If nothing else, I hope the readers of The Daily Tar Heel come away from this semester with an appreciation for the harm Amendment One would do to the state, the University and the people of North Carolina.
During my tenure, I’ve read more letters to the editor about this issue than I can count, and the arguments against the amendment run the gamut from libertarian to liberal, pragmatic to empathetic, fiscal to emotional.
And in a funny way, the amendment is a bipartisan issue, at least for UNC students. Regardless of our political leanings, we’ll all suffer if this amendment passes.
Here’s why: If North Carolina’s voters approve this law, it will send a message to the rest of the country that we are a backward, anti-progressive state. This will hurt UNC’s ability to recruit top faculty and students, regardless of whether they identify as LGBTQ. In terms of bringing smart people to North Carolina, the problems with Amendment One are questions more of ethos than of concrete consequences.
In order to maintain our excellent university, we need to foster an open intellectual culture; the thinking behind Amendment One could hardly be more closed-minded. If you’re a student at UNC, you have a stake in preserving this university’s quality, regardless of your views on gay rights. The value of your degree now — and in 20 years — depends on it.
The other reasons to vote against Amendment One are too numerous to list here. But I’d like to highlight a few which I believe are under-publicized and would be compelling to all voters, including those opposed to gay marriage. (Though I believe gay marriage should be legalized, I also think there are good reasons someone who would oppose it should still vote against Amendment One.)
The first of these reasons is basically semantic. Thanks to its sloppy wording and vague language, Amendment One would precipitate a deluge of costly litigation if passed. Given North Carolina’s rather dire budgetary situation, it seems imprudent — no, reckless — to pass such an amendment without fully considering its consequences, intended and unintended.
The state’s courts would invariably be inundated with cases that hinge on how judges choose to interpret the prescription that “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”
If the intention of this amendment — however misguided — is to ban any union that resembles gay marriage, its authors have missed the mark. If, on the other hand, its authors aimed to ban all civil unions, then the wording is sound. But that’s not how Amendment One is being advertised to would-be supporters.
Other pernicious potential consequences include the amendment’s implications for victims of domestic abuse. Currently, women can seek protection from abusive spouses even if they aren’t married to their abuser.
Depending on how it is interpreted in the courts, Amendment One could nullify these protections. To put it another way, the amendment could effectively force a woman to marry an abusive spouse before being entitled to protections against him. This is obviously ludicrous.
Again, lengthy litigation would likely ensue, and vulnerable women would be left in uncertainty while the battle played out in the courts. Though presumably unintentional, this dangerous potential repercussion indicates a troubling disregard for women’s rights — a disregard which all too often goes hand-in-hand with anti-LGBTQ politics.
If you don’t plan to vote against Amendment One, I urge you to reconsider. This amendment will have consequences for all of us, Democrat or Republican, gay or straight, student or professor.
And according to recent polls, the numbers aren’t looking good. But UNC students — all 26,000 of us — could make a difference. We might even be able to tip the scale.
A crowd of some 8,000 of us will turn out to hear President Obama speak today. This enthusiasm is impressive, but engagement is more impressive. Go vote.
Maggie Zellner is the opinion editor of The Daily Tar Heel. She is a comparative literature major from Lynchburg, Va. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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