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Same sex marriage (SSM), civil unions, & domestic partnerships

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In North Carolina

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2014-MAY-01: Current status of SSM and Civil Unions in North Carolina:

Neither civil unions nor same-sex marriages are available to residents of North Carolina. The situation in this state is particularly interesting because no majority opinion exists:

  • A large minority of voters would like to see same-sex marriages (SSMs) legalized.

  • A large minority of voters favors the introduction of civil unions or domestic partnerships for loving committed same-sex couples. This would give them and their children the same state benefits and protections enjoyed by opposite-sex married couples, but without the right to call their relationship a marriage.

  • A large minority of voters favors the existing system where the relationships of same-sex couples are not recognized by the state. They are regarded as "legal strangers" -- simple roommates or housemates with few protections for themselves and their children.

This is every politician's nightmare. No matter what move they make, they will generate a lot of animosity on the part of most voters. Even making no move generates animosity.

A majority of voters favor recognition of the relationships of loving, committed same-sex couples in some fashion -- either by legalizing same-sex marriage or by creating a system of civil unions. Only a minority favors the present system. Many religious and social conservatives remained enthusiastic about trying to preserve the status quo by changing the constitution to prevent the legislature or the state courts from recognizing same-sex relationships in any way. Some describe this position as motivated by simple animus towards the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) community. However many persons who are opposed to recognition of same-sex relationships sincerly believe that:

  • Everyone is born a heterosexual.
  • Some people choose later in life to become homosexual or bisexual.
  • Many of them become addicted to the lifestyle.
  • Through a major effort involving prayer and counseling, all can return to being heterosexual.
  • By government recognition of -- and protections for -- the relationships of LGBs', they are less likely to make the effort to be converted back to heterosexuality.
  • Sexually active homosexuals will spend eternity in the torture chambers of Hell.
  • By opposing same-sex marriage and civil unions, religious and social conservatives feel that they are expressing love and caring towards the LGB community.

A large majority of LGBs, religious and social liberals, therapists and counselors, human sexuality researchers, etc. strongly deny the validity of the first six beliefs.

Most religious and social conservatives want loving, committed couples to be treated as "legal strangers" -- as simple roomates. They wrote Amendment One to the state Constitution to ban SSMs, domestic partnerships, and civil unions. However, the sponsors of the amendment realized that it would be turned down by the voters if the latter became totally aware of its scope. Thus it it was promoted as a simple prohibition of SSM in the hopes that voters would not notice the wide scope of the amendment.

The promoters of Amendment One were successful. The people of North Carolina did not realize that this was a stealth amendment. It passed on 2012-MAY-08 with about a 61% vote in favor. When the people of North Carolina eventually realize that they were deceived, there may well be considerable backlash.

The result is a major controversy.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in North America:

  • Same-sex couples have been able to marry in all ten provinces and three territories in Canada since mid-2005.
  • The are able to marry in 17 states in the U.S. and the District of Columbia
  • Residents of Oregon can marry out of state, where permitted, and have their marriage recognized in Oregon.

There are more than 60 active lawsuits in federal District Courts seeking permission to marry. They typically involve one or more same-sex couples who are seeking to marry:

  • In one of the 23 states where marriage is currently unavailable to them, or

  • In another state where marriage is available, return to their home state, and have their new marriage recognized.

However, North Carolina is an exception to the above. On 2014-APR-26, the United Church of Christ filed a lawsuit seeking to have Amendment One declared unconstitutional. They argue that the current law makes it a crime for a member of their clergy to solemnize the marriage of a same-sex couple. This would appear to be an obvious violation of the principle of separation of church and state as required by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

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