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UNC report says Amendment One does not prohibit domestic partnership benefits

Amendment One Marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

Yesterday, Chapelboro.com, a website affiliated with Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s WCHL radio station, reported that the University of North Carolina School of Government has released a report concluding that the passage of Amendment One, which modified the state constitution to recognize marriage between men and women as the only “domestic legal union,” does not mean municipalities cannot provide domestic partnership benefits.

The report, authored by Associate Professor Diane Juffras, argues that the amendment’s wording prohibits the recognition of gay and lesbian couples, but makes the case that providing benefits does not constitutite recognition per se.  Says Juffras:

“There is no legal precedent in our states law or in any states law for the idea that for a government employer to offer domestic partner benefits gives legal recognition to a union; and more importantly, does what the point of legal recognition is confer rights and responsibilities on a couple under the law.”

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says the UNC report lays the groundwork for a strong legal argument should any litigation against the amendment (or against employers who decide to offer domestic partnership benefits) arise in the courts.  The city has no plan to stop offering the domestic partnership benefits it provides its municipal employees.

Amendment One was always headed towards the courts, since its poor, overly-broad wording opened up a host of legal questions about the truth breadth of the amendment and its effect on pre-existing relationship rights for gay and lesbian North Carolinians.  In the past, courts have been averse to the idea of taking rights away from groups that already enjoy them.  But in North Carolina, the battle over that very question continues.

15 Comments

  • 1. Jamie  |  July 23, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Really? Then it would seem that allowing gays and lesbians to marry within the state also doesn't "recognize" their marriages and would be perfectly legal using this reasoning. This seems like quite a bit of BS.

  • 2. Bill S.  |  July 23, 2012 at 8:44 am

    The amendment seems pretty straightforward: heterosexual marriage is the only domestic legal union recognized in the state. If you are not straight-married, your relationship does not exist in the eyes of the government.

  • 3. jpmassar  |  July 23, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Really???

    the point of legal recognition is confer rights and responsibilities on a couple under the law.

    Marriage confers rights and responsibilities under state law. QED.

  • 4. Mark B.  |  July 23, 2012 at 9:47 am

    <img src="http://www.mynewcarquote.us/ikea/is.jpg"/&gt; This is puzzling to me, i mean are they hinting something here?<img src="http://www.mynewcarquote.us/xbox/vi.jpg"/&gt;

  • 5. Steve  |  July 23, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Their argument is basically that domestic partnerships – as long as they exist at a local level only – aren't recognized in any way by the state government, so they aren't affected.

  • 6. AnonyGrl  |  July 23, 2012 at 11:40 am

    I love this. They are finding ways around Amendment One already. It isn't a GOOD solution, but if it gets people the benefits they need until the courts overturn it, I am all for it!

    The way I read this is that local municipalities can offer benefits without the state making any legal recognition of the relationship. And why not? Why shouldn't a local municipality decide they were going to give benefits to whomever they pleased? As long as they do so within their own local regulations, it is fine. They are not forcing the state to recognize anything, just taking care of their own employees on their own level.

  • 7. Bill S.  |  July 23, 2012 at 11:51 am

    The amendment reads: "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State."

    The language says "valid or recognized **in** this State," not "by the State."

  • 8. Sagesse  |  July 23, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    @

  • 9. Jamie  |  July 23, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    You expect judges to actually interpret the words of the actual amendment? What the ____?

  • 10. Jamie  |  July 23, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Except that the benefits are subject to being exterminated at any point in time. Also, UNC receives money from the state, so certainly when the state pays for benefits for "domestic partners" it recognizes those "relationships" against the letter of the law.

  • 11. AnonyGrl  |  July 24, 2012 at 5:22 am

    Well then hopefully they will BREAK the law and take care of the people.

  • 12. Lymis  |  July 24, 2012 at 5:53 am

    The point, though, is whether giving someone a benefit, even when that benefit involves another person, is legally recognizing that relationship as a relationship.

    Just as an example, every government employee has the option of listing a beneficiary on their insurance and 401(k) and such, but even though that has legal force, it isn't a recognition of any particular relationship, even though it is common for someone in s relationship to designate their partner.

    The question hinges on whether granting a particular benefit constitutes recognizing a relationship in a legal sense that rises to the level of violating the amendment.

    My guess is that the degree to which people signing up for domestic partner benefits have to demonstrate some form of commitment, formal relationship, or intertwined finances will affect how likely it is to violate the amendment – and that people aren't able to just chose a random stranger or casual roommate for benefits.

    The law sucks, but I doubt this will survive it.

  • 13. Mike in Baltimore  |  July 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Bill S. ??

    Are you employed by BLAG? Every 'argument' and 'comment' you make is in the same vein as BLAG would argue and/or very BLAG-supportive.

    It's one thing to be a "Devil's Advocate". It's another to use completely trollish comments to make a point (and a point that is totally illogical and foolish).

  • 14. Deeelaaach  |  July 26, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    Personally I didn't see what Bill S. said as trollish, illogical or foolish. He reminds us of the actual text of the law. I'm not going to try to figure out his intent here. Lawyers spend millions of dollars parsing the words of laws all the time, so it's helpful to at least recognize what the actual text says, especially if the text does not help us gain marriage equality.

    If what Bill S. has said is indeed factual, identifying facts does not a troll make. We might not like the idea that he has identified a fact that opposes our goals, but we don't have to shoot the messenger. We rail against equality opponents for ignoring facts, so lets not ignore them also.

    Note: I cannot speak to Bill S' every argument or comment in the past, I can only speak to this one. We want our opponents to work with reality, so let us work with it also, wherever that leads us or however it affects us.

  • 15. Mike in Baltimore  |  July 26, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    You are looking at a single post to comment upon. Have you read the comments of Bill S over the past few weeks or months?

    An apparent enthusiasm for the challenges to Prop H8, DOMA, etc., but in almost every post, there is a 'but that tactic won't work'-type comment – in reference to those who are challenging the laws, and never the suggestion of a tactic that will work. Many times there also is NO explanation of what won't work, just the comment that basically says 'that tactic won't work'.

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