the country.  A 2009 document issued to NOM’s board of directors states,

“The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots.”

It continues,

 “The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote, and will be so even more so in the future, both because of demographic growth and inherent uncertainty: Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values? We must interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity - a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.”

In any case, Black voters in North Carolina who live in the wake of Jim Crow and the Republican Party’s racist “Southern strategy” are not oblivious to bald attempts at political cooptation. And in any case, they cannot be blamed for the high margin of people who supported the Amendment. One poll cited by Mother Jones said that Black voters supported the Amendment by 51%, a much, much smaller margin than the 69 percent of total voters who ultimately voted for the bill. Furthermore, Black North Carolinians represent only 21.5 percent of the state’s population. Whites, on the other hand, remain in the majority at 68.5 percent.

Yet no headlines on May 8 asked how many white voters had supported the Amendment.
Some voting irregularities in Raleigh, which has a large Black population, cast even that slight margin in doubt. During the morning hours, corruption watchdog organization Democracy-North Carolina fielded phone calls from Raleigh voters whose ballots did not contain the Amendment. They were given ballots designated for 17-year olds who could vote in the primary on the basis that they would turn 18 before the November election, but who could not vote on Amendment One. At this writing, it is not clear how many voters this affected, or how many of these were Black. Because the overall vote favored the Amendment by such a wide margin, there may not be sufficient investigation into exact numbers. But could a sizable number of Black Raleigh voters have tilted the so-called “Black vote” against the Amendment? That is unclear, though it could certainly have narrowed the margin in favor of the Amendment among Black voters.

3. The movement to stop Amendment One was a grassroots effort of coalition building across racial difference. 

During the protests against Proposition 8 in California, news media portrayed a mostly white, Human Rights Campaign-led movement dominated by middle and upper-middle class white men. There was a similar presumption there that Black people are so intrinsically homophobic that they supported the amendment en masse. As a result, LGBT people of color reported hearing racial slurs at protests against Proposition 8. Others were asked why they didn’t oppose Proposition 8 in light of the fact that members of the white LGBT community had strongly supported Obama. In some cases, LGBT people of color were holding anti-Proposition 8 signs, but that did not deter racist comments.

The North Carolina anti-Amendment movement has been different from the one in California. The umbrella organization started by Equality-NC, Protect All NC Families built a powerful coalition of opponents that included a wide range of human rights and social justice organizations throughout the state. Groups as wide-ranging as the Alliance of Baptists, the ACLU of NC, the National Association of Social Workers-NC, the NC Coalition against Sexual Assault, Planned Parenthood of Central NC, the NC Council of Churches and many others joined the coalition. And contrary to the stereotype that Black people are generally homophobic, some of the loudest and most sustained protests against Amendment One came from North Carolina’s Black communities.

William Barber, a heterosexual Disciples of Christ pastor, mobilized statewide chapters of the NC-NAACP to fight Amendment One. In turn, those chapters went on to recruit and organize countless Black pastors and congregations to stand against the Amendment. From the beginning, these supporters – many of them veterans of Civil Rights struggle – inserted powerful Civil Rights rhetoric into the movement. Barber says that this was intentional – indeed, he tells AlterNet, Civil Rights is about ensuring the constitutional promise of “equal protection under the law” for everyone. An Indiana native who moved to North Carolina during the 1960’s with parents dedicated to helping desegregate North Carolina schools, Civil Rights work has been central to his entire life. There is no question for him that any attempt to insert hatred or discrimination into the State Constitution is a struggle that is relevant for Black Civil Rights activists to take on.

In an article written shortly after the election, Barber explains the NC-NAACP’s opposition, writing, “Constitutional amendments almost always expand the rights of people against the power of the State. This has been the noble historical trend of constitutional amendments in America. We prohibited slavery. We stopped Jim Crow. We expanded the right to vote for freed slaves, for women, for young people. This is the first such discriminatory amendment placed in the NC Constitution since an amendment in 1875 that outlawed interracial marriage. This trick Amendment reverses the noble trend of constitutional amendments. It curtails family rights. It places a matter of conscience and personal belief in the hands of the state. It sets a precedent to allow a majority to vote to curtail the rights of a minority.”

He continues, “The real insult to African Americans and other religious people of color is that the same regressive forces behind this amendment are the same people who rushed bill after bill through the legislature, sometimes after midnight, to roll back our voting rights, our educational rights, our civil rights and our constitutional rights. Their purpose has been made abundantly clear. They want to undermine the constitutional role of government to operate for the good of the whole, provide equal protection under the law and ensure liberty and justice for all.”

Many other Black pastors have spoken out and helped reach their congregations. Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, the evangelical – and also heterosexual – pastor of an African Methodist Episcopal Zion church in rural Hickory, NC has been another leader in the struggle. The proud recipient of a 2011 Equality Award from Equality-NC, Spearman tells AlterNet that he has been involved in the struggle against Amendment One from the beginning. He tells AlterNet that he found his earlier homophobic views challenged many years ago, when working as a chaplain at a historically Black college. He recalls many LGBT students who sought his counsel at the university, and one in particular who changed his conservative views on homosexuality once and for all. A gay student at the college came to him and said he was on the brink of suicide. At that moment, Spearman says it really clicked that the message he should give the student was one of love and acceptance.

At a 2011 rally against Amendment One, Spearman said, “This extreme legislation will only cause needless pain and suffering. It sends a message to major employers that North Carolina does not welcome a diverse workplace. It tells young people who are gay they’re second class citizens, unworthy of basic dignity and equal treatment. It is not fair and it is certainly not just.”

