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Some Facts on the Marriage Amendment

Correction: This article initially – and incorrectly – reported that 25 percent of those attending the Vote For Marriage NC grassroots rally at the Watauga High School last week opposed the Marriage Protection Amendment. That was based on a overestimate previously reported by the High Country Press – and not the fault of the author of this article. A more accurate figure is listed below. High Country Press apologizes for the error and any confusion it may have caused. 

By Bernadette Cahill

The battle for North Carolina’s Marriage Protection Amendment has seriously heated up in the High Country in the past ten days, with Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties endorsing it; while at a meeting this past Tuesday, about 125 people appeared in Watauga High School for the Vote For Marriage NC rally organized by Three Forks Baptist Association and Mount Vernon Baptist Church of Boone. More than a dozen people who attended supported Amendment 1. The amendment is on the ballot for the May 8 primary.

Like all such measures, both sides express strong opinions for and against. Here, the High Country Press presents some facts – not an exhaustive list – relating to the marriage amendment.

The Amendment

Fact #1.           The resolution on the ballot does not include the whole text of the amendment. That text, taken directly from the Act reads:

SECTION 1. Article 14 of the North Carolina Constitution is amended by adding the following new section:

Sec. 6. Marriage.

Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.”

Click to: http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/Sessions/2011/Bills/Senate/PDF/S514v5.pdf

Polling Data

Fact #2.           A March poll on the marriage amendment released on March 29, found that it would pass, with 58% of voters in the state saying they’ll vote yes, while 38% would vote no. 51% of these same voters support some form of legal recognition for gay couples’ relationships, either full marriage or civil unions.

Fact # 3.          The same poll also found that 34% of voters say they don’t know exactly what the amendment does. 31% said that the Amendment One bans both gay marriage and civil unions. 28% think that it only bans gay marriage.7% think that it legalizes gay marriage.

Fact #4.           The same poll also found that, once voters realize what Amendment 1 could do, only 41% say they’ll support it while 42% oppose it.

Click to http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2012/03/north-carolinians-support-but-dont-understand-marriage-amendment.html.

Amendment Support

Fact #5.           Not all churches support the amendment. The High Country United Church of Christ has set up a webpage that promotes voting against Amendment One, including a new FAQ section. Click to www.highcountryucc.org/amendment-one. Click also to Vote For Marriage NC at www.voteformarriagenc.com for information from those who support it.

Some More Numbers

Fact #6.           The North Carolinians that Amendment One would likely affect are the nearly 450,000 individuals comprising the 222,800 unmarried couples in North Carolina reported in the 2010 U.S. Census. As this represents an increase of 55% unmarried couples in the past decade, this group could grow significantly in the coming years if this trend continues. Of these unmarried cohabitant households, 88% were opposite-sex; 12% were same-sex. 

See: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census Summary File, Unmarried-Partner Households by Sex of Partner; U.S. Census Bureau, 2000 Census Summary File, Unmarried-Partner Households by Sex of Partner, quoted in link for Fact #8. 

Legal Impact

Fact #7.           North Carolina already prohibits same-sex marriage and common-law marriage.

N.C. GEN. STAT. § 51-1 states, “A valid and sufficient marriage is created by the consent of a male and female person who may lawfully marry, presently to take each other as husband and wife. . .”; while N.C. GEN STAT. § 51-1.2 states, “Marriages, whether created by common law, contracted, or performed outside of North Carolina, between individuals of the same gender are not valid in North Carolina.” Quoted in link in next section.

Fact #8.           Some North Carolina lawyers have expressed serious concern that the potential reach of Amendment One is unclear and that, over time, its impact could be so broad that the amendment would cause legal confusion and potential hardship to people in unmarried couple households. For example, the language of the Amendment would restrict protections for all unmarried couples, whether they are straight or same-sex. In addition to prohibiting same-sex marriage, the Amendment

* would prohibit North Carolina from passing a civil unions law in the future;

* would bar the state from creating a domestic partnership status for same-sex couples that would give them some lesser range of protections than married couples;

*would eliminate the domestic partner insurance benefits currently offered to their employees by a number of local governments.

The lawyers are concerned that courts could interpret the language of the Amendment to restrict many more protections for unmarried couples, whether they are straight or same-sex and the problem is that no one can say for certain what could happen.  Click to http://www.law.unc.edu/documents/faculty/marriageamendment/dlureportnov8.pdf

Potential Reach of the Amendment

Fact #9.           Workers with victims of domestic violence are concerned that, because other states that have passed similar amendments have experienced negative consequences and uncertainty in the application of domestic violence laws and protections for unmarried victims of domestic violence, the same problems would happen in North Carolina and leave victims of domestic violence even more vulnerable than they are just now. Click to http://nccadv.org/legislative_agenda.htm