North Carolina and the Great Debate
by Brittany Makley
Maybe the Mayans were right, and 2012 is the year when the great apocalypse will end all of humankind. If you listen to the Left’s handwringing after Tuesday’s primary election in North Carolina, the end of the world seems right around the corner. However, here are a few observations from the ground, along with some fun facts that have been conveniently left out of much of the debate and media coverage.
After nearly a decade of continuous efforts to get a bill through the State Legislature that would place a Marriage Amendment on the ballot, and 16 years after the Legislature reiterated that North Carolina law would only recognize marriage as the union of a man and a woman, supporters and opponents of the NC Marriage Amendment engaged in a frantic eight month campaign to get out the vote. While the campaign did open many opportunities for a discussion on the nature, importance, and role of marriage and government’s recognition of it, polls indicate most voters made up their minds on this issue before the campaigning ever began. In the end, more than 1.3 million North Carolina voters and 93 of the State’s 100 counties gave a landslide 22% margin of victory to the Marriage Amendment—61% support and 39% opposed.
North Carolina is an anomaly in politics. Until 2008, we spent about 50 years as a solid red state in national matters, sending the notorious Jesse Helms to the U.S. Senate five times beginning in 1972, giving him a storied 30-year career there. At the same time, this was a solidly Blue-Dog Southern Democrat state internally. The General Assembly was controlled, almost without interruption, by Democrats from Reconstruction until 2010. In 2008, North Carolina fell into the Democrat column for president for the first time since 1976, and, in 2010, gave Republicans control of the Legislature for the first time in 140 years. That Republican legislature passed a bill in September 2011 to place a marriage amendment on the ballot for the people to decide its fate.
And, no, the apocalypse is not coming. Fiancées and boyfriends are not now allowed to beat their girlfriends. Children are not being ripped from their parents’ homes and left without health insurance on the streets. SWAT teams are not storming into unmarried couples’ bedrooms. There are two primary reasons North Carolinians (and our neighbors who wish to avoid being sucked into the black hole created when we poof into our apoplectic oblivion) can breath a sigh of relief, drink some green tea, and do their favorite yoga routine before bed without fear of waking tomorrow in a scene out of Independence Day:
1. Nothing has changed in North Carolina law. Marriage in North Carolina has always been defined, even before we were a state, as the union of one man and one woman. Additionally, in 1996, North Carolina passed a Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that says same-sex “marriages” performed in other states will not be recognized here. The federal DOMA, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, protects North Carolina’s 10th Amendment right to protect marriage here from attempted redefinition by other states.
So, this long-recognized definition of marriage is now part of the State Constitution. All laws and policies tied to the definition of marriage in North Carolina will continue to be enforced the same today as they were on Monday, because all the definitions in the law remain the same. It is just that one of those definitions—marriage—now requires a super-majority of the legislature and a majority vote of the people to be changed.
2. The second—oft ignored—sentence of the Amendment protects private contracts. I know, I know … there’s a SECOND sentence? Yes. I understand this may surprise those of you who do not make a habit of trolling the North Carolina General Assembly website for exact bill language, because, well, the media and the opponents’ $2 million campaign essentially ignored its existence. Here is the actual text of the Marriage Amendment that is now a part of North Carolina’s Constitution:
“Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized by this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party, nor does this section prohibit the courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.”Shocking, I know. North Carolina legislators managed to craft an Amendment that protects both marriage and individual rights in private contracts. Across the board, opponents of the Amendment generally ignored this second sentence because it is really inconvenient for their sky-is-falling fear-mongering (dare I say, lies) about the impact of the passage of the Amendment on adults’ abilities to love and live in peace.
North Carolina’s Marriage Amendment is not, and never has been, about discrimination. It is about preservation. Marriage has always been defined according to the historical, natural law, and, shudder, Christian understanding of society’s foundational institution. North Carolina voters were given the exact Amendment language on their ballots, and then asked whether they were “For” or “Against” marriage. Knowing that marriage is not defined by, but rather recognized by, government, they took a bold stand not just for our State, but for the whole nation, in favor of marriage. Because, inherently, North Carolinians know that “as goes the family, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.” Thanks, Pope John Paul II, for that little nugget of wisdom!
I know this can be an emotionally-charged topic, so, as with all comments on this blog, please keep it civil! No haterade drinking around here. I would also like to add that archaeologists have found a new Mayan calendar, so the world is not going to end on December 21 (which is awesome, because that's the day I'm gettin' married!)