Speaking at a gay rights fundraiser in Charlotte, North Carolina this weekend, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius warned the crowd that a Republican president could undo many of President Obama’s advances for LGBT equality. Stopping short of outright condemning the state’s proposed amendment banning all legal recognition of same-sex couples on behalf of the administration, she suggested that organizing for the May 8 vote on Amendment 1 could serve as a practice run for supporting the President’s reelection:
SEBELIUS: I know there’s an important election in early May in North Carolina. And I think it’s a great template for what needs to be done to organize people and turn out people for November. North Carolina is hugely important in this next [presidential] election.
The Obama administration has struggled to address state-level action on same-sex marriage, owing at least in part to the President’s still-“evolving” position on the issue. In his speech to the Human Rights Campaign last October, he said that “we’ve got to work hard to oppose” enshrining discrimination into state laws and constitutions, but he didn’t mention Minnesota or North Carolina by name. In 2009, Organizing for America (Obama’s campaign arm) encouraged Maine residents to vote, but stayed mum regarding the ban on same-sex marriage that was on the ballot. At an LGBT fundraiser in New York last June, just days before a contentious Senate vote on marriage equality, Obama mentioned the legislation but took no position on it, calling the deliberation “exactly what democracies are supposed to do.” And in January, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said he didn’t know if Obama opposed Republicans’ effort to repeal same-sex marriage in New Hampshire.
The Democratic National Committee has said it will “certainly consider” helping to fight anti-gay measures in states like North Carolina and Minnesota, but so far has taken no action on that front. The DNC will host its convention in Charlotte in September, but by then it will be far too late to prevent discrimination from being written into the state’s constitution.