Political science professor: Charlotte still in the Bible belt
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Queen City’s two mayoral candidates have staked out their positions on gay marriage, standing firm against outright discrimination, but stopping short of full support for across-the-board marriage equality for same-sex couples.
Both Republican Edwin Peacock III and Democrat Patrick Cannon were unwilling to offer full support for marriage equality in recent interviews with qnotes, portions of which are published in this issue on pages 10-12.
interviews & endorsement
“I would say my belief has always been to each his or her own, relative to what they want to practice,” Cannon said, noting he voted against last year’s anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment on marriage. “However, my personal belief is that I don’t subscribe to it. I am not here to be anybody’s judge relative to what they feel they want to explore and/or engage in, but it’s something that personally I don’t subscribe to.”
Peacock, who publicly denounced last year’s amendment, said he supports civil unions. “I really felt like you could have same-sex civil unions or domestic partnerships,” Peacock said. “As a moderate, I always felt like, well, maybe that could be the midpoint ground here.”
Additionally, Peacock said the matter should be left to states. “I’m not in favor of same-sex marriage from a 50 states [perspective],” he said. “Allow each state to choose how they want to define that.”
❝ My belief has always been to each his or her own, relative to what they want to practice. However, my personal belief is that I don’t subscribe to it. I am not here to be anybody’s judge relative to what they feel they want to explore and/or engage in, but it’s something that personally I don’t subscribe to. ❞
— Democratic mayoral candidate Patrick Cannon
❝ I really felt like you could have same-sex civil unions or domestic partnerships. … I’m not in favor of same-sex marriage from a 50-states [perspective]. Allow each state to choose how they want to define that. ❞
— Republican mayoral candidate Edwin Peacock III
The candidates’ more moderate positions aren’t necessarily surprising or out of place, according to University of North Carolina-Charlotte political science professor Eric Heberlig.
“In terms of the broader local political culture, we still are in the Bible belt, even if Charlotte considers itself more progressive than more rural parts of the state,” he said.
Both candidates, Heberlig explained, must appeal to a constituency that, while more progressive, still includes a “significant element” of conservative thought.
Each candidate faces different obstacles. Cannon will rely on heavy support from African-American voters. Heberlig said that could pose a problem for Cannon if he expressed full support for gay marriage.
“The African-American community and particularly the more religiously-active portion of the African-American community tends to be much more conservative on issues of sexuality than white liberal Democrats,” Heberlig said. “I would say that would be a significant part of where Cannon’s opposition is coming from.”
Peacock seems to have found a middle road. It’s enough, Heberlig said, to appeal to Republicans sympathetic to LGBT equality issues without necessarily offending more conservative voters.
That marriage law has nothing to do with the job of Charlotte’s mayor doesn’t stop voters from wanting to know where candidates stand, said Heberlig.
“Voters want politicians who understand people like them,” he said. “Even if the issue isn’t relevant to the specific job the politician has, voters presume that if they understand the perspective they have, they can apply that worldview more broadly to other issues that affect them as well.”
Those issues could include same-sex domestic partner benefits. The city already has them, but the mayor or City Council could find themselves defending them if state government chose to override the city’s authority. Cannon and Peacock both support the city’s current domestic partner plans for workers.
And, for the mayor, his or her role as the city’s chief spokesperson puts them in a special spotlight.
“The mayor can go a long way in welcoming diverse communities or signaling to people what type of community we are and who we want to see as residents of Charlotte,” Heberlig said.
When now-Gov. Pat McCrory was mayor, he refused to issue welcome letters to LGBT organizations holding events in Charlotte. It’s only symbolic, Heberlig said, “but it’s a very real symbol to the people those communities.”
In the short term, it’s likely that neither Cannon’s nor Peacock’s positions will be met with much opposition from most voters. If either aspire to higher office, those positions could come back into debate. Cannon, in particular, has staked a more solid position against marriage equality. But, Heberlig said, positions can change.
“It’s not unheard of that when you face a new constituency, there’s an incentive to switch your opinion to match it,” Heberlig said. “As long as this issue is not a high-profile one in the current campaign, he has the flexibility to modify it in the future if he wants to.” : :