North Carolina voters pass amendment banning same-sex unions

The Takeaway

North Carolina voters went to the polls on Tuesday and approved 61 percent t 39 percent a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages, as well as civil unions and domestic partnerships for all couples.

The last time North Carolina voters enshrined a marriage-related provision in their constitution, it was to ban interracial marriage. It was repealed in a 1967 United States Supreme Court civil rights case

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue said she believes the amendment is a violation of civil rights.

“Whatever your personal moral or religious views may be, writing discrimination into North Carolina’s constitution is just plain wrong,” Perdue said.

Dan Soucek, a Republican state senator and co-sponsor of the amendment, said that while same-sex marriage was already illegal in the state, banning it in the constitution makes overturning the ban more difficult, because state judges can’t as easily overturn a constitutional amendment.

“With a law, it would be possible for a rogue judge to overturn the will of the elected people — the elected representatives of the people of North Carolina, and there were already situations where people were judge shopping to try to find a judge to do that,” Soucek said. “And we thought the best possible process would be for the people of North Carolina to vote on what their constitution in their state was going to say the definition of marriage was.”

While recent polls have indicated more Americans support same-sex marriage than oppose it, Soucek said he doesn’t believe the amendment will be overturned anytime soon.

“You have a poll that talks about what the majority of Americans think, but I think the most telling poll is what the voting blocks have said,” Soucek said. “Over 63% of Americans, when going to the polls to vote on this, have favored traditional marriage, and that’s the average across the 31 states that have approved this. So I think that’s the most important poll, is what people think.”

While much of the attention surrounding the amendment has centered on same-sex marriage, Kareem Crayton, associate professor of law at the University of North Carolina, explained that it affects all domestic partnerships.

“Somehow, between the initial plan that was devised in the House in North Carolina and the time it found its way onto the ballot as Amendment 1, the language tended to expand to any question involving a domestic relationship, and a domestic relationship would be a domestic relationship by either a differently-sex couple or a same-sex couple,” Crayton said. “I think most of the recent debate about the amendment going too far was that it expanded the prohibition to affect relationships that most people thought were pretty much intact.”

Soucek believes this situation is different than the interracial marriage amendment because he doesn’t view same-sex marriage as a civil right.

“The way you’re born, a man or a female, or the race you’re born, is something you’re born with. The decisions you have of who you marry is a decision you choose, and so I think there is a fundamental difference. The state is the extension of the people of a state — we live in a representative republic — when they say this is a privilege which is beneficial to society, it is different from something you’re fundamentally born with,” Soucek said.

While the 500,000 voter turnout was a record for a North Carolina primary, Crayton said he found the process of the amendment’s passage to be curious.

“It’s important to remember that this particular ballot measure was put on during a primary, where only about a third of the registered voters actually showed up to cast ballots, which isn’t to say this is an illegitimate outcome. Obviously the majority of people decided what they did in this election. However, it does raise the interesting question as to why this was pursued in the May rather than the November ballot, where traditionally we find significantly higher levels of turnout. So if the people were to have a conversation, you would think more people rather than fewer people would be, you know, good to be involved in the process,” Crayton said.

Same-sex marriage will likely be a key issue in the upcoming presidential election as well. President Barack Obama and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney have been vague in their opinions of the issue, but Obama was expected to address the question head on in an interview with ABC Wednesday afternoon.

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