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4 Worst Media Misrepresentations of North Carolina's Anti-Gay Amendment One

North Carolina's anti-same-sex-marriage Amendment One passed last week amid a lot of wild media speculation, especially about black voters. We set the record straight.

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Hollister tells AlterNet, “If the writers of the amendment wanted the amendment to simply codify existing laws into the constitution to prevent the ban on same-gender marriage from constitutional challenges, it would have said, 'Marriage between one man and one woman is the only marriage that shall be valid or recognized in this state." Instead of using the term marriage, they used the term "legal domestic union" and significantly broadened the language to have unintended consequences for families, children, women and seniors.”

UNC-Chapel Hill law professor Maxine Eichner has spoken extensively to delineate the definite consequences of the Amendment as well as the possible consequences. She says the Amendment definitely bars the state from passing same-sex marriage or civil union legislation, which extends rights to same-sex couples, in the future. Furthermore, it bans the State from passing domestic partnership laws, which extend legal rights to unmarried couples, no matter their sexual orientation. Not only that, but it invalidates “existing partnership benefits by municipalities for all unmarried couples,” no matter their sexual orientation. In other words, as Protect All NC Families, the coalition organization set up to fight Amendment One, explains on its website, the Amendment eliminates “health care, prescription drug coverage and other benefits for public employees and children receiving domestic partner benefits."

If this were not bad enough, there are a number of possible consequences to the Amendment that will need to be adjudicated in the courts. Protect NC Families explains the possible consequences as follows:

“A child of an unmarried parent could lose their health care and prescription drug coverage, putting the child’s health at risk. 
“A child could be taken away from a committed parent who has loved them their entire life if something happens to the other parent.
“Amendment One threatens existing child custody and visitation rights that are designed to protect the best interests of a child.
“Amendment One bans all other legal relationship recognitions—prohibiting North Carolina from ever recognizing civil unions and domestic partnerships. Thousands of North Carolinians rely on these legal protections. Removing these rights creates far-reaching and long-lasting harms for families from all walks of life.
“Amendment One would interfere with protections for unmarried couples to visit one another in the hospital and to make emergency medical and financial decisions if one partner is incapacitated.”

In addition to these problems, Amendment One could have devastating implications for current domestic violence protections in the State. Currently, domestic violence statutes are extended to protect all women, not merely women who are abused in the context of heterosexual marriage. There is some precedent for worrying that Amendment One will change this. When Ohio voters passed a similar amendment, according to Protect All NC Families, it “meant relationships other than marriage were no longer recognized under domestic violence statutes...[and] that domestic violence statutes protecting unmarried women were unenforceable until the state’s Supreme Court unraveled the legal mess some three years later.” But significant damage was done during those three years; 27 domestic violence convictions were dismissed or overturned, and no protections remained for women who were not married to their abusers.

It’s impossible to say whether or not the vote may have gone differently if all North Carolinians had known just how dangerous the Amendment would be. But the media certainly bears part of the blame for continuing to refer to the Amendment as a “constitutional ban on gay marriage” without exploring its full scope. Surely correct information may have swayed some voters on May 8 and resulted in a different outcome.

2. “Black social conservatives” cannot be blamed for the passage of Amendment One.  

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