Amendment 1's Consequences Beyond Gay Marriage

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Amendment 1's Consequences Beyond Gay Marriage

On the eve of what turned out to be a devastating passing of Amendment 1—North Carolina's state law that reinforces and extends the recognition of only heterosexual marriages—the state's ACLU branch released a report that details how this legislation has the potential to affect a range of people, not just the gay-marrying type. From the report:

"the vague and untested language of the Amendment could be interpreted to prohibit the government from recognizing legal rights and protections for all unmarried couples – same-sex or opposite sex. The Amendment could prevent courts from enforcing private agreements between unmarried couples, and end-of-life arrangements, such as wills, trusts and powers of attorney executed by unmarried couples; unsettle current custody law; invalidate rights and protections currently provided to unmarried couples under North Carolina’s domestic violence laws; undercut municipalities’ decisions to recognize domestic partnerships,and undermine private employers’ efforts to attract top employees to North Carolina by providing employee benefits to domestic partners. It certainly will spur litigation, discourage same-sex and opposite-sex unmarried couples from living and working in North Carolina, adversely affect the ability of North Carolina businesses to attract talented employees, and encourage individuals seeking to undo their legal obligations to flock to North Carolina courts for relief."

In bulletpoint form, this means the legislation can be construed such that it could potentially, 

 Prevent the courts from enforcing private agreements between unmarried couples,therefore encouraging the wealthier members of couples to avoid marriage so that they will not be subject to obligations to transfer property;

 Interfere with child custody and visitation rights that seek to protect the best interests of children; Invalidate protections against domestic violence to members of unmarried couples;

 Interfere with end-of-life arrangements, such as wills, trusts and medical powers of attorney, executed by unmarried couples;

 Invalidate domestic partnership benefits currently offered to same-sex and opposite-sex couples by local municipalities;

 Prevent courts from enforcing private employers’ agreements to provide benefits such as health insurance to employees’ domestic partners.  

Gay marriage was already illegal in the state; this legislation not only adds insult-to-injury, but it is loaded with malice towards any couple that does not abide the traditional religious dictate to marry first, then live together (and then, of course, have sex—you know, THE SEX and not just ear-sex). Amendent 1 is not only homophobic, it is anti-woman because it validates one type of relationship (the heter-married kind) and denies the recognition of, as women have fought so persistently throughout the 20th century, other types of relationships, hetero or homo-sexual. (Laverne and Shirley would not be living in North Carolina, for sure!) This lack of recognition, as the ACLU report explains, could translate in the courts as the condoning of domestic violence in the home—how easy it is for us to forget that gay rights and women's rights are still so fundamentally, inextricably connected to each other. 

The focus on the "gay" element of this legislation, according to Lila Shapiro over at The Huffington Post, ensured the Amendment's passage—it divided gay groups, yes, but it diffused the real, pervasive consequences of this legislation with watery language and, as proponents and hate-mongers were so apt to do, crafted the pro-Amendment 1 mantra around "THE GAY." The message is: to pass a piece of legislation, campaign around its anti-gay elements and overlook the other aspects that may dissuade voters to vote against it. 

On a somewhat tangential note, Robin Roberts will interview President Obama today and the interview with air later this evening on various ABC programs. Word is, from my fellow Harvard alum Marc Ambinder, that the President will come out and endorse gay marriage—without qualification, without ambiguity—today. should not go unnoticed that someone from our family is interviewing the President on this, either. 

Comments [1]

Marcie Bianco's picture

Well well well -- Ambinder

Well well well -- Ambinder called it, although apparently Obama's "should" wasn't as "unqualified" as some had hoped....his endorsement, nb, doesn't have any legal ramifications, even though it is symbolic.

but, really, how far will symbolism get you?