With the General Assembly convening to consider amendments to the North Carolina constitution, Republicans are anticipating placing a defense of marriage amendment on the ballot in 2012. However, rather than place their faith in the citizens of North Carolina, Democrats are lining up to stop this bill before it hits the ballots—possibly because they know that their viewpoint is not reflected by a majority of North Carolina voters. A recent Civitas Institute Poll suggests that 49% of NC’s unaffiliated voters support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between one man and one woman. These numbers have stayed nearly identical to a Civitas Institute poll in 2010 where 50% supported such an amendment and 43% opposed one.
In what could easily be interpreted as an attempt to sway politicians and voters against the amendment by linking the bill’s passage with economic damage during a recession, the News and Observer’s Tori Stilwell recently posted an article describing the potential business woes that such an amendment would bring to North Carolina. Citing the concerns of over 230 business leaders who signed a declaration against such legislation on the advocacy group Equality NC’s website, the article argued that it would dissuade businesses from locating in North Carolina. The N&O article also presents arguments that the passage of a defense of marriage amendment would nullify the domestic partner benefits some businesses offer.
However, both of the arguments presented fall flat when one considers that a statute banning same-sex marriage is already on the books. The only significant difference between what already exists and the amendment Republicans are proposing is that the current statute is far more subjective to the whims of the legislature than a constitutional amendment. Thus, by passing an amendment, nothing would change for businesses nor employees. Even the N&O article paid homage to this fact by citing Rep. Dale Folwell (R-Forsyth) who stated that the amendment would only solidify the current statute’s position and would not change the way benefits are received.
What businesses crave is stability. If anything, an amendment defining marriage would likely be beneficial for businesses that plan for hiring employees long-term. Should a future General Assembly seek to overturn the current statute, businesses that hired employees under the former statute will have to adjust benefits to accommodate the new bill. An amendment would simply reduce the uncertainty of businesses considering hiring new employees and providing them with benefits.
The reality of this amendment is, even if it’s passed by the legislature, it still must be approved by a majority of North Carolina voters. As mentioned before, the Civitas Institute Poll suggests that 49% of unaffiliated North Carolinian voters support a defense of marriage amendment and 43% oppose it. Democrats have seen the writing on the wall and in attempting to prevent North Carolinians from voting on the amendment, they are attempting to do all they can to crush it before the majority of North Carolinians have a chance to voice their opinion.