In another slap to the face of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community, a new North Carolina gay marriage attack has banned civil unions and domestic partnerships in the state. Many states have outlawed gay marriage, yet even in most of these states gay couples could engage in domestic partnerships and civil unions to make sure they could receive benefits that heterosexual married couples received, and to allow same-sex couples the right to make medical decisions for their partner. The amendment to the state constitution states that "marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state."
Voters in the state passed the amendment in a 61% to 39% victory. This is a huge victory for both republicans and some evangelical preachers like Billy Graham, who ran full-page newspaper ads supporting the amendment. Many conservatives will see this as a victory, but the unintended side effects of the bill may make some think otherwise.
Neither side of this debate is likely to sway the other side based on moral grounds. The fact is, it will be nearly impossible to convince most conservatives that LGBT couples should have the same rights as straight couples, even though their very own religious books say to not judge or treat others ill. To sway either side of the debate, repercussions must exist for both sides. In this particular debate, there actually are.
The first issue with this amendment is that it affects everyone, not just LGBT couples. The law defines marriage as the only legal domestic union in the state. Gay marriage has already been outlawed in the state, so the amendment was an effort to deny any benefits to gay couples who had decided to live their lives together. The law doesn't, however, distinguish between gay and straight couples. Civil unions and domestic partnerships will now garner no benefits, even for straight couples who have not yet gotten married.
So this amendment affects both gay and straight couples, but this isn't even the biggest part of the amendment that people are ill-informed about. With less than a day left before the vote, only 46% of voters in the state realized that the amendment would ban civil unions. Which means over half of the state believed the vote was just for a North Carolina gay marriage ban. Of the 46% of voters that actually knew what the vote was for, there was a 61-37 margin opposed to the law, which meant that the voters who actually knew what they were voting for, mostly voted against the amendment. Most North Carolinians are actually in support of gay civil unions. It's almost certain that Billy Graham didn't try to expand upon this in his full-page ad.
Stripping benefits from both straight and gay civil unions who already receive the benefits is not the only bad effect this amendment will have. The language of the bill is highly vague, most likely to make sure that straight couples are able to garner certain benefits that gay couples are not. Unfortunately for everyone, the vagueness of the language in the amendment could take away domestic violence protections from unmarried women. It also leaves the door open to restrict visitation rights and child custody for unmarried couples, whether gay or straight.
In a free society where everyone believes the law should evolve as society does, this amendment is not only a slap in the face to both straight and gay unmarried couples, but also to society itself. Lawmakers created the amendment to make sure that "activist judges or politicians" could not overturn the 1996 ban on gay marriage in the state. In a state that passes preemptive laws, statutes, and amendments to stop any type of social progress that may occur in the future, are anyone's rights really safe?