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The Daily Tar Heel

Year in Review: Gay marriage threatened in N.C.

After heated debate and campaigns on both sides of the issue, the N.C. General Assembly made a decision Sept. 13 to pass a bill banning same-sex marriage in the state constitution.

It took only two days to pass the amendment, defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. Now the state will wait until May to vote on writing that into the state constitution.

The Defense of Marriage amendment passed as expected through the N.C. Senate with a 30 to 16 vote, meeting the three-fifths requirement for a constitutional amendment to pass.

“I heard more public input on this issue than on any other in my nine years here,” N.C. Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake, said after voting for the amendment. “It was pretty even on both sides. And now the voters get to decide — it’s democracy at its complete stage.”

But Democrats, like N.C. Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, said the legislative process for the bill was unusually quick, especially for an amendment.

If passed, the amendment will ensure that same-sex marriage and civil unions will not be recognized in the state.

But the broad language could prevent even heterosexual domestic partnerships from being recognized, said Maxine Eichner, a law professor at UNC who focuses on sexuality law.

North Carolina’s legislation is one of the broadest in the country, she said. Couples in domestic partnerships could lose hospital and prison visitation rights, health insurance and tax benefits, domestic violence protections and child custody rights.

At UNC, those couples would not be able to buy health insurance for their partners or get access to on-campus family housing, said Terri Phoenix, the director of UNC’s LGBTQ Center. The Center will emphasize that student impact to encourage voters.

“We’ll make a strong drive around university campuses to get people to the polls,” said Sam Parker, the director of organizing at Equality N.C., an advocacy group working against what they call the anti-gay marriage amendment.

But Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, said in a debate in September that the amendment was just meant to protect the state law that already makes same-sex marriage illegal.

It would make it harder for judges or future legislators to legalize same-sex unions, protecting a state law that has not been challenged by judge or legislator since it passed in 1996, he said.

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