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Same sex marriage (SSM) & civil unions in North Carolina

2011: Proposed constitutional amendment.
Reactions by various groups & individuals.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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2011: Latest attempt to pass an anti-SSM/anti-civil union constitutional amendment. (Cont'd):

The House minority leader and former speaker, Rep. Joe Hackney (D-Orange), was opposed to the marriage amendment. He said:

"At a time when we should be focused on helping our neighbors in the east recover from a terrible storm, we are instead returning to Raleigh to vote on a constitutional amendment that simply mirrors existing law in North Carolina. What a waste. ... This proposed constitutional amendment runs against the tide of history and has become a form of hate speech."

Alex Miller, interim executive director of Equality NC -- a pro LGBT group in the state -- said that Republican support for the proposed amendment was motivated by politics more than moral considerations. He said:

"If the majority feels comfortable defending their record to the voters and feels people support the direction they’re taking in our state, they don’t need to put amendments like this on the ballot to help their chances at the polls."

Miller comment apparently referred to a recent event during a confidential GOP caucus meeting when microphones were left live and Rep. Mark Hilton's (R-Catawba), comments were heard in the Legislative Building pressroom. Hilton said that the proposed constitutional amendment was needed to help conservative groups "... get their ground game working." article concludes:

"Miller said that thousands of employees in some North Carolina cities and counties that offer same-sex partner benefits would no longer be eligible for those benefits. Those municipalities and counties include Asheville, Greensboro, Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Durham County, Orange County and Mecklenburg County, Miller said.

In addition, Miller said that insurance policies offered in North Carolina have to be approved by the N.C. Department of Insurance, which verifies that they comply with state law."  1

A session of the General Assembly is scheduled to start on 2011-SEP-12. It will discuss various proposed amendments to the state Constitution, including the marriage amendment. As currently written, the amendment would say:

"Marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State."  1

This is actually a stealth amendment. Although it is being promote solely as an anti-SSM amendment, it would also make it impossible for the Legislature to create a system of registered partnerships or civil unions in the future. Its main long term effect might be on opposite-sex couples; the constitution would prohibit common law relationships to be recognized or given any rights or protections in North Carolina.

2011-SEP-12 & 13: Legislature approved referendum on same-sex marriage:

On SEP-12, commented:

"House Majority Leader Skip Stam opened today’s debate on the proposed marriage amendment with the following statement: 'The measure we have before you today is exactly the same policy about marriage as was adopted by this assembly in 1996. That is, there’ll be no same sex marriages performed in North Carolina, and those performed outside North Carolina will not be recognized. There’s no difference in the policy." 4

This is a surprising claim because current North Carolina law merely addresses marriage. It says nothing about civil unions, domestic partnerships, or any other state recognition of the relationships of loving, committed same-sex couples. However, the marriage amendment would prohibit the legislature from legalizing either same-sex marriages or civil unions or any other recognition of same-sex couples. Since most voters in North Carolina favor some type of recognition for same-sec couples, this appears to be a major error by Skip. There is no way to tell whether Skip simply made a slip, or whether he was unaware of the wording of the amendment, or whether he was trying to pull the wool over people's eyes with a bait and switch maneuver.

The same day, the North Carolina House of Representatives approved a constitutional amendment for the 2012-MAY ballot. The vote was 75 to 42. If a majority of voters pass the amendment, the only recognition of relationships in the state would be of the marriage of one woman to one man. The amendment would prohibit the legislature from legalizing same-sex marriage, or creating a system of civil unions or domestic partnerships for either same-sex or opposite-sex couples. They couldn't even passing legislation giving protections to common-law relationships and their children. Except for a couple of Democrats in the House who voted for the amendment, votes were strictly along party lines in both the House and Senate; Democrats voted against the amendment and Republicans voted for.

The Senate also approved the measure by a vote of 31 to 19 on SEP-13. Because it is a constitutional amendment, the governor's signature is not needed. It will be on the ballot.

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Reactions to the amendment:

  • Businessperson Martin Eakes visited the legislature in an unsuccessful attempt to oppose adoption of the amendment. He said:

    "This was one of the worst days that I've ever seen in my home state, and I've seen some pretty bad days over the past 25 years."

He noted that the Bank of America, which has its head office in Charlotte, NC, has about 25,000 gay and lesbian staff members. He said:

"If you want to figure out a way to push Bank of America to move its headquarters from Charlotte to New York, pass this amendment."

  • Sen. James Forrester (R-Gaston), the sponsor of the amendment in the Senate, expressed the opinion during the bill's debate that:

    "Moms and dads are not interchangeable. Two dads don't make a mom. Two moms don’t make a dad. Children need both a father and a mother."

Numerous studies have indicated that children do quite well being raised by two women or two men.

  • A group of professors at the University of North Carolina School of Law, led by Maxine Eichner, issued a report that highlighted some problems with the proposed amendment, even after it had been modified. She said that the amendment could still interfere with existing child custody and visitation rights and invalidate trusts, wills, and end-of-life directives in favor of an unmarried partner, no matter the genders of the unmarried pair. She wrote:

    "The Amendment still has the potential to invalidate domestic violence protections for members of unmarried couples, as an Ohio court did with even narrower language in its state’s marriage amendment."

The amendment would also terminate domestic partnership benefits now provided in several municipalities.

  • Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force issued a statement saying:

    "This is deeply disappointing and hurtful to thousands of North Carolina same-sex couples who simply want to be able to care for each other and [for] their families, as all families do."

  • Some Republican lawmakers in both the House and Senate cited a report from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council. It concluded that 9 of the ten states with the strongest economies prohibited same-sex unions whereas the bottom 10 states all have laws that "deteriorate natural marriage." 2

  • Seventy-six CEOs in North Carolina signed a letter opposing the amendment. 3

Some of the readers' comments on an article in the Huffington Post -- a liberal news source -- were instructive and/or amusing: 2

  • Cable1977, whose slogan is "Against logic there is no armor like ignorance," wrote:
    "Thankfully we live in a constitutional republic where civil rights are not up to a simple democratic­, majority rules votes. We have this thing called a Constitution of the United States of America that supersedes a democratic vote. I know that is a difficult pill to swallow for those who want to be able to control the lives of others, but there are many other countries in this world that do not have such safeguards for minorities. Perhaps you should choose to live in one of them.

  • OlongapoEd wrote:
    "Homophobes have a totally self-serving concept of 'equal rights'."

  • Dragonofwessex62 wrote:
    "What's a HOMOPHOBE? What drugs do you treat it with?"

  • Contact1972 wrote:
    "You treat it with education."

  • r henry wrote:
    "This issue should never have gone to any ballot box. Civil rights are not historically decided by mob rule. Each and every one of these bans will one day be overturned. If ... people don't want a gay marriage, then no one is forcing them to have one." 2
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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Barry Smith, "GOP talks up marriage amendment," Freedom Communications, 2011-AUG-30, at:
  2. Tyler Kingkade, "North Carolina Puts Gay Marriage Ban On May 2012 Ballot," Huffington Post, 2011-SEP-13, at:
  3. Kevin Spak, "NC House OKs Vote on Gay Marriage Amendment," Newser, 2011-SEP-13, at:
  4. Laura Leslie, Fact-check: New marriage amendment not "exactly the same" as current law," WRAL, 2011-NOV-12, at: 

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First posted: 2011-AUG-31
Latest update: 2012-MAY-08
Author: B.A. Robinson

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