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Tom Kludt

Tom Kludt is a reporter for Talking Points Memo based in New York City, covering media and national affairs. Originally from South Dakota, Tom joined TPM as an intern in late-2011 and became a staff member during the 2012 election. He can be reached at tom@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Tom

In a column he penned for his influential website, conservative commentator Erick Erickson called on North Carolinians to support Amendment One, a proposed change to the state's constitution that would ensure legal recognition only for marriage between a man and a woman.  The measure will be voted on in a statewide election today.

Erickson, the editor-in-chief of RedState.com, urged North Carolina voters to help pass the amendment in order to prevent "liberal judges and gay rights activists" from changing the definition of marriage. 

"Over several thousand years, whether by edict from on high or through trial and error, humans settled on the two parent, heterosexual nuclear household as the most stabilizing force in society," Erickson writes.  "In the past few decades, many people have decided that several thousand years of human history can be ignored in favor of unproven claims of happiness, fairness, progress, and an expanded notion of equality."

Opponents to Amendment One have sought to predicate the campaign on everything but same-sex marriage, which is already illegal under current North Carolina law.  Instead, they argue, the amendment would jeopardize the legal status for domestic partnerships and civil unions involving both gay and straight couples alike.  Erickson's column reflects the approach taken by the pro-amendment contigent, which has emphasized concepts such as the sanctity of marriage and traditional values.  

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Defining today's vote on Amendment One as a "Rosa Parks moment" for North Carolina, outgoing Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue urged her constituents to oppose the measure that would provide legal recognition only to marriage between a man and a woman.

Echoing the credo from the anti-amendment campaign, Perdue insisted that the proposed change to the state's constitution is less about same-sex marriage and more about civil rights during an interview with MSNBC's Chuck Todd on Tuesday morning.  Critics of Amendment One have highlighted its potential implications on civil unions and domestic partnerships involving both gay and straight couples alike.

"I want voters to understand that this constitutional amendment takes away a lot of civil rights," Perdue said.  "It's not about marriage.  We have a law on the books."

Polls show that Amendment One is a heavy favorite to pass.  Republicans and Democrats in North Carolina will also hold gubernatorial primaries today in the first electoral step to replace Perdue, who announced in January that she will not seek re-election.  

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The latest survey from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows that Amendment One, a proposed change to North Carolina's state constitution that would provide legal recognition only for marriage between a man and a woman, is poised to pass when voters head to the polls on Tuesday.  

In the latest poll of likely voters, 55 percent of respondents said they intend to vote for the measure, while 39 percent said they will vote no — virtually no change since PPP's survey from a week ago.  The latest release also underscores the most daunting challenge that opponents to the amendment have faced throughout the campaign: misinformation.  From PPP:

In some sense North Carolinians are voting against their own beliefs. 53% of voters in the state support either gay marriage or civil unions, yet a majority also support the amendment that would ban both. The reason for that disconnect is even with just 24 hours until election day only 46% of voters realize the proposal bans both gay marriage and civil unions. Those informed voters oppose the amendment by a 61-37 margin but there may not be enough time left to get the rest of the electorate up to speed.

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In many respects, Missouri state Rep. Zach Wyatt (R) fits the profile of a typical Republican. He extols the virtues of low taxes and fiscal conservatism. He has cast votes to place restrictions on abortions, require voter identification and mandate drug testing for welfare recipients. He describes himself as a "big Mitt Romney supporter." But on Wednesday, Wyatt became the country's only openly gay Republican state lawmaker when he came out during a press conference in Jefferson City, Mo. The press conference was conducted by legislators from both parties and gay rights advocates to signal opposition to proposed legislation, widely known as the "don't say gay" bill, that would prohibit discussion of sexual orientation in public schools. Wyatt spoke to TPM on Thursday, a day after the announcement.

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A bill proposed by Republicans in the Missouri General Assembly that would prohibit the teaching of sexual orientation in public schools appears to be losing traction fast, but opponents aren't content to allow the legislation to fade quietly from the public consciousness.

Legislators from both parties and gay rights advocates held a press conference at the state capitol in Jefferson City Wednesday to call for the bill, known officially as HB 2051, to be immediately withdrawn from the legislative calendar. After being introduced last month by state Rep. Steve Cookson (R) and 19 Republican co-sponsors, HB 2051 was referred to the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education, where it has languished with little sign of advancing. But some opponents are concerned that until the bill is cleared from the docket, it could still advance through some clever legislative maneuvering.

