LGBT Democrats president more cautious; legislative and local leaders mostly quiet after landmark decisions
Originally published: June 27, 2013, 10:51 a.m.
Updated: June 27, 2013, 12:31 p.m.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Young Democrats of North Carolina are calling for an immediate repeal of Amendment One, North Carolina’s anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment passed by voters in May 2012.
The amendment passed with 61 percent of approval and forbids the state from recognizing or performing same-sex marriages. Young Democrats President Sam Spencer said the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the federal Defense of Marriage Act on Wednesday shows the state is out of step with the nation.
“Our position is that Amendment One should be repealed,” Spencer told qnotes on Wednesday.
The Supreme Court struck down a key portion of DOMA in its landmark decision yesterday, saying the statute is a violation of equal protection and due process rights. The federal government will now recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in states where they are recognized.
“It’s incumbent upon all of us to really keep up the fight…now that the federal government has said pretty clearly at the federal level we recognize that discrimination against people based on who they love is unconstitutional,” Spencer said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Spencer’s organization issued an action alert calling upon its members to push for an amendment repeal and to contact Gov. Pat McCrory, state Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger and state House Speaker Thom Tillis, all Republicans.
Leaders mostly mum
State leaders like Gov. Pat McCrory and House Speaker Thom Tillis weren’t the only elected officials taking a quiet approach to yesterday’s historic Supreme Court rulings. Local leaders in Charlotte, too, remained mostly silent. Only one Charlotte leader, Democratic Mecklenburg County Commissioner Dumont Clarke, responded to a qnotes request for comment yesterday, replying, “Welcome news!” Several Council and Commission leaders were in Houston for an inter-city trip organized by the Charlotte Chamber. Mayor Anthony Foxx, who was confirmed today by the U.S. Senate as the new U.S. transportation secretary, also did not release a statement on Wednesday. In April, Foxx said he would release a statement about his position on marriage equality. That statement has never been released.
Ryan Tronovitch, a McCrory spokesperson, said Wednesday that the governor was aware of the decisions but was not planning on releasing a statement. Tillis press secretary Jordan Shaw did not respond to an email seeking comment.
During the amendment campaign last year, Tillis told a group of students at North Carolina State University that Amendment One would be repealed in a generation.
“It’s a generational issue,” Tillis said at the time. “The data shows right now that you are a generation away from that issue. If it passes, I think it will be repealed within 20 years.”
Spencer said the chances for repeal are slim.
“I don’t think we will have a chance to overturn Amendment One as long as we have a Republican General Assembly,” he said.
Still, he thinks leaders like Tillis can take a proactive step toward fixing last year’s civil rights setback.
“Tillis has never been the fiery social issues guy in the North Carolina House and I think Tillis has an opportunity, like [former Charlotte City Councilmember] Edwin Peacock took last year,” Spencer said. “Peacock was in a GOP primary and still showed the courage to speak out against Amendment One.”
Spencer said Tillis’ opposition to LGBT equality could hurt his future political career. The same goes for Berger. Both are considered potential Republican challengers to incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in her race next year.
“Their support of Amendment One will end up hurting them in the long run,” Spencer said. “This decision today is evidence the country is moving in the right direction.”
Other Democratic Party leaders took a more cautious approach. Ryan Butler, president of the LGBT Democrats of North Carolina, stopped short of calling for an amendment repeal in a statement he released through the state party yesterday.
“Today’s historic ruling striking down DOMA is a victory for all fair-minded North Carolinians,” Butler said, “Democrats have led the charge to repeal DOMA and continue to champion the cause of marriage equality. While today is certainly an enormous victory for those ideals, we are reminded that we still live in a state where you can be fired, not based on the quality of your work, but for who you love. The discriminatory Amendment One also remains enshrined in our state’s constitution.”
In the statement, Butler also said the state was being “governed by the most extreme and out of touch Republicans we’ve ever seen.” Legislative leaders, he said, have are “attacking the middle class, minorities and ordinary working people all over North Carolina.”
He added, “Our fight is far from over. Democrats in North Carolina will continue this fight, because, as the President said today, ‘when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.’”