by Jim Edsall
On May 8, 2012, voters in North Carolina voted to adopt a Marriage Amendment to the state constitution, becoming the 31st state to adopt a marriage amendment. The potential legal effects of the amendment have been misrepresented by those who opposed it. Opponents of the amendment claim that the language of the amendment precludes rights and benefits for same-sex couples. The ballot stated simply:
“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”, and then, “For” or “Against”.
However, the entire text of the amendment, which will now become Article 14, Section 6, of the North Carolina Constitution, reads as follows:
“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. 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” (Italics added).
The italicized section was specifically included to preserve the rights and benefits of same-sex couples to enter into contractual arrangements that will allow them to name their partner as beneficiary of employee benefits, attorney-in-fact under a Medical Power of Attorney permitting hospital visitation and health decisions, and beneficiary of a Trust or Will, and to resolve child custody issues, and other matters.
Opponents further claimed that the amendment would deny same-sex couples protection under domestic violence laws. This was based on an Ohio case where a live-in partner was initially denied rights under domestic violence laws. A lower court ruled that the victim’s relationship with her abusive partner could not be recognized as “domestic” due to their status of being unmarried. However, that ruling has since been reversed, granting the rights that opponents still claim will be denied.
Prior to the vote, opponents claimed that the current North Carolina Marriage Statute (NCGS 51) was sufficient to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. Bill Clinton made that claim in robocalls to North Carolinians. However, that claim is false. A statute can be repealed by a future legislature, or can be overturned as unconstitutional by a judge. A law cannot be overturned by a future state legislature or judge if it has been added to the state constitution.
For more information regarding the NC Marriage Amendment, click on the following link to an article by Paul Stam, NC House Majority Leader, entitled “What Does the Marriage Amendment Do?” posted at NCValues. org.
Author’s Note: Of high importance to me personally is the definition of marriage provided by Jesus himself (He is the Big Guy), “From the beginning, God created them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall be united to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. Therefore, what God has put together let man not separate.” Matthew 19:4-6.