Gay group starts petition to force Dems to move convention out of NC

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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A gay advocacy group is trying to rally sympathizers to help shift the Democrats’ trouble-plagued convention from North Carolina to another state.

The group, Gay Marriage USA, launched a petition on change.org immediately after the state’s voters overwhelmingly decided May 8 to define marriage as a heterosexual institution.

The state’s amendment “discriminates against LGBT people, couples & their families [and] in protest, the Democratic National Convention Committee should MOVE its convention… to a state that upholds values of equality & liberty, and which treats ALL citizens equally,” according to a statement by the group on change.org.

The petition quickly picked up roughly 15,000 signatures by 11 a.m. EST, May 9.

That petition is a problem for Obama, who is struggling to revive the enthusiasm for him held in 2008 by younger and progressive voters. He needs their votes to offset the political damage caused by his role in the stalled economy, record unemployment and record debts.

Obama decided to hold the September convention in North Carolina to help him win the swing-state. That ambitious gamble may be going wrong because a host of problems threaten to upset the convention.

These include threats by several unions to withdraw funding from the convention because of the state’s right-to-work laws that hinder union recruitment.

A shortage of corporate donors is also threatening the organizers’ ambitious plans.

Additionally, the convention is being held in the Bank of America Stadium, even though the president has sharply criticized the banking sector.

The huge stadium has 73,778 seats, and those may be difficult to fill, following the poor May 5 turnout at Obama’s two campaign kick-off rallies in Ohio and Virginia.

The state’s party is in shambles, following the planned retirement of the sitting Democratic governor, and the The Daily Caller’s exposure of a sexual-harassment and payoff scandal in the party’s top leadership.

The party’s role was further weakened by the May 8 amendment vote, which threatens to alienate gays, lesbians and progressives nationwide.

In recent days, crucial gay donors have been infuriated by Obama’s ambiguous position on marriage rules — he says he supports marriage as a heterosexual union and also opposes discrimination against gays. The donors threatened to withhold their donations unless Obama does more to win social acceptance of homosexuality.

That threat matters to Obama, partly because he’s getting fewer donations from business than expected.

The gay movement’s goal, however, was rebuffed in North Carolina on Tuesday, when 60 percent of the state’s voters — including many Obama-supporters — changed their state constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Late last year, Democrats in the state legislature agreed to hold the May 8 vote, following contentious debates with GOP legislators. The Democrats agreed to the May 8 date because it helped Obama by keeping Republicans from having a rallying issue on the ballot to spur GOP turnout in November.

Even if the convention problems are overcome, the marriage issue won’t go away quickly for Obama, partly because the established press is eager to showcase Obama’s underlying political dilemma.

His dilemma is that any support he gives to gay marriage will aid his fund-raising but also hurt support and turnout among crucial African-American and Latino voters, and among white swing-voters in Midwest states.

On May 14, the media will get another chance to cover the issue when Obama gives a commencement speech at Barnard College. One of the honorees at the event is Evan Wolfson, who is the leading advocate for changing marriage rules to allow gays and lesbians to obtain marriage licenses.

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