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Opposition to Amendment One is broad and bipartisan

By Mike Meno

When the North Carolina General Assembly voted late last year – without much notice or any public testimony – to place on the May 8 ballot a constitutional amendment that would make marriage between a man and woman the only legally protected relationship in the state, the move was met with widespread outrage from civil rights groups. Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and Equality North Carolina condemned the proposed amendment as an assault on basic freedoms, and hundreds of North Carolinians rallied outside the State Capitol to protest the General Assembly’s vote for what is now known as Amendment One.

As more people have learned about Amendment One’s many unintended consequences and far-reaching harms, from jeopardizing the health insurance of children raised by unmarried couples to endangering domestic-violence protections for unmarried women, the number of voices speaking out in opposition has only grown. Bank of America executives have warned that Amendment One’s ban on domestic-partner benefits would be bad for business and detrimental to North Carolina’s competitiveness in an unstable economy. Child-welfare advocates have voiced concerns that Amendment One would threaten existing health care and parental custody for thousands of children being raised by loving but unmarried couples, both gay and straight. Religious leaders from many different faiths have denounced Amendment One’s divisiveness and the harm it would cause to countless families. And North Carolina NAACP President William Barber has condemned any attempt to write discrimination against a class of people into the state constitution, a document that is designed to defend people’s rights, not diminish them.

Today, more than 120 organizations, congregations and businesses from across the state have joined together to fight Amendment One as the Coalition to Protect All NC Families, and a poll released Monday by Elon University shows that a majority of North Carolina residents are opposed to Amendment One.

Unfortunately, most other polls have shown that a slim majority of likely voters would still vote for the amendment on May 8, largely because many voters remain confused or uninformed about all the amendment’s potential harms. “When voters are informed that the amendment bans both gay marriage and civil unions their tune changes quite a bit,” says Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling, adding that, “It’s just going to take a lot of education and effort over the final [five] weeks to make sure voters really understand exactly what they’re voting on.”

But as May 8 draws closer, the chorus of opposition to Amendment One continues to grow louder – and now even includes many respected voices from the conservative end of the political spectrum. John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think-tank, recently wrote that amending North Carolina’s constitution to ban civil unions “is unwise and unfair.” North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, another prominent conservative, recently said, “Any provision that has to be put into the ‘miscellaneous’ section of the constitution immediately raises questions about whether it should be in the state constitution. It’s probably not a provision that ought to be in.” The Libertarian Party of North Carolina has opposed the amendment as an assault on individual liberty and the freedom of private individuals to make decisions about their own life and family. U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-Dunn), recently ranked as North Carolina’s most conservative representative in Congress, and Republican Richard Vinroot, former mayor of Charlotte and GOP candidate for governor, have also said they plan to vote against Amendment One for similar reasons.

Even North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg), who helped shepherd Amendment One’s passage through the General Assembly, says he has some philosophical reservations about the amendment because “we’re the party of limited government. We always have to be mindful of the extent to which we exercise the control of government and holding true to this concept of really limiting the control that government has over people’s lives.”

Noting the rising “generational” support for protecting the rights of gays and lesbians in North Carolina and nationally, Tillis said that even if Amendment One passes, it will be repealed within 20 years.

The fact that such statements are coming from a chief backer of Amendment One speaks volumes. Constitutions are designed to protect rights and stand the test of time. So why would anyone support amending North Carolina’s constitution with a controversial measure they believe would last fewer than 20 years?

Luckily, our state doesn’t have to wait that long to strike down Amendment One. That’s because the opposition to this short-sighted and discriminatory measure – from all political persuasions and all parts of the state – is gaining increased momentum every day.

The more people understand Amendment One’s many harms, the more people realize that North Carolina should not go down this road.

On May 8, please cast a vote to protect all families and children in North Carolina, and vote against Amendment One.

Mike Meno is the communications manager for the ACLU of North Carolina.

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  1. Bob Bollinger

    As a lawyer, I have studied this amendment. I am convinced that it will in fact abrogate most of our Chapter 50B civil domestic violence protective order law for most vicitms of domestic violence. Because the Amendment states that the “only” domestic relationship that will be “recognized or valid” in our state is a marriage between a man and a woman, the various relationships that are specifically and expressly protected in Chapter 50B– dating relationships, ex-spouses, people who have a child together–will no longer be eligible for protection under that law if this Amendment passes.

    That means that a woman who is beaten by her ex-husband will not be able to go to District Court, fill out a few forms, pay a little money, and get an emergency, temporary or permanent restraining order against the abuser. A young woman enrolled at the University, such as the late domestic violence victim Yeardly Love of UVA, would not be able to go to court without a lawyer and get those restraining orders against an abusive boyfriend. Why? Because the Amendment says that those relationships are not “valid or recognized” in our law. The Courts have no power to protect relationships that are not “valid or recognized” in the law. An Amendment trumps a mere statute such as 50B, which is why we need to be very careful when we amend our Constitution. If this thing passes, neither the Courts nor the legislature can fix it. It can only be fixed with another statewide vote.