Voters in North Carolina passed a constitutional amendment last night that defines marriage as the legal union between a man and a woman. Amendment One, or the Defense of Marriage Act, not only outlaws same-sex marriage, which was already illegal in the state, it also bans domestic partnerships for gay or straight couples. With all counties reporting, the amendment was approved 61% to 39%.
North Carolina is the 30th state and the last state in the South to ban same-sex marriage through a constitutional amendment. Nearly a half million people voted early, a record number for a primary election in the state, and numbers at the polls were also unusually high, likely due to weeks of intense debate and fierce campaigning.
A group of family law professors from seven North Carolina universities say the measure is more restrictive than all but three other state marriage bans in the country. They say the extremely vague language of the amendment could be enacted very broadly, and could strip unmarried gay and straight couples of their rights to make emergency medical and financial decisions for incapacitated partners, as well as protections of unmarried partners from domestic abuse. It also threatens visitation rights, child custody, and health insurance benefits for unmarried couples.
Lawsuits are expected in response to the amendment. “When the dust clears,” the professors noted, unmarried couples will “have fewer rights over their most important life decisions.”
Jeremy Kennedy, campaign manager for the opposition to the amendment, Coalition to Protect All NC families, said after the vote, “We know that we pushed the needle forward; this is just a skirmish, a battle in the war that we will win.We gave everything we had.”
Media Resources: New York Times 5/9/12; Washington Post 5/9/12; Huffington Post 5/9/12; Los Angeles Times 5/9/12