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North Carolina Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment 1: Jim Crow 2.0

A high school student, Joe Calder, gets it. Unfortunately it looks like the majority of North Carolinians are poised to vote with the state’s religious homophobes and write discrimination into their constitution today:

“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.” So would read the Constitution of North Carolina come May 9, should the people of the state choose to vote (in simple majority) “aye” on Amendment 1. It would seem that the question facing North Carolina is such: Do we want to be remembered as a state that does not just implicitly, but also explicitly, discriminates against people on the basis of sexual orientation? I am appalled. I am shocked, and most of all, I am disgusted. This institutionalized bigotry is not only reprehensible, but it also stands against basic American values of equality and justice. Congratulations, North Carolina State Senate — you’ve officially joined the ranks of the active practitioners of Jim Crowe 2.0.

Let’s first make something clear — gay and lesbian marriage has never even been legalized in the state of North Carolina. So this amendment is not only unnecessary, but reactionary. What’s so terrifying about this amendment is not its implications for gay and lesbian couples — who would still be subject to the same reprehensible treatment by the state government that they’ve live with for the past six decades — but its implications for other North Carolina families and children of homosexual couples. The wording of the amendment is so clearly botched and so horrendously loose that under legal scrutiny, this amendment could do away with civil unions in North Carolina. Since the only union that would be recognized by the state will be marriage (as per the wording), civil unions and domestic partnerships would not receive state benefits of married couples, and therefore society would become unfairly stratified between married and unmarried couples. The ACLU of North Carolina found in their report, “The Potential Legal Impact of the Proposed Same-Sex Marriage Amendment to the North Carolina Constitution,” that the impacts go beyond just state benefits. Unmarried partners would not receive state protections including domestic violence protection, child custody and visitation rights, court enforced private agreements and a plethora of other protections that couples in civil unions and unmarried partnerships have come to expect from the state. So please, North Carolina, before you vote, understand the ramifications of what you’re voting for.

Beyond the legal implications of Amendment 1, North Carolina also faces a social crisis. Upon passage, an implicit message is sent to our children. Suddenly, it’s OK to discriminate against different people because of something they have absolutely no control over. All of a sudden, America is the land of the free and home of the brave — but only for those who qualify. Without warning, North Carolina can now be compared to the deep south in the 1950’s. Is that OK? If you’re fine with being that bigoted as a state, then fine, this amendment is for you. With Amendment 1, we join the ranks of states like Michigan and Virginia, actively discriminating against those who believe in an alternative to traditional marriage. With Amendment 1, we join the diminishing group of Americans who oppose same-sex marriage. If you’re OK with teaching your children that discrimination between peoples is not only acceptable but legal, then please, vote yes. But if you have some good faith in the equal protection of all U.S. citizens, then please, hear my plea — do not vote for this amendment.

I’d like to look at one more parallel. Take a look at the U.S. Constitution and the North Carolina Constitution. The North Carolina constitution has never been amended; hence, Amendment 1. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads thusly: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” For just over 221 years, the United States has enforced and used this amendment to give a voice to the voiceless, rights to the disenfranchised and safeguard from tyranny to the people. The United States may not be perfect, but we did get at least one thing right in the ratification of the First Amendment. My question to all North Carolinians is this: Do we really want Amendment 1 of the North Carolina Constitution to restrict the rights of fellow citizens? These citizens are just as American and just as “Tarheel born-and-bred” as you and I are — they are just as human. Do you want to take away those rights with our own twisted and perverted “First Amendment?” Do we want that everlasting legacy? I pray for this state, and for our children, that the answer is no.

With progressive thinking students like Joe Calder, there is reason for optimism in North Carolina. Perhaps not today, but when Calder’s generation is old enough to vote, perhaps we can finally put an end to this type of abhorrent discrimination.


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