Opponents worked to raise doubts about the amendment’s consequences, including running television ads that focused on weakened domestic violence protections for unmarried couples, and loss of health insurance for children of same-sex couples.
The early returns projected at the front of the downtown Raleigh event hall were mostly ignored by the crowd of amendment opponents who joined the gathering.
Jen Jones, communications director for Protect All NC Families, said the campaign would have done nothing differently.
“We had an unprecedented coalition,” she said. “We were on TV as much as we wanted to be. We talked to everyone we could about unintended consequences.”
Incomplete returns show the amendment losing in only a handful of counties, including Wake, Durham, Orange, Chatham, Buncombe and Watauga. The amendment was losing in Mecklenburg County, but results there were incomplete.
Opponents anticipate a slew of lawsuits with the courts ultimately deciding how the amendment will effect employment-related benefits and legal arrangements between unmarried couples.
The Vote for Marriage campaign has its foundation in churches and ran television ads featuring the Bible. They fought back against what they characterized as opponents’ myths, saying that the amendment would have no impact on domestic violence protections.
“The involvement of the local churches across this state was absolutely the turning point,” said the Rev. Mark Harris, president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
The string of national amendment victories supports arguments for amending the U.S. Constitution to allow only heterosexual marriages, Harris said.
Before the campaigns ramped to full intensity, Harris called for a “civil conversation” on the issue.
Civility seemed to melt away by Tuesday.
A Cabarrus County man posted a YouTube video of himself firing a shotgun into a “vote against” sign. A Durham neighborhood listserv stopped taking comments on the amendment when the debate got too hot.
Campaigners for and against the amendment called a steady stream of complaints into the Wake County Board of Elections on Tuesday, each side complaining about the opponents’ illegal electioneering.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Gary D. Sims, Wake’s deputy elections director.
For some voters, the amendment was the main or only reason they came to the polls.
Cameron Hughes, 25, was in the process of moving to Charlotte for a new job in banking, but came all the way back to Chapel Hill Tuesday afternoon and drove straight to his polling place on Estes Drive.
Fueling his trip in equal measure were gasoline and cold anger that the amendment was even on the ballot.
“It’s an embarrassment and it’s pathetic, and I’m ashamed to have to come out here and vote on something like this, and, if the polls are right, I’m ashamed that apparently a large majority of the citizens of my state are pro-bigotry,” he said.
Hughes made the long trip to ink in just one oval on his ballot. He said that he had been so focused on finishing up work on a graduate degree in recent months that he hadn’t been able to properly study the candidates for various offices.
Lynne Greene, of Cary, voted for the amendment, at the Fellowship of Christ Presbyterian Church polling site. She said she could support civil unions but not gay marriage.
“I have an issue with the use of the word marriage,” said Greene, a Republican who is retired. “I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Polling by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling and the conservative Civitas Institute both showed the amendment winning by double digits, but the Public Policy Poll showed that a majority rejected the amendment after they learned it would also ban civil unions and domestic partnerships.
“People are conflicted,” said Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, a group advocating for full marriage rights for gay couples. “They hear one thing in their faith community, particularly that homosexuality is a sin. They have an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) family member or neighbor or co-worker. People are trying to reconcile those two experiences.”
Voters said they were confused about the amendment’s wording, and that confusion continued in some polling places where some voters received ballots without the constitutional question on it that were intended for 17-year-old voters
A Triangle voter advocacy group says it has received numerous complaints from people who were given the wrong ballot while trying to vote Tuesday.
The N.C. Election Protection hot line, part of a nationwide voter education coalition coordinated by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, fielded calls from voters all day who were given a ballot without the amendment, said Elizabeth Haddix, staff attorney with the UNC-Chapel Hill Center for Civil Rights, which sponsored the hot line Tuesday.
“We’ve certainly gotten a heavy volume of calls, many more than we expected in a primary,” she said.
Katelyn Ferral of The News & Observer contributed.
© 2012 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
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