Two-thirds of North Carolina voters support a constitutional amendment declaring that marriage is defined as one man and one woman, according to polling by the Civitas Institute. At the close of the 2009 North Carolina General Assembly long session, there is still no law on the books that reflects that desire.
Current state marriage laws acknowledge “a valid and sufficient marriage is created by the consent of a male and female person who may lawfully marry to take each other as husband and wife, freely.” On the flip side, North Carolina law invalidates marriage – whether created by common law, contracted or performed outside the state – between individuals of the same gender.
That said, both laws do not substitute as a state marriage amendment, nor negate the right of North Carolinians to vote on the definition of marriage in a referendum. For the fifth year in a row, bipartisan legislation was introduced in both chambers that would not only define marriage in North Carolina as the union between one man and one woman, but also afford North Carolinians the right to vote on their state’s definition of marriage. The legislation, however, has been blocked by opponents in committee.
The Defense of Marriage Act, introduced this session as both HB 361 and SB 272, was sponsored or cosponsored by 64 members of the House, although two members have since resigned. In the House, Reps. David Lewis (R-Harnett), James Crawford (D-Granville), Pearl Burris-Floyd (R-Gaston) and Dewey Hill (D-Brunswick), were primary sponsors of the bill. In the Senate, Sen. James Forrester (R- Gaston) sponsored the bill that would allow North Carolina voters the opportunity to vote on a referendum.
Voting by referendum is a unique process whereby the entire electorate is given a direct vote to either accept or reject a particular proposal. If the proposal is accepted; a new constitutional amendment will be adopted. The first step, however, is dependent upon the Legislature passing the act so North Carolina residents can be given the opportunity to vote and decide on the definition of marriage. If passed by voters, the law would add an amendment to the state constitution that defends marriage and strengthens the state against legal attacks from same-sex couples.
Without a constitutional amendment, current marriage laws could come under attack in the courtroom from same-sex couples who seek a marriage license or same-sex couples who move to North Carolina from another state that previously recognized their union as marriage. Despite legislative support and public pressure to pass a state marriage amendment this session, the Defense of Marriage Act never made it out of committee for the fifth year in a row.
Supporters of same-sex marriage often claim that there is no valid reason why marriage should be limited to just one man and one woman. If two people love each other and are able to properly care for one another, the government has no right to interfere in their personal decision to marry. This argument fails to consider the public interest in marriage as a social institution. Love and care, while important, are not the primary functions of marriage and do not constitute or define marriage in society. The public interest in marriage is based on procreation and the parent’s ability to set aside individual pleasure to work together in raising children. That does not mean that people who are barren cannot marry, but it does mean that procreation is a main function of marriage. In terms of supporting our society and furthering our civilization, households should create an environment where children can be nurtured and trained. Part of that training is the ability to watch male-female interaction, something that is not found in same-sex households, but will dominate most people’s lives.
North Carolina is the only southern state that does not have a marriage defense amendment on the record. NC4Marriage.org reports that “the other 14 Southern states that have adopted state Marriage Protection Amendments have done so with an average of 74% of the vote of the people.”
This state should address marriage and provide clear support why the social contract is necessary to ensure a prosperous and advanced society. And while monthly statewide polling at Raleigh-based Civitas Institute, consistently confirms that two-thirds of North Carolina voters support a constitutional amendment declaring that marriage is between one man and one woman, state legislators have yet to echo public opinion.