Filed under: Amendment One
By Jacob Combs
In his thoughtful piece from this morning, Adam laid out a cogent analysis of what happened in North Carolina on Tuesday and made the important argument that our work there as a community was both effective and significant. I think Adam has done a great job of reflecting on Amendment One, and rather than rehashing his arguments here (which I happen to agree with), I thought I would look a related issue that has been making its way through the blogosphere lately: the Democratic National Convention, which will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Writing yesterday in National Journal, George Condon, Jr., points out that Charlotte and the Democratic Party are not the most usual of bedfellows. There are many reasons for this, all of them worth paying attention to: an unpopular Democratic governor retiring after her first term, a sexual harassment scandal that forced North Carolina Democratic Party executive director Jay Parmley to resign his position, the inelegant fact that Barack Obama will accept the party’s nomination at the Bank of America stadium. Add to that the fact that the convention is apparently well short of its fundraising goal, and Charlotte begins to look like a pretty unfortunate location for this year’s convention.
And then there’s Amendment One. Marriage equality has been making huge headlines this week, first with the passage of the anti-gay constitutional amendment in North Carolina, and then with President Obama’s endorsement of full marriage equality for gays and lesbians. Not surprisingly, there are many who feel that a state which just stripped gay and lesbian couples (and straight couples, for that matter) of rights that they already enjoyed is not the right place for a convention to be held by a party whose leader now supports marriage equality and whose platform very well might be amended to say the same this September. A change.org petition started just after Tuesday’s vote to move the convention out of the state already has more that 29,000 signatures out of a goal of 30,000.
These are valid concerns, and I don’t mean to minimize them in any way. But I do want to pick up on an element of Adam’s argument and take it further to apply to the convention. It may be a devil’s advocate argument, but I believe that Amendment One’s passage makes it even more important, not less, for the Democratic Party to hold its convention in Charlotte this September. (more…)
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…
By Scottie Thomaston
Amendment 1, changing the North Carolina state constitution to say that marriage between a man and a woman is the “only domestic legal union” that is “valid or recognized” in the state has passed, according to the AP, who has called the race. Turnout is on track to exceed 2004 and 2008 levels.
Thanks to everyone who has worked so hard to fight back against this amendment both within the state and across the country. Everyone who has spent so much time, effort and money working to stop this regressive amendment from becoming law has been inspiring. The coalition against the amendment was a truly enormous and wide-ranging one and it showed that it’s possible to build powerful bonds between different groups. Thanks for working hard and we’ll keep it up in the future. This is a battle in a long-term war.