North Carolina Passes Gay Marriage Ban

nccapitol.jpgUnacceptable. North Carolina voters have passed for an amendment to the constitution that prohibits same-sex marriage.

(flickr: jimmywayne)



As expected, North Carolinians voted in large numbers on Tuesday for an amendment that would ban same-sex marriages, partnerships and civil unions, becoming the 30th state in the country and the last in the South to include a prohibition on gay marriage in the state constitution.

About half a million people voted early, a record for a primary in the state, and turnout on Tuesday appeared to have been unusually high for a primary as well. The amendment was on the ballot along with other party primary races, some of them closely contested.

The vote came after weeks of heated debate in church pews and over the airwaves. Over $3 million was spent on the rival campaigns, ministers formed coalitions pushing for and against passage, cities passed resolutions condemning the measure, former President Bill Clinton and the Rev. Billy Graham weighed in on opposite sides and law professors skirmished over the consequences. 

North Carolina, a religious but also relatively moderate state on social issues, already has a law banning same-sex marriage. But Republican lawmakers pushed an amendment out of concern that the law was in danger of being struck down by judges.

While public opinion is shifting rapidly across the country and same-sex marriage continues to achieve legal recognition state by state, polls in North Carolina before the vote showed a narrowing but comfortable margin for passage.

Opponents tried to fight the polling gap with money — raising almost twice as much as the amendment supporters — and a robust network of volunteers and get-out-the-vote staff.

Jeremy Kennedy, the campaign manager for the main opposition group, Coalition to Protect All NC Families, said that opponents of the amendment had studied the fate of the so-called personhood amendment in Mississippi, which was defeated in November not because the electorate supported abortion rights but largely due to concerns that the amendment’s language was far too broad and could have unintended consequences.

The amendment declares that “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”

A group of family law professors across the state called the language vague and untested, and warned that, in addition to applying to all variations of same-sex unions, it could also apply to the more than 150,000 straight couples in the state who live together but are unmarried. This could invalidate domestic-violence protections, undercut child custody arrangements and jeopardize hospital visitation rights, they said.

Three law professors from Campbell University, a Baptist college about 30 miles south of Raleigh, came out with a paper contesting this analysis, saying that this “much broader view of the amendment and its consequences has little support in the amendment’s language or context, or in court decisions from North Carolina or other states.”

Polling showed that feelings about the issue were divided in North Carolina as they are across much of the nation: along generational lines, with younger voters opposed to the amendment.

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