April 28, 2012
I get it! There are a number of individuals in North Carolina, perhaps a significant majority, that wish to ensure that the only ‘marriage’ recognized by the State is one that unites a man and a woman. These same individuals want to make sure that future legislatures cannot change the current law outlawing same sex marriage: they want the issue settled once and for all. Given the historical context of ‘marriage’ as a religious as well as civil affair , I can understand the desires of those who wish to ensure that the state does not sanctify same sex relationships by allowing such couples to be married.
But the Amendment we are voting on next week calls for more than a straightforward ban on gay marriage. It states that ‘marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that should be recognized by this State’. As such it not only outlaws formal ‘civil unions’-legal understandings that provide the same similar spousal powers and rights that come with marriage- but also opens to judicial interpretation the legality of trusts, wills, and end-of-life directives [which are not private contracts] involving an unmarried partners. It will also invalidate domestic partner benefits offered by some North Carolina municipalities. Thirty states have passed marriage amendments. Ten State amendments only ban same-sex marriage, while another seventeen ban both same sex marriage and civil unions. Although not a lawyer, it appears to me that only two states have gone as far as North Carolina in banning any marriage-like contracts between unmarried persons.
To my way of thinking, the proposed Amendment thus goes out of its way to send a message to gays and lesbians that they are to be considered second class citizens by the State and, by implication that their interests might be better served by living elsewhere. The Amendment was carefully worded. Its language, while subtle, is stark. What agreements between two men or two women that will be recognized as legal is problematical. Who would want to enter into ‘spousal’ agreements, not knowing whether these will found to be legally binding if challenged in court at some future date. If you want to send a message to gays and lesbians that they are not welcome in North Carolina than by all means vote yes. It is your right as a citizen. If you think the amendment is only about the sanctity of marriage than think again before you vote.