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On Election Day, a Congressman Urges "No" on N.C.'s Amendment 1

On Election Day, a Congressman Urges "No" on N.C.'s Amendment 1


As the North Carolina legislature moved last fall to put a brutal antigay amendment on the May 8 primary ballot, Rep. Brad Miller, a Democrat representing parts of Raleigh and Greensboro, decided not only to speak out against the damaging measure, but also concluded that it was time to step up and support a congressional bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

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"This is entirely about putting on the ballot a very divisive issue for political purposes," he told this magazine of Amendment One in September, "and to try to lock in the attitudes of one generation. The amendment goes well beyond marriage and would prohibit any type of civil union legal recognition as well." (Faced with a redistricting challenge that would have pitted him against a fellow Democrat, Miller announced in January that he wouldn't seek reelection.)

May 8 has now arrived, and we caught up with Miller as North Carolinians head to the polls to decide whether they will write discrimination into the state constitution.

What would you tell any voter who's still undecided on Amendment One today?

Vote against it. [Approving Amendment One would be] the wrong thing to do. You'd clearly be on the wrong side of history. In 20 or 30 years, we'll look back and feel embarrassed about this like we're embarrassed about Jim Crow.

But beyond that, consider the consequences to business. A lot of employers are not going to want to move significant business operations to North Carolina, because some of their most talented employees may be gay or lesbian and may be married. The employer would be asking those employees, those talented, critical employees, to move to a state that would not only fail to recognize their relationship as a marriage, but also would not recognize it at all. The state would simply view their relationship as roommates. That's going to affect North Carolina's appeal for a lot of corporations.

Do you think the amendment will pass?

I don't know. The phrasing of the amendment as it appears on the ballot is discouraging. But when people understand all that it really does, they reject it. So I think the question will be how informed the electorate is on what the amendment really does. Most North Carolinians are not ready to have gay relationships recognized as marriage, but there's been enormous movement in the state, as with the rest of the country, over the last decade, and most North Carolinians now favor civil unions. The amendment obviously would prohibit civil unions as well.

The effort I've seen the most is on the side of those against Amendment One. The support for the opposition to the amendment is substantially more than any Democratic candidate for governor or any other office I've seen in this election.

How could passage of the amendment impact the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this fall?

I'm glad the convention is coming to North Carolina. I've certainly heard lots of complaints from the labor movement about the lack of recognition of North Carolina public sector unions, I've heard complaints from consumer advocates about the president accepting [the nomination] in a speech at Bank of America stadium. I'm not sure that this amendment passing would dramatically change, or measurably change, the convention in Charlotte. I can tell you from personal experience, North Carolina Democrats are squeamish about this issue. Leading Democrats in the state have not exactly been out front on these issues in the past. This is a case of grassroots leading and the supposed leaders now trying to jump in front - and looking over their shoulder.

I'm not sure whether President Obama and national Democrats could have done more, or should have done more, but state Democrats have not really been in front on this issue.

What's really driving this amendment in your view?

Democrats had a very bad election in 2010. Very conservative Republicans dominate the state house and state senate, and this was an accommodation or concession to them to put this on the ballot. It's a sloppily written, careless amendment that may have consequences beyond what the proponents claim.

What I can say is that North Carolinians certainly don't believe that long-term, committed partners should be treated as roommates under the law. We can all agree that you should be able to have the people you regard as your family visit you in the hospital, and that government should not decide for you who your family is.

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On Election Day, a Congressman Urges "No" on N.C.'s Amendment 1

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