One of North Carolina's Tea Party favorites has surprised Republicans by saying she won't vote for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage proposed in her state because it goes too far.
Congresswoman Renee Ellmers first mentioned her opposition during an appearance at Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C., last week, and The News & Observer of Raleigh followed up to confirm that members of the audience hadn't heard Ellmers incorrectly.
"As a voter, she would vote against a piece of legislation that would add a ban on civil unions to the protection of marriage since they are two different issues and should be dealt with separately," spokesman Tom Doheny told the newspaper.
Doheny said Ellmers remains against same-sex marriage, but "she finds nothing wrong" with civil unions.
Gay rights activists in North Carolina have warned that Republican lawmakers went too far while drafting the ballot initiative. Existing North Carolina law limits marriage to one man and one woman but doesn't outlaw civil unions or domestic partnerships, which the ballot question would newly limit if approved by voters in May. Ellmers's stance on the issue could signal more trouble to come for proponents, according to Log Cabin Republicans.
"Representative Renee Ellmers is speaking for many North Carolina Republicans when she says that you don't have to support marriage equality to know this constitutional amendment is wrong," said the group's executive director, R. Clarke Cooper, in a statement today. "It is one thing to disagree about marriage, but banning all recognition of gay and lesbian families crosses the line for many North Carolinians who want to see their gay neighbors, friends and family members treated with respect and dignity."
New polling released last week suggests the proposed ban is on shaky ground. An Elon University poll found that 34% of voters oppose any legal recognition for gay couples, dropping 10 points from 2009. And 56% opposed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.