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Amendment One Opponents: Have Momentum, Need Money

Opponents of Amendment One, the constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in North Carolina, say their campaign is “winnable,” but they need people around the country to focus on the May 8 vote.

BY Julie Bolcer

April 23 2012 12:00 PM ET

Opponents of Amendment One, the constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in North Carolina, say their campaign is “winnable,” but they need people around the country to focus on the May 8 vote.

With just over two weeks until the vote on a far-reaching constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage and other unions in North Carolina, opponents of the measure say that momentum is building for their side, but more support from national donors will be critical to making their “winnable” campaign a reality.

In a conference call with bloggers on Sunday night, spokespeople for Protect All North Carolina Families, the coalition working to defeat the amendment, expressed optimism that North Carolina could remain the only Southern state without a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage when voters go to the polls on May 8. The potential win would represent a major turning point in a long-running losing streak on such ballot initiatives across the country.

Jeremy Kennedy, campaign manager, provided an update as the campaign enters its final 15 days. He described an effort in full get-out-the vote mode with seven offices across the state, a “robust” field operation with 10,000 volunteer hours anticipated, and 350,000 phone calls made in the past few months. In addition, some 50,000 North Carolinians already have cast ballots in early voting that began last Thursday, including 1200 ballots cast at Duke University in Durham, representing about one-third of the students on campus. Polls indicate that voters aged 18 to 34 overwhelmingly support marriage equality.

“Two weeks out, I’ve never felt more optimistic than I have about this campaign,” he said. “This really shows the grassroots efforts surrounding this.”

Kennedy said that $95,000 had been raised toward a $100,000 dollar-for-dollar matched proposed by straight philanthropist Todd Stiefel last week. Some $600,000 has been raised online, most of it in smaller donations around $100, with 80% coming from North Carolina.

Money was urgently needed to produce and place the first two television ads against Amendment One that began airing across the state early Monday morning. The ads focus on the far-reaching effects of the amendment, which as worded says that, “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be recognized or valid in this State.” Analysts warn this broad approach could have unanticipated effects, such as the elimination of health care coverage for the children of domestic partners, or the loss of court-ordered protection for domestic violence survivors if their non-married status with their attackers is no longer recognized.

Mark Armour, who produced the ads with business partner Chad Griffin, said research indicated that people were moved most by messages about the amendment’s “unintended consequences.” He said that by touching on the sensitive topics of children and domestic violence, the ads mark a departure from previous campaigns by adopting the hard-hitting tactics long employed by opponents.

“This is a fundamentally different, aggressive and unprecedented approach in a fight of this type,” he said. “We have to reach people on a more visceral level here and that’s what we tried to do.”

Joshua Ulibarri, of Lake Research, said that online surveys and polling indicated that the ads moved voters to a 50-50 split on Amendment One. A Public Policy Polling survey from late March showed that 58 percent of voters supported the amendment and 38 percent opposed it, but opposition increased when voters, one-third of whom did not fully understand the proposal, learned that it also banned civil unions. The impact of the two new ads will not be measurable in polling for at least another week.

Armour said the campaign had made “a solid ad buy for a couple weeks” that will allow the two ads to run while remaining open to adjustments based on how Amendment One proponents respond in the final days of the campaign. Supporters of the constitutional ban will unveil their own advertising in all major media markets, and Armour said his team was especially concerned about their radio component and activity in African-American churches, the extent of which remains unknown. Blacks represent 22% of the population in North Carolina, according to the 2010 Census.

“We need to increase our budget significantly,” said Armour, who noted that the coalition needed to create a two-to-one spending advantage. “We are not outspending them significantly."

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