April 9, 2012
By Scottie Thomaston
The Huffington Post reports on North Carolina’s proposed anti-gay Amendment 1 that goes to the voters on May 8, writing that “a broad-ranging and bipartisan group of opponents are concerned that Amendment 1’s potential consequences could reach far beyond the chime of wedding bells.” The amendment could be read to take away rights from all unmarried couples, going much further than just banning marriages between gay couples – something already prohibited by law in North Carolina anyway. So, far from simply enshrining one definition of marriage into the state constitution, it could eliminate domestic partnerships and potentially erase all the rights and benefits given to couples who have those types of legal relationships in the areas of the state where they’re currently allowed.
The effects on our families could be staggering:
Libby and Melissa Hodge moved to North Carolina from Georgia in 2008 — where a similar marriage amendment was passed in 2004 — in hopes of a more secure life for their daughter, 4.
The women married in Vancouver in 2006, but have yet to live in a state that recognizes their marriage.
Eventually, Libby Hodge found a job with the city of Durham, one of several local governments in North Carolina offering benefits to domestic partners; she now receives health coverage that covers Melissa Hodge’s biological daughter.
The Hodges are feeling additional financial uncertainty because the amendment would raise questions about how the courts would deal with not only child custody issues but also about visitation rights and end-of-life arrangements.
“It’s hard to know where the ripple will stop if something goes wrong,” Libby Hodge said. “We still don’t know exactly what the effects of the amendment will be, and we don’t know how to plan for that. You just pray that nothing ever goes wrong.”
The amendment doesn’t protect marriages – indeed, what would it protect marriage from, an incorrect definition? – and it seems to target families directly and purposely in an attempt to categorize one type of family as less valued than others by the state. Throwing children in the middle of unnecessary, drawn out legal battles over interpretations of a superfluous and hurtful amendment does not seem like an environment conducive to productive raising of children.
But one of the bigger issues that could come up if the amendment were to pass is the problem of domestic violence and the way the law would handle incidents of domestic violence if the couple is unmarried or unprotected by the amendment’s language. Since, as Huffington Post says, the amendment would disallow the state to recognize “domestic legal unions”, no one is sure what that would mean for the way laws and law enforcement agencies handle victims of domestic violence – whether gay or straight.
State senator Daniel Soucek, who is the leading Republican sponsor of the amendment, says that while he’s also unsure of how the amendment would be interpreted by the courts – admitting that “Nothing in life is ever 100 percent sure” – he pointed to the supposed “benefits” of the amendment to justify its existence. But I would think anything that comes this perilously close to affecting families in this way should be regarded with much skepticism. The state has already, unfortunately in my view, made its opinion of gay relationships well-known when it passed its law that makes it illegal for gay couples to be married to each other. There is already enough uncertainty, it isn’t right to add more.