North Carolina votes to amend constitution to ban same-sex partnerships
May 9, 2012 | 6:33 pm
In a highly-anticipated election that LGBT communities nationwide tracked, sixty-one percent of North Carolinans voted to become the thirty-first state to pass a constitutional amendment banning all same-sex partnerships, including civil unions and domestic partnerships.
President Obama, who spoke against the proposed amendment earlier this year, was disappointed that the amendment passed, said Cameron French, spokesman for the Obama campaign in North Carolina.
“The President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples,” French said. “He believes the North Carolina measure singles out and discriminates against committed gay and lesbian couples, which is why he did not support it.”
Religious and social conservatives, including famous evangelist Billy Graham, campaigned hard to pass the amendment, but the impact that it will have is not yet clear. North Carolina had already had a law that banned same-sex partnerships on the book for sixteen years, and the language of the amendment is vague.
Holning Lau, an associate professor of law at the University of North Carolina who has written extensively on the implications of Amendment 1, said that “the language is very broad compared to other states. It is a common misconception that it would only affect same-sex marriage.”
A report by Lau and others concludes that it is “impossible to predict” how courts will resolve issues raised by the amendment’s vague language, such as protection for victims of domestic violence.
The report predicts it will take years of expensive litigation to determine the amendment’s impact. Moreover, “when the dust clears [all] unmarried couples would have fewer rights over their most important life decisions than they would have had otherwise”.
Duke law professor Mike Munger told The Charlotte Observer that the amendment may not achieve the goals that supporters desired.
“The screaming, excruciating paradox of all this is that supporters wanted to take this out of the judges’ hands. Clearly it will have the opposite effect,” Munger said. “…There will be litigation, and judges will have to decide what the darn thing means.”
Even the state House Speaker, who supported the amendment, expressed reservations about how long it would survive. Speaker Thom Tillis said he expects the amendment to be reversed within a generation as today’s young adults age.
On Wednesday, May 9, same-sex couples will ask for marriage licenses in Wilson and Durham, the start of a week-long campaign organized by Southern Equality called “We Do” protesting their inability to wed.