Activists continue to fight amendment

Although North Carolinians recently voted to ban same-sex marriage in the state, the measure may be challenged in court.

The amendment, which prohibits civil unions and same-sex marriage in the state constitution, will be placed in section six of Article 14. Passing with overwhelming support in a 61 percent to 39 percent vote, the amendment marks a victory for the Republican party, said Michael Munger, professor of political science and economics. Despite the landslide victory, movements to repeal the amendment on legal and social grounds are underway. Opponents of the amendment say that the legislature and statewide vote do not represent the actual sentiments of the state.

Many Internet petitions are already circulating, and people are mobilizing to elect more “fair-minded” officials to the state legislature in the November elections, said Ryan Butler, president of North Carolina LGBT Democrats.

On the state level, courts can repeal the amendment if it is determined to violate the equal protection and due process provisions already stipulated, said Kathryn Bradley, professor of the practice at the School of Law. It can also be overturned under federal constitutional law if the United States Supreme Court decides that same-sex marriage is mandated by the federal constitution.

One pressing concern facing state officials is whether state employees already in same-sex marriages will continue to receive health care benefits, Bradley said. Some municipalities, such as Durham, have determined that benefits remain valid under the amendment—others, such as Charlotte, have decided that those employees can no longer receive benefits. Such elimination of health care benefits could raise property rights issues that will have to be settled in court.

The passage of the amendment reflects not only the state’s conservative leanings on social issues, but also the state’s strong southern attachments, said Tess Chakkalakal, assistant professor of African and African-American studies.

“Amendment One was not just about preserving a specific definition of marriage,” Chakkalakal said. “It was also about North Carolina standing with its fellow southern states on a particularly divisive political issue.”

The amendment does not actually provide more protection for heterosexual marriage, Bradley said. Same-sex marriage was already banned prior to Amendment One, but only the North Carolina courts and legislature had the power to overturn the statute.

Given the conservative tendencies of the court toward statutes and family law and the Republican-controlled legislature, the statute was not likely to be overturned, Bradley added.

Munger said he does not think the amendment’s passage will alienate the amendment’s opponents. Those who had voted against the amendment would most likely not have voted for the Republican Party anyway.

He added that the majority of North Carolina voters—including both Republicans and Democrats—supported the amendment.

“It is a victory for the Republican Party,” Munger said. “It is a core, red meat constituency issue, [and] regardless of how you count the numbers, the substantial majority of voters were in favor of the amendment.”

Munger added that the passage was not likely to affect state party approval ratings, given that neither President Barack Obama nor Gov. Bev Perdue are popular in North Carolina.

“For the vast majority of people this issue is just not central to the reason they’re going to vote,” he said. “It’s going to be about the economy.”


Share and discuss “Activists continue to fight amendment” on social media.