What makes NC different in gay marriage debate?

March 25, 2012


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — From Texas to Virginia, the South has spoken with almost one voice on same-sex marriage, amending state constitutions to ban the practice in hopes of blocking court decisions that would allow gays and lesbians to marry.

It’s “almost” one voice because there’s a discordant note in the Southern choir.

North Carolina, which likes to distinguish itself as a “vale of humility” surrounded by more bombastic neighbors, is the last state in the region without such an amendment. That fact is repeated constantly in the debate over a May 8 referendum when voters will have a chance to change the situation. But while it’s bandied about by both sides, it’s less clear what the distinction means.

Is it simply because the North Carolina Democrats who controlled the Legislature until 2010 had no interest in putting the amendment up for a vote? Or does it reflect the history and outlook of a state where leaders shepherded desegregation into law during the 1960s with little of the violence that broke out elsewhere?

Both explanations have merit in a state where Republicans waited nearly 140 years to take full control of the General Assembly and in which the political careers of moderate Democrat Jim Hunt and conservative Republican stalwart Jesse Helms could flourish at the same time, thanks to some of the same voters.

“North Carolina is an ambivalent state,” said Harry Watson, director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. “It’s got very strong conservative instincts, and it’s got very strong liberal instincts. It’s one of the things that’s peculiar about Tar Heel politics that voters can go either way depending on the issue or the politician.”

Raleigh resident Molly Beavers, 25, whose front lawn is adorned with a sign urging voters to reject the amendment, summed up that paradox in contemporary politics.

“In some ways I feel like we’ve made a lot of progress and I know we voted as a state for (Barack) Obama in 2008, which was a big deal,” she said. “But now our state Legislature’s kind of gone the other way.”

To read more, visit: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g4VAiXjJrQ26WnHUkrZPIW-nPlJg?docId=36447fedbe64446f84d2751f524f0f56

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