2012 elections preview: Amendment 1 in the spotlight as sole ballot question in North Carolina primary
By: Eric Veram
The contentious measure was filed in the Senate on April 5, 2011, as SB 514, sponsored by Senator Peter S. Brunstetter. The bill garnered approval from both the House and the Senate, and was eventually ratified for the ballot on September 14, 2011.
The measure seeks to define marriage in the state constitution as between one man and one woman, and would ban any other type of "domestic legal union" such as civil unions and domestic partnerships. Although same-sex marriage is already illegal in the state, supporters say the amendment is necessary to prevent future legislatures or judges from changing the law.
The measure is supported in the legislature by a host of lawmakers, including, Senators James Forrester, Jerry W. Tillman, and Daniel Soucek and Representatives David Lewis, Sr., Rayne Brown, James Crawford, Jr., Paul Stam, Larry Brown, Mitch Gillespie, and Dewey Hill. In addition, the group Vote for Marriage NC has lent its support, as well as, the N.C. Values Coalition. The amendment has also received the support of some high profile religious figures, such as, Rev. Billy Graham and Catholic Bishops Peter Jugis of Charlotte and Michael Burbidge of Raleigh.
Supporters main argument for the amendment is that the issue is too important for the legislature or the courts to decide alone and that a vote on the matter is the fairest and most democratic solution. Sen. Stam argues that the state is not prepared to handle situations in which married same-sex couples move from other states and seek legal rights, like getting divorced. The response from religious leaders has been that the amendment is necessary to preserve the sanctity of marriage.
The measure is not without resistance, however, and in the general assembly, Representatives Larry Hall and Joe Hackney and Senator Kay Hagan oppose the measure. They are joined by the Coalition to Protect NC Families, Equality North Carolina, and the Human Rights Campaign. Governor Beverly Perdue has voiced opposition to the measure, and on the national level, President Barack Obama has come out against the measure describing it as among the "divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples" he has long opposed. In an open letter to state officials asking them to halt efforts to approve the proposed amendment over 75 North Carolina CEOs made their position known on September 12, 2011.
Opponents primarily argue that the amendment with have far reaching negative consequences beyond banning same-sex marriage in the state, such as reducing the legal options available to people in domestic partnerships. Rep. Larry Hall argued that "Instead of creating an environment where we can create employment, attract entrepreneurs (and) attract talent, we're going to try to put a sign up to say, 'You are not welcome if you want to contribute to our society.'" Others argue that the issue is waste of time and should not be more important to the state than fixing the economy.
Amendment 1's placement on ballot
The North Carolina Constitution, Section 4 of Article XIII, requires that a legislatively-referred amendment go on the ballot after it is approved by a 60% vote of each house of the North Carolina State Legislature.
On September 12, 2011 the House voted 75-42 in favor of referring the proposed amendment to the statewide ballot. The State Senate echoed the House with a 30-16 approval vote a day later on September 13, 2011.
The following timeline highlights events related to the measure:
|SB 106||Feb. 22, 2011||SB 106 filed in the Senate|
|SB 514||April 5, 2011||SB 514 filed in the Senate|
|HB 777||April 6, 2011||HB 777 filed in the House|
|House vote||Sept. 12, 2011||North Carolina House of Representatives votes 75-42 in favor on SB 514|
|Senate vote||Sept. 13, 2011||North Carolina Senate votes 30-16 in support on SB 514|
|Explanation prepared||March 1, 2012||NC Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission prepares explanation of measure for media and election boards.|
What will appear on the ballot
The official language as it will appear before voters reads:
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.
[ ] FOR [ ] AGAINST
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- The News & Observer, "North Carolina senator wants gay marriage ban in state's Constitution," March 1, 2012
- Winston-Salem Journal,"Same-sex marriage back on N.C. front burner," September 18, 2011
- News Observer, "N.C. House OKs amendment banning gay marriage," September 13, 2011
- NBC 17 "NC Catholic Bishops denounce Obama's stance on Amendment 1," March 26, 2012
- News Record, "Marriage Amendment committees," December 1, 2011
- Huffington Post, "Obama Opposes Amendment One, North Carolina Ballot Question Banning Gay Marriage," accessed March 16, 2012
- Charlotte Observer,"Business leaders to lawmakers: Focus on jobs, not marriage," September 12, 2011
- The Washington Independent,"Anti-gay marriage amendment heads to N.C. ballot without public input," September 13, 2011
- North Carolina General Assembly,"SB 514 full text," accessed September 13, 2011