Both Barber and Spearman tell AlterNet that many Black North Carolinians with whom they had worked simply lacked basic knowledge about the bill. They say their strategy was largely to educate the Black community about what the Amendment could do. Almost invariably, former proponents of the Bill either stopped promoting it – or got directly involved in trying to prevent it. Barber recalls a phone call with one activist who was reduced to tears on hearing how damaging the Amendment could be.

There is no question that North Carolina’s movement against Amendment One was deeply enriched by the work of people of color. The news media’s focus on Black homophobia completely diminishes everything Black activists have done to fight alongside LGBT people in the State.

In a speech delivered before a largely LGBT group not long before May 8, Barber said,”I want each of you to know that I love and respect you as friends, brothers and sisters in the cause of justice. Never have I been prouder than to stand with you, connecting the dots of injustice and raising the call for a just society. We have stood tall and history will record that. We did not bow to wrong and history will record that. We have learned from each other and the Movement will be even stronger in the days to come. My faith teaches me that Truth ultimately rises and love will conquer hate. And the Psalmist reminds  us all: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

He was right. This video demonstrates both his talent at the pulpit and his impassioned recruitment to the cause:

Though the movement did not manage to defeat Amendment One at the ballot, Protect All NC Families brought an unprecedented amount of diversity to the local gay rights movement. From the beginning, the coalition valued everyone who wanted to help out – and specifically sought the solidarity of groups like the NC-NAACP, who have deep roots – and a lot of respect – in the South. From the start, Equality-NC and the NC-NAACP promoted a region-specific movement that cast the liberation and freedom of LGBT people as something that is bound up with the liberation of everyone else. Moreover, in recognizing the tradition of progressive faith-inspired activism in the South, they brought people of faith – including Baptists, Reform Jews and others – together for a common purpose. Ultimately, more than 400 North Carolina pastors signed pledges promising to oppose the Amendment, as did many faith organizations.

Protect All NC Families was so powerful in some ways because it centered the ways in which all families in the State – not just families helmed by LGBT parents – would be harmed by the Amendment. Rather than denigrating the citizens of North Carolina, both national media and LGBT rights groups should be paying close attention to what anti-Amendment activists achieved in North Carolina. They could learn quite a bit from it. The vote itself may have brought out the worst in North Carolina, but the movement against it may have mobilized a degree of solidarity and community that we didn’t know existed.

4. North Carolina’s vote was not caused by “poor inbred” Southerners. 

As soon as the news broke that North Carolina voted in favor of Amendment One, insulting comments about the State overtook the Internet. Without acknowledging the 30 other states that voted to ban gay marriage before North Carolina, the state was immediately demonized. An Internet meme noting that first-cousin marriage is legal in the State was widely distributed. Rather than asking who paid for the campaign in favor of Amendment One, the media seemed to dismiss North Carolinians as “poor redneck white trash.” This was deeply insulting to the many people who fought to stop the Amendment.

But it also drew on historical stereotypes about Southern poverty that have been used to denigrate people in the South. No one checked the laws of California after the passing of Proposition 8 to find out if first-cousin marriage is legal there. (No, but it is legal in many other states, many of them not Southern.) That the first impulse of the national Left was to mock “inbred” Southerners and not to show solidarity with LGBT activists in the State was deeply demoralizing for LGBT activists and their allies in the State who had worked very hard against Amendment One.

Queer-identified Kelli Joyce, 19, will graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill this Sunday. Next year, she will continue on to Yale Divinity School. She tells AlterNet, “I guess first I would note that no state has yet been able to defeat one of these amendments at the ballot. From NC to California, it's just a really hard fight. It's not a question of ‘poor southern rednecks,’ to me. In my experience, it's anyone who is unaware of the broad consequences, which the amendment's framers intentionally obscured. Or sometimes it's people who have an idea of what it does, but are just too civically disengaged to get out and vote, which is a problem everywhere. [North Carolina] voters also tend to be older, which affects the results. NC is progressive among Southern states. It has been, and still is. The loss of this one is heartbreaking, but I would attribute it to unclear wording and trickery more than to any idea that the NC population is somehow backward or inherently hateful.”

A native of Greensboro who grew up in an ultra-conservative Southern Baptist fa
mily, Joyce is quite proud of the movement she participated in. A grassroots effort from the start, Protect All NC Families received some financial assistance from the Human Rights Campaign but mainly relied on diverse groups within North Carolina. Joyce says, “This was a completely local movement. For example, in Greensboro, the people of faith group ordered over 2,000 yard signs. A [United Church of Christ] church fronted the money, and was paid back as others bought the signs at cost. People were distributing the signs from the back of cars in church parking lots and from independent coffee shops in addition to the normal places like rallies. We wrote letters to the editor. And most importantly, we focused heavily on talking to our own friends and families.”

Within about 24 hours after the election results came in, 14,000 people had signed a petition calling on Democrats to move the Democratic National Convention out of Charlotte, North Carolina. It was a reactionary and incoherent response, particularly as Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is located, was one of just eight counties where Amendment One was defeated. The residents of Charlotte, which includes a large and vibrant LGBT community, should not be punished for something that they did not cause. And even if they had, as Jessica Luther points out at Shakesville, liberals – and particularly LGBT rights activists – in the state need support, not exclusion, from the Democratic National Convention. Given the President’s recent embrace of marriage equality, the Convention provides a great opportunity to remind those of us who fought the Amendment that we are not alone.

As John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats, who lives in Chapel Hill, NC tweeted on the night of Amendment One’s passage, “[G]o ahead and hate on my home if you must. And hate more on 30 other states where wonderful people gave blood [and] sweat to work for freedom.” Or, he continued, “[Y]ou can do as we will do in North Carolina [and] roll up your sleeves [and] know that” the “hateful efforts” to pass the Amendment by the far-Right “are an attempt to hold back the sea.”