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Amendment One: How it changes North Carolina law

North Carolina adopted Amendment One on May 8, 2012, which defines marriage as solely between one man and one woman, enshrining a ban on same-sex marriage in the state's constitution.
Credit: Daniel Barry

North Carolina voted overwhelmingly in favor of Amendment One on Tuesday, adopting the state constitutional amendment which says "marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State," according to CNN.

With this vote, North Carolina becomes the 30th state to ban same-sex marriage in its state constitution, though it was already illegal according to state legislation. Politico noted that the amendment means that civil unions and other types of domestic partnerships would no longer be recognized by North Carolina as legal.

Rep. Brad Miller, a state Democrat, said the danger of the amendment was that it went beyond defining marriage. He said, "If you’re in a hospital, in your last illness and you’ve been with a partner for 30 years, if the law is that only certain family members may visit you — you can’t pick who your family members are," according to Politico. Miller continued, "You can’t pick who your family is. The government has decided for you."

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Opponents of the amendment said it was redundant and would potentially jeopardize domestic violence protection for women and impact health benefits for same-sex couples, according to CNN.

The Associated Press noted that not much had changed for gay marriage, but that the amendment may have an impact outside the realm of marriage. John Dinan, a political science professor at Wake Forest University, said, "There were no same-sex civil unions recognized in North Carolina today. Those will not be recognized tomorrow. The bottom line is there's not a lot of change because of this amendment."

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In Michigan, which passed a similar amendment, the state's highest court ruled that the amendment did affect health benefits provided to employees in same-sex relationships, whereas in Ohio a court battle that made it to the Supreme Court decided that a similar amendment did not affect domestic violence protection which referred to people who live together, according to the AP.

The motivation behind enshrining the ban on same-sex marriage in the state's constitution may be due to the fact that it is much harder to reverse a constitutional amendment. While legislators can easily undo a state law, a constitutional amendment requires a three-fifths vote in both houses in addition to voter approval.

ABC News noted that Amendment One has also inspired some uncertainty among legal scholars with its language of "domestic legal union" which has not been used in North Carolina statutes before and is undefined.

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