AP: Marriage amendment passes in North Carolina - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

AP: Marriage amendment passes in North Carolina

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RALEIGH, NC (WECT/AP) - NC voters approve constitutional amendment defining marriage as union between a man and woman, AP determines.  Until now, North Carolina was the only state in the south not to have such an amendment.

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. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts."

There has been much debate about what this amendment will do.  Amendment supporters say it protects the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. 

A number of faith-based organizations openly encouraged their members to vote in favor of the amendment.  North Carolina's two Catholic Bishops wrote a letter that was delivered to parishioners, urging them to vote to protect traditional marriage in this state. Here in Wilmington – the pastor of Port City Community Church read scripture pertaining to biblical marriage on Sunday. He asked the congregation to make up their own minds about what that meant - and vote accordingly.

Opponents claim the amendment would have an "extensive and severe" impact on all unmarried couples, both straight and same sex.  They say the amendment's language is too broad, and could nullify domestic violence protective orders for unmarried couples, jeopardize health insurance for children of unmarried parents, and potentially change child custody agreements. 

You may wonder if that's just fear mongering. Wilmington attorney and former Democratic Party Chair Gary Shipman gave us this explanation: "The proposed amendment states that ‘marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union recognized in this State.'  The only other statute in the US using that term is in Idaho, and no one has defined what the term ‘domestic legal union' means, or the implications thereof. 

"Ohio passed similarly worded legislation in approximately 2004, and as a result, many pending domestic violence actions, involving ‘unmarried' individuals, were dismissed, as Ohio believed that such relationships were not ‘legal' and therefore were not subject to the protections under domestic violence actions.  Ohio later modified its law.  If in NC the only "domestic legal union" is a marriage between a man and woman, you have the potential for similar positions being advocated in this state."

Shipman says the same legal arguments could be used in child custody issues between unmarried parents. He says the implications are much broader than being for/against "gay marriage".

In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage on a federal level as between one man and one woman.  The same year, North Carolina adopted a general statute saying that same sex marriages were not valid here.  So why go to the effort to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage? A constitutional amendment is much more likely to stand up in court.

Copyright 2012 WECT. All rights reserved. The Associated Press Contributed to this report.

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