The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

“Here’s to the land of the long leaf pine, the summer land where the sun doth shine, Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great, Here’s to ‘Down Home,’ the Old North State!”

Whenever my dear friend Joe recites this toast (he’s a hit at parties) I think about everyone I know and love in North Carolina, the many opportunities this state has given me and the unshakable kindness of her people — and I swell with pride for my state. We may not be big, we may not be fancy, but from Manteo to Henderson we bring a lot to the table. North Carolinians are honest, hardworking, level-headed and warm. Although we may not be as eager to change as other states, we’re by no means against a healthy debate or thoughtful consideration.

All of this contributes to why the underhandedness of the proposed Amendment One makes me so angry.

On May 8, the voters of this state will be able to vote against a proposed amendment to the North Carolina Constitution, which reads: “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”

While at first glance this sentence may sound like a common sense observation, it’s actually a deceitful attempt to stop debate about an issue that many North Carolinians care deeply about. Amendment One is actually not about marriage at all; it’s about forever enshrining one rigid view into our state’s founding document.

Marriage in North Carolina is already defined as being between one man and one woman. If you want to look it up, N.C. General Statute 51-1 establishes this. Another law, NCGS 51-1.2, formally states that, “marriages … between individuals of the same gender are not valid in North Carolina.”
Now whether those laws are good or bad is a debatable issue, and many people have very different views on the topic. What’s nice about a democracy is that as we continue to shape our state, we can hammer out these issues. We can decide whether we want to:

The beauty of the system is that we can decide all these things and more, but we don’t have to decide right now. In the future, we may want to grant same-sex couples some form of legal recognition, maybe by creating a new legal relationship like a civil union or domestic partnership. Or we can choose not to. That’s up to us.

This amendment takes all that choice away. If it is passed, there is no room for debate. Because of the crucial word “only” in “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid in this State,” the amendment robs us of the chance to grant some protections to same-sex couples, to form new legally recognized relationships, or to do anything at all.

What’s even more concerning is a law that stops such an important discussion before it begins will be encoded in our Constitution, in our land’s very backbone. This is the same North Carolina constitution that reads:

“We hold it to be self-evident that all persons are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor, and the pursuit of happiness.”

While Amendment One may seem harmless, it interrupts a debate before we have even had a chance to think. It is unnecessary, it is harmful and it’s not appropriate to include in North Carolina’s Constitution. I hope that on May 8 we can all continue the conversation. I hope that we can all look around and smile, filled with pride to live in “the blest land, the best land, the Old North State.”

Hayleigh Stewart
UNC School of Law

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