Amendment One's Place in History

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North Carolina confronts an historic milestone on May 8 with the proposed change to our state constitution: historic, because we have typically amended our constitution to expand and protect, not take away rights. Except when it comes to marriage, and thus the milestone: from 1865 until 1967, Article XIV, Section 8 of our state constitution “forever” prohibited “[a]ll marriages between a white person and a Negro.” It took the courageous love between Richard and Mildred Loving and a United States Supreme Court decision in 1967 to invalidate that law. In Loving v. Virginia, the Court noted that “[t]here is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classification,” and ruled such statutes in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Court’s core holding bears repeating as North Carolina voters head to the polls on May 8:

Marriage is “one of the basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival....To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law.

If it passes on May 8, Amendment One, or “the Marriage Amendment,” will invalidate all domestic legal unions except those between a man and a woman who are married to one another. Whether those who drafted the proposed amendment’s language were motivated by hate, fear, religious fervor, or all three is irrelevant: the ramifications are disastrous for untold numbers of people in our state. Indeed, the only certainty about Amendment One is that, if its drafters DID understand the ramifications of its clumsy, needless language, then their principal motivation must be hatred and ill-will toward humanity.

People will lose their health insurance and prescription drug coverage, child custody and visitation rights will be threatened, and victims of domestic violence will lose legal protection, to name just a few of the amendment’s life-wrecking effects. Those who intend to vote FOR this amendment because of their disdain for gay marriage should first consider that North Carolina General Statute § 51-1.2 already upholds their particular view of the world with concise language: “Marriages between persons of the same gender are not valid.” This statute doesn’t go so far as North Carolina’s constitution and the laws of Virginia and fourteen other states did before 1967, to make intermarriage between forbidden groups a crime. But the effects of the proposed constitutional amendment will be tantamount to criminal punishment for many in our state—punishments consisting of untreated illness, no legal protection from violence, no right to be by your loved one in the hospital. These are the random, sordid effects of the so-called “Marriage Amendment,” and as the Loving Court said, there is “no legitimate overriding purpose” independent of invidious discrimination to justify it.

Those who vote for this Amendment after learning that its passage does so much more damage to children and families than simply defining who can be married deserve to be accused of being motivated by hatred and ill-will towards humanity. On the other hand, those who don’t vote against it on May 8 play a vital role in writing hatred and invidious discrimination back into our constitution.

This post was authored jointly by the UNC Center for Civil Rights Managing Attorney Mark Dorosin and Senior Attorney Elizabeth Haddix.

Posted by Mark Dorosin on Sat. May 5, 2012 8:04 PM
Categories: Gender
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