Amendment One – Fact and Fiction

Brittany Darst

Angry Pit Preachers. Posters invoking Dumbledore. Intense partisan debate. With all the controversy surrounding North Carolina’s proposed Amendment One, it’s difficult to discern where truth ends and exaggeration begins.

If all the heated rhetoric frustrates you, you are not alone. In this article you won’t be cursed by vehement speeches or courted by pretty posters. Instead, you’ll find newspaper articles, excerpts from North Carolina’s laws, and – hopefully – a bit of much-needed clarity.

CLAIM #1:
Amendment One would prevent same-sex couples in North Carolina from obtaining marriages, civil unions or legally recognized domestic partnerships.

Here’s What I found:

Yes, it would – the Amendment was written specifically for that purpose. Read the full text for yourself:

“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.” 1

CLAIM #2:
Amendment One would prevent heterosexual couples in North Carolina from obtaining civil unions or legally recognized domestic partnerships.

Here’s what I found:

As you just read, “Marriage…is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”

Amendment One’s opponents portray this as a double-edged sword slashing “rights” from both same-sex and heterosexual couples. But be wary of exaggerations regarding heterosexual unmarried couples.

As you’ll see in the next three claims, domestic partnerships aren’t mentioned in laws regarding domestic violence protection, adoption, child custody, or hospital visitation. Most often, there are two categories of people: married and unmarried. Even without Amendment One, marriage-like unions (i.e. civil unions and domestic partnerships) receive little special treatment. If heterosexual couples in North Carolina want the legal benefits of marriage, they should marry.

Marriage is currently the only domestic legal union which can be registered with North Carolina’s state government. However, three cities – Durham, Carrboro, and Chapel Hill – recognize gender non-specific domestic partnerships 2,3. At the time of this writing, there were 36 domestic partnerships registered in Carrboro and 202 in Chapel Hill. (I could not find the number of partnerships in Durham.) It appears that amendment One would invalidate them.

CLAIM #3:
Amendment One would limit domestic violence protections to married couples only.

Here’s what I found:

According to North Carolina law,

“Domestic violence means the commission of one or more of the following acts upon an aggrieved party…with whom the aggrieved party has or has had a personal relationship….For purposes of this section, the term ‘personal relationship’ means a relationship wherein the parties involved:

(1) Are current or former spouses;
(2) Are persons of opposite sex who live together or have lived together;
(4) Have a child in common;
(6) Are persons of the opposite sex who are in a dating relationship or have been in a dating relationship.”

This statute protects unmarried heterosexual couples from domestic violence, regardless of their legal relationship to each other. 4 “Persons of the opposite sex who live together” or “are in a dating relationship” don’t need a civil union or domestic partnership to get domestic violence protection from the state. Amendment One would not change this.

But what about Ohio? After Ohio passed a constitutional amendment similar to our Amendment One, some domestic violence cases were dropped. 5 Attorneys there argued that giving domestic violence protection acknowledged a legal domestic relationship other than marriage.

But Ohio’s domestic violence laws, unlike North Carolina’s, had no safeguards in place for dating or cohabiting couples. In fact, Ohio only protects an unmarried person “living as a spouse” from domestic violence. 6 Based on that law, Ohio attorneys argued that acknowledging unmarried or same-sex couples lived as spouses actually redefined marriage. (They ultimately failed.)

But North Carolina’s laws are different, and therefore this is a highly unlikely consequence here in North Carolina.

CLAIM #4:
Amendment One would threaten existing child custody and visitation rights.

Here’s what I found:

When it comes to child custody, neither adoption nor divorce laws seem to have a clear connection with unmarried couples.

North Carolina’s divorce laws seem to indicate that child custody can be given to two unmarried adults when the child’s married parents separate:

“An order for custody of a minor child may grant…custody to two or more persons, agencies, organizations, or institutions. Any order for custody shall include such terms, including visitation, as will best promote the interest and welfare of the child.” 7

This statute establishes a legal relationship between adults and children. Amendment One, however, regulates legal relationships between adults and adults.

In adoption law, a child can only be adopted by only one unmarried person:

“If the individual who files the petition is unmarried, no other individual may join in the petition.” 8

Under this law, the state can’t allow two unmarried people to adopt a single child. When it comes to the adoption process, Amendment One can’t take away rights that don’t exist.

CLAIM #5:
Amendment One would interfere with protections for unmarried couples to visit one another in the hospital and to make emergency medical decisions if one partner is incapacitated.

Here’s what I found:

North Carolina’s “Patients’ Bill of Rights” was revised in 2010. Now, Right 8 guarantees patients a private visit with anyone he or she chooses if medical conditions allow. 9 Unmarried couples aren’t mentioned because only the patient’s wishes (and medical condition) matter. Amendment One probably wouldn’t affect a right which doesn’t involve domestic legal unions at all.

What about emergency medical decisions? Any adult can choose any other adult as an attorney-in-fact to make medical decisions on his or her behalf in times of incapacitation. Again, the two adults’ legal relationship with each other isn’t mentioned:

“Any competent person who is not engaged in providing health care to the principal for remuneration, and who is 18 years of age or older, may act as a health care agent.” 10

If an unmarried couple wants responsibility for each other’s emergency medical decisions, they can become each other’s medical attorneys-in-fact beforehand. Amendment One isn’t likely to interfere.

CLAIM #6:
I have to believe either one side or the other.

Here’s what I found:

That’s false. If this article leaves you with unanswered questions, do your own research. Scour North Carolina’s statutes. Call lawyers. Don’t rest until you find the truth.

