No Promised Concession in NC Gay Marriage Amendment


The North Carolina Legislature recently passed a constitutional amendment to codify the state’s existing ban on same-sex marriage, but the exact language of the question which has always been a source of concern appears even more restrictive than what the Republican leadership had said would be put before voters.

Indeed, this version of the constitutional amendment would appear to ban not just same-sex marriage and civil unions but also domestic partnerships regardless of sexual orientation.

Amendment 1 that will appear on the May 8 primary ballot asks voters to decide for or against a constitutional amendment “to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”

The ballot question’s second sentence was supposed to add that the amendment doesn’t prohibit businesses from offering benefits to domestic partners so the question would have read:

“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.”

Several legal commentators expressed concern that even this version of the amendment was too open ended. With the ballot question now stripped of its second sentence it appears the amendment has become even more overreaching and potentially harmful, though the GOP leadership disagrees.


House Republican Leader Paul “Skip” Stam, a leading architect of the amendment, said it won’t make a difference. “The sentence is not even strictly necessary because that’s the effect of the first sentence anyway,” he said.

Michael Gerhardt, a constitutional law expert at UNC-Chapel Hill, said it’s not just semantics. It opens the amendment to further legal challenge and interpretation by the courts – and the courts would likely favor what appeared on the ballot, he said.

Ten Democrats voted with nearly all House Republicans to pass the amendment in a 75-42 vote. The Senate vote came down to a 30-16 majority, over the three fifths needed to send the question to the voters in a May 8, 2012, referendum.

Democrats who voted for the amendment have now said that they did not notice the difference in the question until a few days after the vote, perhaps indicating (though too little too late now) that they might have voted differently.

Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue is said to have expressed disappointment that the Legislature is “wasting time” with the marriage amendment, however the governor is not capable of vetoing this measure due to the procedural rules surrounding constitutional amendments.

This comes after House Majority Leader Paul Stam. R-Wake, and Minority Whip Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, participated in a debate on the amendment question at the University of North Carolina law school in Chapel Hill this week.

Stam provoked condemnation from LGBT rights advocates when he said the amendment was about protecting child welfare and that it is necessary to have limits on marriage in order to keep the integrity of the institution. You can hear a video of his comments here. Stam, prior to the debate, also likened gay marriage to allowing incest and bestiality.

The North Carolina GOP has already been criticized for the way in which it pushed this amendment through the Legislature. This latest controversy will do little to dissuade that the Republican leadership is being underhanded in how it approaches codifying the state’s ban on same-sex marriage — a move that a majority of North Carolina’s voters have indicated that they reject.

Related Reading:

NC Anti-Gay Amendment Heads to the Ballot

NC House Passes Gay Marriage Ban

Facebook Co-Founder Slams NC Anti-Gay Amendment

Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to brainchildvn.


K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Dianne Robertson
Dianne Robertson6 years ago

This is why we need to have a national law to over rule the obvious civil rights issues being abridged here and in other stupid states.No wonder GOVERNER Bev Perdue is "DISSAPOINTED" I would have used a less dignified word!

helen r.
helen r6 years ago

NC should be ashamed of this. Talk about going backwards.

Penny C.
penny C6 years ago


Michael C.
Michael C.6 years ago

North Carolina is making a big mistake and it's going to come back to haunt them through business. Many businesses who have headquarters in NC are already coming under fire from employees and clients for remaining in NC. Because of their diversity, Bank of America is already looking into relocation of their headquarters from Charlotte. Several other companies have made similar statements. As is the typical history of this state, the bigots and ignorant back woods hicks will continue to take us down when we make a few steps forward. Sad.

Emanuel v.
Emanuel v.6 years ago

Get a life by being married to the opposite sex and have a baby. Sex is for making babies just incase you had n't noticed or haven't been told about the birds and the bees. Sex between same sex is deviant and is not realy sex its pretend sex and does not deserve the same status as a committed hetero relationship based on the reproductive force. Although I agree that homos should be protected like everyone else from harrassmenet I don't like the fact that they are made out to be heros and anything special in that they are an anti life lot.

Jesica De Beer
Jen Debeer6 years ago

I can not sign this petition.

Ellen Mccabe
Ellen m6 years ago

Its bad enough they want to deny civil unions to the GBLT community, but when the want to prevent anyone from living with a partner, their tin hats must be killing brain cells at a very rapid pace.
I wish these guys would just shrivel up and blow away, they make me sick.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago

All those hollier than thou folks in NC should be ashamed of themselves.

Beth M.
Beth M6 years ago

NC doesn't care about it's animals or its people.