The Last Southeastern State without a Ban
North Carolina neither recognizes gay marriages nor any legal relationship between gay couples. Currently, this ban is only by statute, not constitutional amendment. The latter however, may be on the way. The North Carolina House of Representatives passed an amendment, the North Carolina Same-Sex Marriage Amendment, to prohibit gay marriage September 12, 2011 and the Senate did the same the following day. The amendment will be up for voters’ judgment on the May 8, 2012 ballot. For now North Carolina remains the last southeastern state to be without a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage but if it is approved by voters, gay marriages will be barred and so will civil unions and domestic partnerships regardless of the couple’s sexual orientation.
Unfortunately, North Carolina does not require participation on the part of the governor for constitutional amendments so Governor Bev Perdue has no veto power.
Several arguments supporting the amendment were brought up during the debate including several Republicans deeming it necessary in order to prevent “activist judges” from overturning the marriage ban. Senator James Forrester went on to say that “moms and dads are not interchangeable…two dads don’t make a mom. Two moms don’t make a dad. Children need both a father and a mother.”
As for domestic partnerships, they are not recognized on a state level but each jurisdiction is permitted to register them regardless of the partner’s sexual orientation; this registration has been open since 1995. Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Durham and recently, Asheville, are currently the only cities that issue domestic partnership registration. The amendment would eliminate these benefits.
A professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Law School, Maxine Eichner presented a report on the amendment and shows “[it]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.”
Economic concerns for the state are also being raised. Entrepreneurs held a press conference to discuss the threat of this amendment to business and those who will choose to take their business elsewhere, an especially important point considering the state’s Research Triangle Park (RTP).
The headquarters of Bank of America are in Charlotte which is also a major concern because it is the country’s biggest bank, with an estimated 25,000 gay staff members. About seventy-six local CEOs signed a letter pushing for the ban to be rejected. A poll from this year demonstrates that more than half of North Carolina residents oppose the ban anyway; 27.5 percent support civil unions or registered partnerships offering most of the rights of a civil marriage and 20.8 percent full same-sex marriage.
The President Weighed In
President Barack Obama spoke out recently in opposition to North Carolina’s proposed gay marriage ban. He won this southern state in the previous presidential elections so it remains important to his potential re-election. The issue was meant to appear on the November ballot in the hopes that voters would vote against Obama and Perdue but accusations flew and the date was changed to quell suspicions. The vote will come in due time because the Democratic-controlled Legislature has kept social conservatives from instituting the ban for almost ten years.
- Can gay couples marry in North Carolina? No, but it will be voted on in November 2012.
- Can gay couples enter into civil unions or domestic partnerships? Civil unions, no, and only four cities have domestic partnership registries.