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The North Carolina state senate approved on Tuesday legislation that would add an amendment to the ballot in 2012. North Carolina voters will vote to decide whether to amend the state constitution, banning same-sex marriage.
The amendment would prohibit legal recognition of any union besides marriage between one man and one woman, including civil unions and domestic partnerships for gay and straight couples. Local business leader Martin Eakes was at the capitol in Raleigh on Tuesday trying to argue against the amendment.
“This was one of the worst days that I’ve ever seen in my home state, and I’ve seen some pretty bad days over the past 25 years,” Eakes said of the vote to advance the amendment. Republican leaders in the state did not allow any public comments about the proposed legislation, speeding up the process of approving the ballot initiative.
The legislation was passed just 24 hours after it was introduced. The bill passed by a 30-16 vote in the state Senate, in which Republicans hold a 31-19 majority. Constitutional amendments do not have to be signed by the governor. North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat, likely would have vetoed the legislation if she were able to.
As it stands, the measure will be voted on during the 2012 primary election. “This is deeply disappointing and hurtful to thousands of North Carolina same-sex couples who simply want to be able to care for each other and their families, as all families do,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in a statement.
Although same-sex marriage is already banned in the state, a constitutional amendment would block any court challenges of the law on constitutional grounds. During floor debate, several Republicans stated that the amendment was required to prevent “activist judges” from overturning the marriage ban.
“Moms and dads are not interchangeable,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. James Forrester (R-Gaston), during floor debate. “Two dads don’t make a mom. Two moms don’t make a dad. Children need both a father and a mother.” The law could have unintended consequences for many unmarried couples, both gay and straight.
Maxine Eichner, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, and some of her colleagues prepared a report on the proposed amendment in June that outlined potential problems.
Even with the revisions made in the last week, Eichner said in an email, the amendment could still interfere with existing child custody and visitation rights and invalidate trusts, wills and end-of-life directives in favor of an unmarried partner, no matter the genders of the unmarried pair.
“The Amendment still has the potential to invalidate domestic violence protections for members of unmarried couples, as an Ohio court did with even narrower language in its state’s marriage amendment,” Eichner warned.