North Carolina Senate Republicans Try To Sneak New Marriage Amendment Onto Agenda

It is no secret that the Republican leadership of North Carolina’s legislature has been planning to vote on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage during a special session this week. Rather than vote on one of the two bills already introduced, however, the Senators tried late Friday afternoon to sneak the amendment onto today’s agenda as an attachment to a bill about term limits for chamber leadership. Unlike the previous version of the Senate bill, which banned same-sex marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships, the new version has been softened a bit to supposedly leave room for domestic partnerships. Pam Spaulding responds:

So what exactly is being amended in the bill? Oh guess what – they noticed that the all-encompassing permanent second class citizenship it would like to bestow upon its taxpaying LGBT citizens, is unpopular and bad for business. So now they want to soft-pedal a possibility of domestic partnerships, which is expressly forbidden in the current language of the bill. […] It’s clear why this new language is being crafted. Given the recent polling that citizens, newspapers and businesses oppose an amendment that precludes any kind of recognition for LGBTs — yet still at large don’t favor marriage equality — this move is meant to somehow placate LGBTs, allies and North Carolinians who know better.

Despite this supposed weakening of the language, the new bill does not seem to be all that accommodating:

Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.

If one-man/one-woman marriage is still the “only domestic legal union” that will be recognized, how exactly does the additional language leave room for domestic partnerships? Law professors have condemned it as “vague and untested,” suggesting it may even “invalidate domestic violence protections” for unmarried couples. It may well be that the Republican leadership is trying to claim that this language is softer in hopes of swaying a few voters, but that their intention is no different than before.  What would stop them from changing their tune a day after voters approve the amendment, saying, “Oh, read the language, we absolutely meant to ban domestic partnerships with this”?

In addition to the various city and county leaders protesting the proposed amendment, one prominent North Carolina native is doing what he can to resist the measure. Openly gay Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes announced Thursday that he would help fight the amendment by donating $10 to Equality North Carolina for every new “Like” on their Facebook Page, up to $10,000. The page had 6,750 “Likes” at the time of Hughes’ announcement and has far surpassed his challenge with now over 15,000 Likes. Newly married country singer Chely Wright will also be lending her support at Equality NC’s rally against the amendment on Tuesday.