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The wife of a sponsor of North Carolina's Amendment One, a proposed change to the state's constitution that would ensure legal recognition only for marriage between a man and a woman, reportedly offered an eyebrow-raising explanation for her husband's support of the measure.

Jodie Brunstetter, the wife of state Sen. Peter Brunstetter (R), has found herself embroiled in controversy after suggesting that her husband's role in writing the bill -- which passed the Republican-controlled general assembly last fall -- was racially motivated.

According to the alternative Yes! Weekly, which picked up the remarks from freelance journalist and activist Chad Nance, Jodie Brunstetter told a poll worker in Winston-Salem, N.C. Monday that the reason her husband "wrote Amendment 1 was because the Caucasian race is diminishing and we need to uh, reproduce."

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Emboldened by a buildup of encouraging recent developments, opponents to North Carolina's Amendment One felt confident that the tide was beginning to turn in their favor. They may have just been dealt a reality check, as a new poll released today suggests that the tide isn't turning quickly enough.

The latest release from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows that public opinion of the amendment has remained static since last week. In PPP's latest statewide survey of likely North Carolina voters, conducted on April 27-29, 55 percent of respondents said that they will vote for Amendment One while 41 percent said they will vote no. That amounts to virtually no change since last week when 54 percent -- the lowest level of support that PPP has found for Amendment One since it began polling last October -- said they intended to vote for the measure. With the May 8 vote looming, the anti-amendment campaign must now hope for a scenario that appears unlikely: significant poll movement in the span of a week.

Opponents to Amendment One have waged a two-pronged campaign with a dual emphasis on persuasion and education. Ever since the measure was approved by the Republican-controlled general assembly last fall, PPP has consistently found North Carolina voters to be ill-informed of what the amendment's passage would ultimately yield. More than simply a ban on same-sex marriage, Amendment One would preclude all civil unions and domestic partnerships from receiving legal recognition. In fact, the anti-amendment contingent has gone to great lengths to shift the debate away from gay rights. The Coalition to Protect NC Families, the organization behind the opposition campaign, released its first two television ads last week, which focused on the amendment's potential implications on recipients of domestic partnership benefits and domestic violence protections. Jeremy Kennedy, campaign manager for the Coalition to Protect NC Families, told TPM last week that he has emphasized to voters that same-sex marriage -- already illegal under North Carolina law -- will be unaffected by either outcome.

"What the other side says is that it's just about marriage and protecting marriage, but what we've been saying all along is that it's about much more than marriage," Kennedy said. "Why would we be so irresponsible to amend our constitution in a way that would strip families of benefits and domestic violence protections?"

PPP's latest poll shows that 40 percent of likely voters now understand that the amendment would ban both same-sex marriage and civil unions -- a four percent bump since last week. That may be the most discouraging revelation for the opposition, whose campaign has rested on the notion that as people learn more about it the less like they are to support the amendment. All along, Kennedy has remained cautious in his optimism, making it clear that he and his allies are "still the underdogs in this race." Today's poll serves as a reminder of that.

President Barack Obama holds an eight-point advantage over presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, according to the latest United Technologies/National Journal poll.  

The nationwide survey of adults shows the president polling at 47 percent, while Romney trails with the support of 39 percent.  It was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International and has a margin of error of 3.7 percent.  

The poll underscores a sharp racial divide, with a staggering 94 percent of African-Americans supporting Obama.  Romney, on the other hand, garnered the support of 55 percent of white males with at least some college education.  The TPM Poll Average shows a slightly tighter race between Obama and Romney.

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A new survey released by Public Policy Polling (D) shows waning support for the proposed marriage amendment in North Carolina ahead of the upcoming statewide vote on May 8.

The poll of likely voters shows 54 percent of respondents intend to vote for the amendment, while 40 percent are opposed.  That's still robust support, to be sure, but it's also the lowest level of support that PPP has found for the amendment since it began polling last October.  

The amendment is not simply a ban on gay marriage, as is widely believed.  Rather, the amendment would provide legal recognition only for marriage between a man and a woman, effectively outlawing both gay marriage and civil unions.  PPP has consistently found that as voters become more familiar with the far-reaching implications of the amendment, they grow less receptive to the proposal.

“Passage of the marriage amendment is looking like less and less of a sure thing,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “The more voters learn about it the less inclined they are to support it.”

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