Polk mirrors state on Amendment 1

Published 4:55 pm Thursday, April 5, 2012

A sign supporting Amendment 1 is displayed in the back of a pickup truck outside the courthouse during Monday’s Polk County Board of Commissioners meeting. (photo by Leah Justice)

The marriage amendment referendum North Carolina voters will see on the ballot during the May 8 primary has been argued in Polk County and all over the state this week. Many of those discussions include peoples’ ideas of what the amendment will actually mean.
Although sponsors of the amendment argue that the amendment will simply place North Carolina’s current ban on same-sex marriage into the state constitution, others say the amendment as proposed will also restrict opposite sex couples who have chosen not to marry from receiving benefits of domestic partnerships.
The proposed amendment to the N.C. Constitution, enacted by the 2011 General Assembly in S.L. 201 1-409, reads, “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.”
State law can be changed by legislation, but by law, constitutional amendments have to be voted on by the people. If the amendment is approved by the voters, under state law it can be changed only by another vote of the people.
Similar amendments have been passed in 30 other states. North Carolina is the only southern state whose constitution does not  include an amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. In every state where a marriage amendment has been placed on the ballot, voters have approved it.
Current N.C. law, enacted in 1996, says marriages between individuals of the same sex are not valid in North Carolina. The amendment would make that concept part of the N.C. Constitution, which would ban any judge from determining that denying same sex marriage is against the state constitution.
The term “domestic legal union” used in the amendment is not currently defined in North Carolina law, which has caused debate among legal experts as to how the amendment may affect unmarried couples of the same or opposite sex and same sex couples legally married in another state, particularly in regard to employment-related benefits for domestic partners, domestic violence laws, child custody and visitation rights and end-of-life arrangements.
The courts will make those decisions.

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