North Carolina voters are poised to pass a constitutional amendment next week that would bar all government recognition of same-sex couples, putting pressure on President Barack Obama to address marriage equality in his platform at the September Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
According to the latest Public Policy Polling survey of the state, Amendment One could pass by a double-digit margin even though 55 percent of North Carolina residents support some form of legal recognition for gay couples.
“Voters who understand what the amendment does are opposed to it,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “But there’s a lot of education left to be done in this final week of the campaign.”
State Senator and Democratic Whip Josh Stein, who has led the charge against the amendment, agrees that the problem is most voters lack an understanding of the stakes.
“When people have information about the amendment and how unnecessary it is, they don’t support it,” Stein told The National Memo. “The key is, do we have enough resources to communicate, to inform voters?”
Richard Socarides, former special adviser to President Bill Clinton on LGBT issues and a Democratic strategist, expressed confidence opponents of discrimination could close the gap in the final days.
“The momentum is with us and the ads are very good on our side,” he said. PPP’s data seems to back him up: when voters are informed of what the amendment would do (and not do), they reject it 46 to 38 percent, according to the survey.
But if the numbers do not flip before the primary on Tuesday, national Democrats — some of whom had already suggested Obama’s equivocation on marriage would need to change before November — will put increased pressure on the president to use the power and prestige of the his office to make a case for marriage equality in what he is telling supporters will be his “last campaign.”
“If it does pass, it’s more pressure on Obama and the DNC to address the marriage issue head-on in the platform,” said Socarides. “But really either way I don’t see how they avoid it.”