President Barack Obama took a stand Friday against a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in North Carolina, a state he won in 2008 that remains crucial to his re-election hopes.
"While the president does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the president has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples," said Cameron French, the Obama campaign's North Carolina spokesman, in a statement. "That's what the North Carolina ballot initiative would do _ it would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples _ and that's why the president does not support it."
Same-sex marriage is already illegal by statute in North Carolina but not in the constitution. Last year, lawmakers approved a referendum question that would amend the state constitution to say, in part, "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state."
The state is the only one in the Southeast without such a constitutional provision, and supporters say it protects traditional marriage from being redefined by the courts.
But opponents contend it's a discriminatory measure aimed at same-sex couples, and on Friday they welcomed Obama's statement.
"The president's support is proof that Amendment One, which could take health care away from children, put domestic violence laws in jeopardy, in addition to hurting all unmarried couples in North Carolina, has far-reaching, negative consequences," said Jeremy Kennedy, campaign manager for Protect All NC Families, in a statement.
Supporters of the amendment say warnings about potential side effects on domestic violence protection orders and other areas of the law amount to empty scare-mongering, and said Friday they doubt Obama's statement will have much effect on the May 8 vote.
"I believe President Obama has no business inserting himself into the people's business here in North Carolina," said Tami Fitzgerald, chairwoman of Vote FOR Marriage NC. Fitzgerald said she thinks most voters have already made up their minds on the issue, with early voting due to start in just over a month.
Obama has been praised by gay-rights advocates on some of his administration's actions, but has said he is still "evolving" in regard to same-sex marriage and isn't ready to endorse it.
North Carolina and its 15 electoral votes occupy an important place in Obama's re-election strategy. After narrowly winning the state in 2008, Obama has repeatedly visited North Carolina and the Democratic Party will hold its presidential convention in Charlotte in September.