But What Does it Do? North Carolina’s Amendment 1

As reported today on Joe. My. God., not many people really understand what North Carolina’s discriminatory Amendment 1 does:

The problem for opponents is that only 40% of voters actually know that the amendment bans both gay marriage and civil unions. With those voters the amendment is failing by a 60-38 margin. But with voters who think all the amendment does is ban gay marriage, 27% of the electorate, it’s passing by a 72-27 margin. And with voters who admit they don’t actually know what the amendment does, 26% of the electorate, it leads by a 64-28 margin. The more voters understand the full implications of the amendment the less likely they are to support it, but the clock is ticking. When we informed poll respondents the amendment banned both gay marriage and civil unions and then asked how they would vote, only 38% continued to support it with 46% opposed. (source)

Equality Matters also has an excellent article on how Amendment 1 could also effect domestic violence protections. The article highlights the potential problems that Amendment 1 could cause as noted by University of North Carolina law professor Maxine Eichner via email:

First, as indicated in the “Statement from Family Law Professors,” which was signed by family law professors from every law school across the state, every one of us believes that the Amendment One threatens domestic violations protections for unmarried couples, whether they are same-sex or opposite-sex.

Second, no one whatsoever – whether they be a district attorney or a law professor – can say with absolute certainty that the amendment will or will not impact domestic violence protections.  That is because courts will have the ultimate say on what the amendment means.  And at this time, the amendment’s prohibition on “domestic legal unions” has not been interpreted by courts in this state or any other state.

Third, in Ohio after the state passed a more-narrowly drawn amendment than our own, courts dismissed domestic violence charges or overturned them on appeal in at least 30 cases.  Domestic violence protections in that state were thrown into chaos for almost three years.  At that point, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that domestic violence protections for unmarried couples did not violate the Ohio amendment.  It did that, however, based on the narrower language of the Ohio amendment, which barred the state only from recognizing a legal status that “approximates” marriage.  Our amendment’s language, though, bars any recognition of “domestic legal unions,” not simply those that approximate marriage.  If a North Carolina court applied the same rationale as the Ohio Supreme Court to our amendment’s language, domestic violence protections for unmarried partners would be struck down.

Fourth, the written statement from prosecutors and law enforcement officials that our domestic violence protections do not depend on the marital status of the victim is certainly accurate based on current North Carolina law.  The relevant question is whether it will still be accurate if the amendment passes.  The North Carolina Constitution, as the state’s fundamental legal document, invalidates state law that conflicts with it. [emphasis added]

The statment that is emphasized in the last paragraph is one that sould give us all pause. The truth of the matter is that Amendment 1 may cause problems for domestic violence protections or it may not. This uncertainty is the best reason of all to vote down this Amendment. We don’t want to wake up sometime after May 8th and find out ‘oopsie, we didn’t foreseethathappening.’ North Carolina, don’t wait until after May 8th to find out what this amendment does. Vote it down.

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