N.C. Marriage Vote Opponents Play on Civil Rights Message

BY Katelyn Polantz  May 8, 2012 at 7:37 PM EST

Photo courtesy Every1against1.com

Updated 9:14 p.m. ET | Voters in North Carolina approved the constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, according to an Associated Press report.

The Rev. William Barber knows that many North Carolinians don’t agree with same-sex marriage. But the leader of the state NAACP hopes that voters will focus on another question, and he’s using a new technique to make the point.

“When you say, ‘Do you believe hate and discrimination should be in the Constitution?’ there’s a very different answer on this,” Barber told the NewsHour in a phone interview Monday. “We believe that’s extraordinarily dangerous. It sets up different precedents.”

“What if we put the Voting Rights Act up for a popular vote? What if we put the ’64 Civil Rights Act up for a popular vote?”

North Carolinians voted Tuesday on a proposed amendment banning all unions other than marriage between a man and a woman. Barber wanted his association’s push to prompt black voters into passionate opposition.

The North Carolina NAACP invested in robocalls, newspaper ads and fliers asking for votes against the amendment. And in radio ads, Barber speaks over cool electronic music about the amendment being “deceptive.”

“Whether you believe in or disagree with same-sex marriage you should always be against division and hate and discrimination” being codified into law, he says in the ads.

The pastor said religion has nothing to do with it.

Another group, Every1Against1, is using a similar message, using powerful imagery reflective of the turbulent South during the civil rights era. The ads depict buses, restaurants and park with Jim Crow law-style settings. One image shows two water fountains, one labeled “gay” and the other “straight.”

Still, black voters, in other states’ referendums and in recent polls, have resoundingly opposed same-sex marriage. The outcome of the North Carolina vote — and black voters’ responses to it — may lay a foundation for a vote on gay marriage this November in Maryland, The Washington Post reported this week.

Barber refused to say how much his group has spent on the media campaign. However, it’s one of the most expensive media campaigns by the North Carolina NAACP, he said.

NAACP groups have refrained from using such direct and incendiary appeals when marriage battles played out in other states. And the national NAACP still hasn’t put effort into state-level fights.

You can read a description of the proposed amendment, poised to pass Tuesday despite the campaign’s efforts, here.