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Advocacy group rallying opposition to potential Catawba casino

An advocacy group is urging its members to call Gov. Pat McCrory's office ask him to oppose a new tribal gaming casino in Cleveland County.

The N.C. Family Policy Council sent an "alert" Tuesday warning members about a potential Las Vegas-styled casino along Interstate 85 owned by the Catawba Indian Nation. John Rustin, the advocacy group's president, said the casino "would be devastating to the surrounding area."

Rustin returns to Family Policy Council

John Rustin, former lobbyist for the N.C. Family Policy Council, is returning to the organization as its president. Rustin left the group about four years ago to lead the N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation.

Rustin replaces Bill Brooks, who has been president for 20 years.

The Family Policy Council opposes legislation that expands gambling and supported the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions. It recently published an ariticle that supported extending the wait time for couples seeking a divorce from one year to two years.

Bill Brooks to step down as head of N.C. Family Policy Council

Bill Brooks, the president and executive director of the N.C. Family Policy Council is leaving the organization later this year.

Brooks spent 20 years at the nonprofit organization, a leading social conservative voice in state politics, starting as a consultant in 1993 before he was named president in 1994. He took the helm at the N.C. Family Action in 2007, the organization's 501(c)4 political arm.

In an interview, Brooks said he is leaving on his own accord but doesn't have a new job lined up. He anticipates leaving sometime after July when a new director takes over. His first order of business is an extended vacation, he said.

Newlyweds in crosshairs draws criticism

Gay activists are objecting to an image in the latest issue of Family North Carolina, a N.C. Family Policy Council magazine, that shows a bride and groom in the crosshairs of a firearm.

The image accompanies an article about legally-recognized same-sex unions called Marriage In Society's Moral Crosshairs.

In an article last week, the Huffington Post quoted bloggers saying the image was inappropriate post-Gabrielle Giffords, and runs contrary to notions of civil debate. One blogger invited critics to email the Family Policy Council.

Bill Brooks, executive director, said the organization received a few emails last week.

"Some people may take offense at something," he said. "We certainly didn't mean any."

The image points out that the definition of marriage is in the crosshairs, Brooks said. "It has nothing to do with anything other than that."

The state has a marriage referendum scheduled for May 8.

Report: Senate has votes to expand casino gambling

Republican Senate leaders told leaders of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians that there are enough votes in their chamber to approve a gambling expansion at the casino, according to the tribal paper Cherokee One Feather.

The legislature will return in September to tackle an agenda that includes making changes to the gambling compact negotiated by the governor.

The One Feather reported that Senate leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican, and Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Hendersonville Republican and the Rules Committee chairman,  talked to tribal leaders during a visit to Cherokee last week. 

The tribe has sought for years to expand gambling at Harrah's Cherokee to include table games - poker, blackjack and such -  with live dealers. Both the House and Senate would need to approve the change.

Conservative groups, including the North Carolina Family Policy Council, are fighting the proposal, saying it will lead gambling to spread throughout the state.

Bishops: Bullying bill sets precedent

Could a bill banning bullying against gays and lesbians lead to same-sex marriage?

Yes, according to two N.C. Roman Catholic bishops who have urged their followers in two mass emails this past week to oppose Senate Bill 526, otherwise known as the School Violence Protection Act, Yonat Shimron reports.

While the two bishops say they oppose bullying period, they cannot support a bill that singles out "gender identity and sexual orientation."

Msgr. Michael Clay, the legislative lobbyist for the Diocese of Raleigh, said three states — Iowa, California and Connecticut — have used similar anti-gay bullying laws as part of their "findings of fact," in building a case for same-sex marriage.

"It could be a precursor of actions by our legislature and/or our courts to mandate same-sex marriage," said Clay. "It's more than speculative. This is a result that happens."

Clay said both Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh and Bishop Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte believe bullying is wrong and would gladly support a bill without the offending language.

"We're urging people to support the bill and take out the differentiating language," he said.

Other groups, including the Christian Action League and the N.C. Family Policy Council, also oppose the bill, saying it would introduce special legal protections for gays and lesbians.

Update: But not all religious groups agreed with what they said was an exaggerated emphasis on same-sex marriage.

"This is not a theoretical political issue," said the Rev. Jack McKinney, co-pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church. "This is about real kids suffering real pain and too many of them hurting themselves. For it to be used as a political football is a tragedy."

Who polled gay marriage issue?

Who polled for the N.C. Family Policy Council?

The conservative advocacy group today announced the results of a recent poll on gay marriage done by Advantage Inc.

The Arlington, Va.-based company has been described by the Washington Post as a "national political, fundraising and direct-marketing firm" that works for Republicans.

Its Web site describes its specialties as get-out-the-vote efforts, online town halls, automated messaging and survey research.

The Family Policy Council of West Virginia released the results of a similar poll on gay marriage in October.

A company spokesman would not give further information about the poll, citing a policy against discussing any work done for clients.

Poll: 73 percent back marriage ban

Another poll on gay marriage found high levels of opposition.

A poll by the N.C. Family Policy Council, a socially conservative advocacy group, found that 73 percent of those surveyed supported adding a ban on gay marriage to the state constitution.

Seventeen percent opposed the amendment and 10 percent were undecided.

"We commissioned this survey, first of all, because we wanted to determine the level of support for the Marriage Protection Amendment among registered voters in North Carolina," said council president Bill Brooks in a statement.

The results are in line with previous polls, which have found high levels of support when the question asks about adding a definition of marriage to the constitution, but more of a split when the wording notes this would outlaw same-sex marriage.

The Family Policy Council had questioned a recent survey by the Elon University Poll that used the more results-oriented wording.

The live survey of 5,009 registered voters was conducted on Feb. 26, 2009, by Advantage Inc. of Arlington, Va. The margin of error was not released.

After the jump, the questions.

Family Policy Council questions poll

A conservative group has questioned the Elon poll.

Tami Fitzgerald, an attorney with the conservative N.C. Family Policy Council, told the Associated Press that she disputed the methodology of the Elon University Poll which showed 50 percent of North Carolinians opposed a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

She argued that it surveyed all adults and not likely voters.

And she said the poll's question, which asked if the person would vote to "prevent any same-sex marriages," carried a negative tone that may have skewed the results.

"Phrasing it in a negative way probably elicited a stronger response in the negative," she said. Fitzgerald suggested asking if the person would approve an amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Pollsters with the conservative Civitas Institute, which has polled that wording, also objected to the Elon poll.

Rustin to head Free Enterprise Fndn.

John Rustin will head a business advocacy group.

The Gastonia native, 42, will leave a position with the N.C. Family Policy Council to head the N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation, the successor to the now-defunct N.C. FREE.

"It will be providing similar information and services to N.C. Free, but the board of directors will have some other thoughts about new programs and services," he said. "That's kind of a work in progress." 

After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1989, Rustin worked in state lobbying. From 1994 to 1997, he lobbied for companies such as General Electric and Abbott Laboratories at Hunton and Williams in Raleigh.

Since 1997, he has worked at the Family Policy Council, serving as director of government relations and vice president.  

Update and Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly referred to the N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation as a lobbying group. It does not lobby.

In a press release today, the group also announced that James A. Rouse III will become chairman of the board of directors.

Rouse is director of government affairs for the N.C. Association of Electric Cooperatives.

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