By Peter St. Onge
pstonge@charlotteobserver.com
The Charlotte Observer

Does Gov. Bev Perdue’s decision not to run for reelection bode well for opponents of N.C.’s gay marriage amendment?

Common sense says yes – a contested Democratic primary brings more Democrats to the polls on May 8, when voters also will decide if the state needs a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. Democrats largely support gay marriage, with the ironic exception of blacks, who tend to be more conservative on the issue. So Perdue’s departure equals good news, right?

“I’m sure that supporters of the amendment thought that, strategically, putting the question on the May ballot was their best chance,” Michael Bitzer, an associate professor of politics and history at Catawba College, told the Associated Press. “That strategy just got blown out of the water.”

But the numbers – as of now – say it won’t matter.

Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen broke things down for us Monday afternoon. Right now, he says, 64 percent of Democrats in the state support legal recognition for gays in the form of gay marriage or civil unions. “The more of those folks who come out, the greater the chance the amendment fails,” Jensen said.

But: If the contested primary causes a 10-point increase in Democratic turnout, that would shave only 2-4 points off the marriage amendment’s margin for passage. Right now, it’s passing by 22 percentage points, according to PPP’s polling.

“Every little thing helps, but this is more of a minor game-changer than a major one,” Jensen said.

Still, only 40 percent of North Carolinians say that gays should have no legal recognition, be it marriage or civil unions, which suggests that amendment opponents can make up ground if they can get the message across that its passage impacts civil unions, as well.

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