President Bill Clinton and evangelist Billy Graham have lent their voices to opposite sides of North Carolina’s gay marriage debate. Here, they are shown together during Graham’s Crusade at Flushing Meadows Corona Park June 25, 2005 in the Queens borough of New York.
As North Carolina prepares to vote on a controversial amendment to the state constitution that would define marriage as between a man and a woman, both sides are making their final push, including enlisting high-profile backers – such as former President Bill Clinton and evangelist Billy Graham – to their cause.
The amendment, also known as Amendment One, would define marriage as between a man and a woman, and make it the only domestic legal union that would be valid in the state. Opponents say the measure is unnecessary since the state already has a statute in place banning gay marriage, and it could jeopardize domestic violence protections for women and end health insurance for children of gay couples. But backers say those fears are overblown.
Voters head to the polls on Tuesday, but some 450,000 already have participated in early voting, said Jeremy Kennedy, campaign manager of Protect All NC Families, which is against the amendment.
Starting Monday, hundreds of thousands of North Carolina homes will hear an audio recording of Clinton encouraging people to vote against the amendment. In it, he raises the health care and domestic violence concerns, and also says it could hinder efforts to lure new business to the state.
“So the real effect of the law is not to keep the traditional definition of marriage, you’ve already done that,” Clinton says in the recording. “The real effect of the law will be to hurt families and drive away jobs. North Carolina can do better.”
“Somebody like Bill Clinton doesn’t just come out on anything and speak against it,” Kennedy told msnbc.com on Monday. “His office looked at this for a very long time before they decided they even wanted to get involved.”
President Barack Obama’s campaign office in North Carolina has released a statement saying he opposes the amendment, too, Kennedy said.
On the pro-amendment side, Billy Graham and former Republican presidential candidate and House Speaker Newt Gingrich have given their support.
“At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage,” Graham said in a full-page ad that was to run in 14 North Carolina newspapers. “The Bible is clear — God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote for the marriage amendment on Tuesday, May 8. God bless you as you vote.”
Rachel Lee, a spokeswoman for pro-amendment Vote For Marriage NC said his endorsement was exciting, noting, “He rarely speaks on political issues but he did offer support.”
She also also noted they have more than 6,000 churches, a number of policy organizations and state civic groups in their corner.
Of Clinton’s robocalls and Vice President Joe Biden’s comments on Sunday backing gay marriage, she said: “They certainly have a right to their opinion. However, I would say that they are misguided as to what they claim the consequences of this amendment would be. This amendment is very simple and straightforward. It preserves marriage between one man and one woman in our state constitution. It will in no way impact on domestic violence protection, child custody or end of life desires. So these claims brought on by the other side are simply false.”
If the North Carolina amendment passes, it would join 30 others states that have passed similar amendments.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a Morning Joe panel that he agreed with Vice President Joe Biden’s stance on same-sex marriage. That was the first time Duncan announced his views publically. Duncan also talked about Teacher Appreciation Week and explained the government should keep interest rates on student loans down because going to college remains “an important part of the American dream.”
More content from msnbc.com and NBC News:
- 14-year-old suspected in nearly 100 Tenn. burglaries
- Biden: I’m ‘absolutely comfortable’ with gay marriage
- Two American hikers jailed in Iran wed in California
- Body found at Churchill Downs; foul play suspected
- Video: Family flees as sinkhole swallows backyard