North Carolina voters will decide on May 8 whether to add to their state constitution an anti-gay amendment so radical it would put California’s Prop. 8 in the shade.
Amendment One provides that “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.” Unlike anti-same-sex marriage measures that have been passed in many other states, most of which leave the door open to civil unions and domestic partnerships, the North Carolina measure appears to prohibit any governmental recognition of any kind of same-sex relationship. N.C. currently bars same-sex marriage by statute, but is the only state in the Southeast without an anti-gay marriage provision in its constitution.
The measure could also strip children of unmarried parents of health coverage, interfere with unmarried couples’ hospital visitation rights and emergency medical decisions, abolish domestic violence protections and harm seniors, according to Protect All North Carolina Families, a coalition organized to fight Amendment One.
Currently, 56 percent of North Carolina voters support the measure, with only 34 percent opposed, according to a January survey by Public Policy Polling, the Charlotte Observer reported Feb. 29.
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, an organization labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, says prospects for the amendment look “very, very favorable.”
But public opinion might be changing. “North Carolinians are increasingly having doubts” about the proposed amendment, PPP’s Tom Jensen wrote Jan. 12, according to an email from the anti-Amendment One campaign. “When PPP first polled on [the measure] in October, 61 percent of voters said they would support it.”
Despite the shift, Amendment One opponents regard the situation as urgent and have asked for help from all quarters. At a Human Rights Campaign event in Charlotte, on Feb. 26, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius came out against Amendment One, adding, “I know there’s an important election in early May in North Carolina. ... And I think it’s a great template for what needs to be done to organize people and turn out people for November,” the Charlotte Observer reported.
Charlotte’s Democratic Mayor Anthony Foxx also criticized Amendment One, pledging to vote against it.
The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President of the North Carolina NAACP, voiced strong opposition to Amendment One in a Sept. 9, 2011, “Open Letter to All North Carolinians.” “Our mission for 102 years has been to achieve equality of rights and eliminate prejudice among the people of the United States,” he wrote. “A vote on the same-sex marriage amendment has nothing to do with your personal opinion on same-sex marriage but everything to do with whether or not you believe discrimination should be codified and legalized constitutionally. ... No matter our color. No matter our faith tradition. Those who stand for love and justice are not about to fall for their trick. No matter how you feel personally about same-sex marriage, no one, especially those of us whose forebears were denied constitutional protections and counted as 3/5 of a vote for their slave-masters and mere chattel property for other purposes in the old Constitutions—none of us should ever want to deny any other person constitutional protections.”
While not expressly opposing Amendment One, Duke University, in a Feb. 17 press release, summarized its historical support of LGBT rights, concluding with the statement, “[W]e stand alongside the LGBT community in seeking a more equal world.”
Blogger Pam Spaulding, of Pam’s House Blend on Firedoglake, who works at Duke University, writes that this is a big deal. “As a member of the university’s staff, I have my wife Kate registered as a same-sex spousal equivalent. It is essential to have this benefit in our family because it provides a measure of security that Kate cannot [provide] for me—as a state employee, she not only cannot put me on her benefits package should I lose my job, but she can actually be fired for being gay. Yes, in 2012, we don’t have even have those basic protections or benefits at the state level.
“But I do at Duke, which is the largest employer in the area,” Spaulding continues, “as do many other residents of N.C. who are employed by private institutions and companies that have anti-discrimination policies and offer same-sex spousal equivalent benefits. The discussion about whether this is the right thing to do is over for these organizations. The fact that we have a retrograde legislature that is decades behind major employers and obsessed with restricting rights of LGBT North Carolinians is a depressing reality, and it manifests itself with Amendment One, which would permanently bar any legal relationship recognition of same-sex couples, and eliminate the domestic partnership ordinances that several municipalities and counties in the state currently have in place.”
The conservative Carolina Review came out against Amendment One in a Jan. 25 article entitled “Conservatives, Vote Against the N.C. Marriage Amendment,” reasoning that the measure “seems to threaten individual liberty, and exemplifies a government overstepping its bounds, which should trouble any conservative that prizes freedom and limited government.”
The battle against Amendment One remains decidedly uphill. Donations to help fight the measure may be made at the Protect ALL N.C. Families website, protectncfamilies.org. The site also enables people to volunteer remotely, as well as share their campaign video, Momentum.