April 26, 2012
The supporters of Amendment 1, Vote FOR Marriage NC, have a new ad that uses language in a very interesting, sleight-of-hand way. Opponents of the amendment have been pointing out that the phrase “only domestic legal union” in the text of the amendment would eliminate protections for people in domestic partnerships and civil unions, possibly reaching as far as affecting children’s health insurance and domestic violence law. That claim has been made repeatedly by opponents, by lawyers in the state and elsewhere, and by elected officials. This ad calls those claims misleading while also suggesting that “unmarried couples and single women” would indeed be protected from domestic violence. Of course, what they did is conflate civil unions and domestic partnerships with “unmarried or single” people.
They cite research purportedly backing up their claims. It’s important to note what’s going on here: the research they cite is a paper that was written in response to another paper, which had suggested that unmarried people would be affected by the amendment in situations involving domestic violence. In other words, the research they cite is based on a very narrow claim about the amendment that was made in a research paper, and the claim is different from the one being put forth by the campaign to defeat the amendment. While telling viewers “don’t be confused” by misleading ads, they continue to confuse viewers with their claims.
Another important fact is that the paper takes no position on the amendment, and the authors note they are speaking only for themselves, and not for their school or for any campaign. One of the very first things their paper says disproves their claims entirely:
“We begin with a point on which we agree with Professor Eichner and other Amendment
opponents: The proposed Amendment will bar not only same-sex marriages, but also recognition or validation of civil unions and domestic partnerships that constitute legal substitutes for the marriage relationship. The question is whether the Amendment will apply to other domestic relationships beyond marriage or marriage-like legal statuses.
Right away, they agree completely with assertions that the amendment will have far-reaching consequences. Then they go on to make the assertion that is the real point of their research, and it’s a narrow one:
“In our view, then, Professor Eichner errs when she claims that “the phrase ‘domestic legal union’ potentially refers to any domestic relationship that receives any legal recognition, protection, or rights from the state.”24 She has not shown that North Carolina courts would apply the term “union” in the proposed Amendment to all unmarried persons who are cohabiting, dating, or just friends, nor can the term “union” reasonably be applied to parentchild, grandparent-grandchild, and sibling relationships.”
Their own research even backs up another claim made by the opposition to Amendment 1, namely that the phrase “domestic legal union” is nowhere to be found in North Carolina law but at a baseline it bans legal recognition of domestic partnerships and civil unions:
While the precise phrase “domestic legal union” is neither defined in the proposed Amendment nor heretofore has been used in North Carolina law, it plainly refers to marriage or marriage imitations or substitutes. The key term is “union”—not domestic “relationships,” as Professor Eichner argues. The Amendment does not forbid the legal recognition or validity of all domestic relationships, but only of domestic “unions.” The flaw in Professor Eichner’s analysis is that she does not give the term “union” its proper effect in limiting the Amendment’s reach. (In her 27-page report, she only devotes a single sentence to the meaning of the term.9). North Carolina courts frequently have used the term “union” to describe the marital relationship.10 Black’s Law Dictionary defines marriage as the “[t]he legal union of a couple as spouses.”11 Thus, in the context of the proposed Amendment, a “domestic legal union” is a marriage or legal status resembling marriage. The Amendment bars North Carolina from recognizing or validating same-sex marriages or other similar legal statuses, such as civil unions and domestic partnerships, which are meant to embody marriage-like relationships.
The ad says the amendment “does one thing” which is to protect marriage as between a man and a woman. The research they cited, as I just showed you, does not agree with that assertion whatsoever. Amendment 1 will be on the ballot May 8, but early voting is going on now. The people opposing it have been up front about what they believe and it is backed up by doctors and lawyers. Don’t be fooled by misleading ads.
1. Contribute to the campaign on ActBlue so they have the resources they need to get our message out.
2. Sign up for a Courageous Conversation about Amendment One with someone you know in NC.
4. Download social media tools and yard signs to show your opposition to Amendment 1.
5. Volunteer to Call for Equality – a GOTV phone banking effort against Amendment 1.