May 9, 2012
By Scottie Thomaston
Last night the odious Amendment 1 passed in North Carolina. Rural counties with typically conservative voters passed it overwhelmingly while areas with a liberal and racially diverse population split different ways, with some heavily pro-Obama precincts from the 2008 election voting in favor and a few opposed. Throughout the campaign the opponents of the amendment pressed the claim that since the language says the “only domestic legal union” that would be “valid or recognized” in North Carolina is marriage between a man and a woman, it would ban attempts to have civil unions in the future and eliminate existing domestic partnerships and benefits. Unswayed by those arguments, voters opted to put the ban in the state constitution.
The fall out was immediate:
Bill James held off an aggressive challenge from Ed Driggs to win the GOP primary for the District 6 seat on the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, with the eight-term incumbent commissioner capturing nearly 52 percent of the vote.
…James is already pushing Mecklenburg to scrap its policy that provides domestic partner health insurance benefits to employees in same-sex relationships. The county has been offering same-sex benefits to employees since commissioners approved the policy in 2009.
He argues they should not waste scarce resources that will probably end up being litigated eventually anyway, and they would face losses because of the amendment’s language. These benefits are only one facet of the benefits provided to couples who were formerly in domestic partnerships in the state until last night. Aside from benefits provided to couples, there are benefits for children’s health insurance that could end of affected. There are also protections against domestic violence that could be eliminated, since the statute in North Carolina’s code regarding domestic violence protections refers to certain defined types of relationships that are “recognized” and now they will not be recognized.
CBS News reported on what could happen now:
The amendment likely would affect issues other than gay marriage the most because the “marriage-plus” amendment approved in North Carolina prohibits not only same-sex marriage, but also same-sex civil unions. Nineteen states have such amendments, Dinan said.
For example, a handful of local governments provide benefits to employees who are involved in same-sex relationships. In Michigan, the state’s highest court ruled that an amendment did affect those benefits, Dinan said. But in North Carolina, officials in Durham and Orange counties have said they don’t expect to have to eliminate those benefits because of the amendment, he said.
Opponents had said they feared the law could affect domestic violence protections, some of which refer to people who live together. Dinan said he doubted that would happen, although Ohio had a three-year court fight over the issue before the Supreme Court ruled the laws weren’t affected.
The proponents of the amendment had campaigned on the claim that the amendment only defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Their ads even specifically made that direct claim, while at the same time citing research on their own website that refutes the claim and admits the amendment bans civil unions and domestic partnerships. These questions will need to be litigated:
“The screaming, excruciating paradox of all this is that supporters wanted to take this out of the judges’ hands. Clearly it will have the opposite effect,” Munger said. “…There will be litigation, and judges will have to decide what the darn thing means.”
Aside from the legal ramifications, there are implications for the larger LGBT rights movement. North Carolina is a southern state, and a lot of the national LGBT organizations did not want to get involved in the region to stand alongside LGBT southerners and fight back. Many organizations and many LGBT donors and allies completely abandoned those of us who live here in the South and are working to change the hearts of our neighbors. There are LGBT people struggling all over the country, not just in politically convenient areas with demographics that point to relatively easy victories; and for those of us who are stuck in a region where we lose more often than we see gains, it’s particularly hurtful to see allies stand aside and watch these things happen to us. Part of the reason I have been so invested in North Carolina is I live in the South, in south Alabama. I know what it means to feel like no one is paying attention and watch our allies grow silent as these things happen to our brothers and sisters.
I agree with our own Adam Bink:
Adam Bink, the director of online programs at the Courage Campaign, a group that has been working to get voters to the polls in recent weeks, says that the movement can’t afford to give up on gay couples who don’t have the relatively good fortune to live in Minnesota or Maine.
Said Bink, “I think it’s really important that we don’t leave any state behind.”
This isn’t over, in North Carolina or anywhere else.
More in the extended entry…
Here’s the letter from Courage Campaign that went out today:
Adam: Just now, our allies at the Coalition to Protect All NC Families conceded, as we were unable to defeat Amendment One in North Carolina. Discrimination is now enshrined into North Carolina’s constitution — for now.
First, THANK YOU for all you have done — whether it was by chipping in to fund this campaign, making phone calls to voters, or just telling a friend to vote against the amendment. Second, please see the note below from Amanda — a Courage member who traveled all the way from Sacramento, CA to Raleigh, NC to get out the vote — on why we need your help to continue our work in November. –Adam
I’m on the ground in Raleigh. I’ll skip the inspirational words and look forward to what we need to do now: in November, we face four more same-sex marriage ballot fights in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington. Courage Campaign members and staff worked their butts off to defeat Amendment 1. I for one am tired of losing these ballot initiatives, and with the Supreme Court likely to consider a marriage equality lawsuit soon, we need to ensure we win this November.
Adam, I’m not giving up. Will you recommit with me by investing in our “Fight Everywhere Fund” as a monthly donor to ensure we win in MD, ME, MN and WA in November? Courage will send you the button you see at right and we can start working now on winning in November.
As a Courage volunteer who canvassed hundreds of homes here in North Carolina, I can attest to what your dollars will do:
If you give, Courage Campaign can once again build and manage the out-of-state GOTV call program, which generated over 75,689 calls from Courage members to North Carolina voters. If you give, Courage Campaign can once again send members like me from all over the country to get out the vote in these critical states, by arranging supporter housing, covering the cost of transportation, and integrating our efforts with the state-based campaigns. If you give, Courage Campaign can once again organize novel fundraisers like #Tweet2BeatA1, an effort on Twitter that helped generate $43,000 in one day for the Campaign to Protect All NC Families — part of a state-record $910,000 raised online, where one out of every five donors on ActBlue was a Courage member. Finally, if you give, Courage Campaign can hire more staff to help make sure we have the capacity we need to succeed in all four states this fall.
I worked hard here in North Carolina, and I’m ready to do so again in the fall. Help more people do what I did by investing in Courage today.
Thanks for fighting so hard,
Amanda Wallner, Courage member (Sacramento, CA)