Shortly after North Carolina voters approved Amendment One, which states that the only marital union that shall be recognized in the state is that of one man and one woman, questions began to surface about what impact the issue would have on the Democratic National Convention. In response to the ban on same-sex marriage, Gay Marriage USA, an advocacy group based out of New York, started a petition on change.org to move the convention from North Carolina to a state that upholds the values of liberty and equality for all. In response to the petition, the Communications Director for the DNC committee quickly issued a statement that the convention would stay in Charlotte.
The anger over Amendment One begs the question of what impact the ban on same-sex marriage will have on the convention. Will it cause a stream of protests through the city streets of Charlotte from the Gay and Lesbian Community? Will those who oppose same-sex marriage appear with their own protests to express their opposition to Obama's support for marriage equality? Will gays and lesbians that are generally faithful to the Democratic Party refuse to show at all because of the decision to still hold the convention in a state that does not promote liberty and equality?
While certain Gay and Lesbian advocacy groups did petition for the convention to be moved away from North Carolina, it is likely that we will witness large numbers of the gay and lesbian community coming out in droves to Charlotte to make sure that their presence is known. Even though North Carolina has passed an amendment that practically discriminates against gay and lesbian couples, it is difficult to fathom the gay and lesbian community running from the fight for equality and justice. Such a decision would go against all that they have stood for over the past half a century. In addition to that, it is doubtful that the city of Charlotte would be abandoned by gays and lesbians during the convention because Charlotte is part of one of the eight counties in which a majority of people voted against the Amendment.
Frankly, it does not seem as if the issue will discourage the gay and lesbian community from having a presence at the convention. The only question that remains is what kind of presence. Will gay and lesbian advocacy groups push for the marriage equality issue to take center stage at the convention? If so, how will these groups react if the issue does not seem to get much attention?
While we can expect President Obama to make some references to the marriage equality issue during his speech at the convention, I expect the references to be very limited. In a state that has a large conservative base, it would be too risky for the Obama campaign to allow the issue to receive too much focus. Most of the people of North Carolina, regardless of their political persuasion, believe in protecting marriage as a union between one man and one woman as evidenced by the 61% vote in favor of Amendment One. In 2008, Obama carried North Carolina by four-tenths of a percentage point over McCain. When you figure it out mathematically, it is likely that 25 percent of the people that voted for President Obama in 2008 also voted in favor of the marriage Amendment. In addition to that, a large portion of Obama's supporters in North Carolina are African-American voters. Living in the state, I am very well aware of the hostility the gay and lesbian community receives from African-Americans. Even as I have assisted the Obama campaign in my local community, I have come across fellow Obama supporters who have expressed disgust and doubts about Obama's stance on marriage equality. With these dynamics in mind, the Obama campaign is certain to be very cautious in how it approaches the issue. Although I think the DNC will do everything in its power to keep the issue on the back burner, I am not quite so sure that the gay and lesbian advocacy will settle for that.
Gays and lesbians will do everything in their power to bring attention to the issue of marriage equality. It's safe to bet that advocacy groups will show up in large numbers to hold protests in Charlotte during the week of the convention. Will they keep their protests in the streets of Charlotte? When they see how much the convention is ignoring the issue, will these groups find a way to get inside in a desperate attempt to get the attention they feel they deserve? If they do force the issue to get more attention then what the DNC seems willing to give, then how will it affect Obama's approach to the issue throughout the closing months of the campaign? It will be interesting to see how this story unravels and what impact it will have on the national election.