.

(1) http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2011/Bills/Senate/PDF/S514v4.pdf
(2) http://www.ci.carrboro.nc.us/tc/PDFs/TownCode/TownCodeCh03.pdf
(3) http://www.ci.chapel-hill.nc.us/index.aspx?page=375
(4) http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_50B/GS_50B-1.html
(5) http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/03/04/1902872/marriage-amendment-debate-focuses.html
(6) http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/3113.31
(7) http://www.ncleg.net/enactedlegislation/statutes/html/bysection/chapter_50/gs_50-13.2.html
(8) http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/ByChapter/Chapter_48.html
(9) http://www.ncdhhs.gov/aging/manual/ombud/nhsect2.pdf
(10) http://www.ncleg.net/enactedlegislation/statutes/html/bychapter/chapter_32a.html

8 comments

  1. On claim 5, a child may only be adopted by 1 "unmarried" parent in this state, but when they are adopted in another state by a married homosexual couple, and brought here, that is a different story. If this couple were to split up, our courts would not adjudicate the case. Speaker Tillis said so specifically.

    Also, I still have yet to hear a valid argument against civil unions (not that you are making an argument about them, but I'm hoping someone will answer why some think that homosexual couples should have no legal rights or recourse whatsoever even under a non-marriage title).

  2. Dear Marriage Supporter,

    This morning, a group of District Attorneys, law professionals, and law enforcement officers joined forces to squash the lies circulating from those in opposition to the Marriage Protection Amendment. They stoutly rebutted the claims of our opposition and made it clear – the amendment will not impact domestic violence protections for North Carolina citizens.

    The leader of the press conference, Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger, Jr., said, “[R]eason and common sense seems to be lost in this debate.” Berger described the oppositions’ falsehoods as “a parade of horribles.” The legal professionals attending the press conference affirmed the truths of North Carolina State Law 50b and 50c. Phil Berger, jr., summed it up by saying, “[T]his Amendment will have no impact on domestic violence prosecution.”

    Jeff Hunt, a District Attorney from Henderson, Polk, and Transylvania Counties said, “I urge the public to take a look at this. Do not fall for false analyses. I am amazed that these claims are even being made by lawyers, but I can assure you that the Amendment does not weaken our protections of children. It does not weaken the 50b and 50c protections. It does not weaken domestic violence protections in any way.”

    The following legal professionals have signed on to a joint statement affirming the truths behind the Marriage Protection Amendment:

    Phil Berger Jr – DA, Prosecutorial District #17A (Rockingham County)
    Locke Bell – DA, Prosecutorial District #27A (Gaston County)
    Wallace Bradsher – DA, Prosecutorial District #09A (Caswell and Person Counties)
    Raven Byrne – Family Law Attorney (Wake County
    Garry Frank – DA, Prosecutorial District #22B (Davidson and Davie Counties)
    Jay Gaither – DA, Prosecutorial District #25 (Burke, Caldwell and Catawba Counties)
    Jeff Hunt – DA, Prosecutorial District #29B (Henderson, Polk, and Transylvania Counties),
    Sheriff Terry Johnson – Alamance County
    Tom Keith – Fmr. DA, Prosecutorial District #21 (Forsyth County),
    John Snyder – Fmr. DA, Prosecutorial District #20B (Union County)
    Jerry Wilson – DA, Prosecutorial District #24 (Avery, Madison, Mitchell, Watauga, and Yancey Counties)
    Sheriff Carey Winders – Wayne County
    Paul Wright – Fmr. Superior Court Judge

    Thank you for continuing the fight for the truth behind this Amendment. We need strength and courage now more than ever. Thank you to the above signers for leading that charge so successfully.

    Sincerely,

    Tami Fitzgerald, Chairwoman
    Vote FOR Marriage NC

    http://www.voteformarriagenc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Domestic-Violence-Statement-5.1.12.pdf
    http://www.voteformarriagenc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Domestic-Violence-Statement-5.1.12.pdf

  3. I think you guys are missing what this is really about. This Amendment puts a stop to the Liberal Progressive Agenda to use a Gay Marriage law to offer kickbacks to gays for their support such as mandates on healthcare and LGBTQ whatever services at taxpayer expense. They want to enter the schools in the name of tolerance towards gays and “anti-bullying” and push their social justice, global warming agenda and apologizing for America’s greatness. Look at every other state that has a Liberal Gay Marriage law. If Amendment 1 passes, the Liberals will suffer a major defeat and will surely go into an all out lynch mob mentality following it’s passage. It has everything to do with limiting the power and involvement of the government in our lives. By passing this Amendment the brutal onslaught of big government regulation that comes from the left will be stopped for a long time. Please pass this Amendment. The fear mongering is all lies of a desperate Progressive Lobby.

  4. Still no answer on the insurance part how bout that??? And why is it such a problem if homosexuals get married. Yes the bible says not to. But the bible also says not to have children out of wedlock, i had one. No one seems to have a problem with that??? So we as Christians are obviously being hypocritical and picking and choosing which parts of the Bible to follow and which not to. As a further statement, every major war that we have been in, including the biggest (The Crusades) were over the issue of EVERYONE should follow the bible. But in the turns of events, Catholic commisaries with the Spanish Inquisition tortured and killed people in the name of God. Whereas the Bible said “Thou shalt not kill thy brother…” Seems to me that we can obviously kill for God. Doesnt that mean that we all are gonna burn in hell as is… Just some things to think about. This law shouldnt have passed due to infringment on the 14th Amendment US Constitutional rights granted to ALL US Citizens.

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