10 things about Amendment 1

by Brian Clarey

10 things about Amendment 1

It is not “Amendment 1” The ballot initiative that has come to be known as “Amendment 1,” which would define marriage in North Carolina strictly as between one man and one woman on our state constitution, is not technically Amendment 1.

If passed, it would be added to Article XIV, labeled “Miscellaneous,” under newly added Section 6. It has nothing to do with the First Amendment of the US Constitution, the right of free speech. This is but one of the many confusing things about this ballot initiative.

What the proposed amendment says

“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.”

What it will look like on the ballot

“Constitutional amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”

It is already a law

Chapter 51 of the NC General Statutes deals entirely with marriage. The first sentence reads: “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, freely, seriously and plainly expressed by each in the presence of the other….” It was enacted in 1996.

What’s the difference?

State law already defines marriage as between a man and a woman. But the proposed constitutional amendment pushes this further, stating that “marriage” is the only domestic legal union recognized by the state. This means that there will be no more civil unions — even if the partners are of opposite sexes. It will dissolve all existing civil unions. And companies and governments will no longer be allowed to offer same-sex partner benefits like healthcare and life insurance.

What else will it do?

Because the language is so vague, the proposed amendment could affect domestic violence laws, child-custody issues, hospital visitations and end-of-life situations.

For or against

If you vote against the amendment, you are voting that it not be added to our state constitution — that you do not want marriage further defined and restricted. If you vote for it, you are voting that only properly married male-female couples will be legally recognized as unions by the state.

It is not a vote to legalize gay marriage

Amendment 1 is not an amendment to legalize gay marriage.

Why is it on the primary ballot now?

Good question, especially since most North Carolinians feel that our most pressing issues involve jobs and industry. But social issues like this serve a purpose: They bring people to the polls on both sides, plus they drive a wedge into the electorate, turning us against each other. It is on the primary ballot because the Republicans who sponsored it thought that GOP turnout in the primary would outweigh the Democrats, but that was before Mitt Romney became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and Bev Perdue dropped out of the governor’s race, necessitating a Democrat primary. It’s also a bone thrown to religious conservatives who feel anxiety about change.

The numbers

Public Policy Polling’s most recent numbers say that 54 percent of North Carolinians support this amendment, but that 63 percent do not fully understand it — 10 percent of those polled actually believe that the amendment actually legalizes gay marriage. Forty-four percent believe that there should be no legal recognition for gay couples. And 46 percent said they would vote against it if it banned civil unions — which it indeed does.