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UNC Law Professor: Vague wording of anti-gay amendment has many pitfalls (audio)

Changing North Carolina’s constitution is not something that should be taken lightly.

But last month state lawmakers voted to give North Carolinians the opportunity next May to vote on amending the constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

UNC Law Professor Maxine Eichner says the problem is how the amendment is worded. She says what voters may not understand is that if they do approve the proposed amendment in 2012, they will introduce into the constitution vague and untested language whose scope is far broader than most people realize.

Such broad language could invalidate the domestic partner benefits now offered by several local governments, and lead the courts to strike down some of the rights available to unmarried couples. She notes the proposed amendment could even impact the medical decision-making authority of domestic partners.

Professor Eichner joins Chris Fitzsimon this weekend on News & Views to discuss how the rush to make same-sex marriage unconstitutional in North Carolina could have several unintended consequences. For a preview of  her radio interview, click below:

5 Comments


  1. HunterC

    October 28, 2011 at 11:08 am

    There is still time when the General Assembly returns on Nov 7 for legislators to repeal this poorly worded Session Law 2011-409 (the amendment bill) and replace it with a differently worded amendment. If they’re looking for more clear wording for an amendment, look to House Bill 777 as it was filed earlier this year.

    If anyone is looking for a responsible “technical corrections” bill, then cleaning up the constitutional amendment is the best place to start. They could still rail against gay marriage and fix the constitutional mess their poor legislating is about to unleash.

    Of course, we don’t have responsible people in charge at the legislature anymore.

    Writing undefined terms into the constitution and busting budgets mere months into the fiscal year…

    The current leaders of the NC GOP are clearly not fit to govern.

  2. jim neal

    October 28, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Prof. Eichner highlights the pernicious and overlooked underside of the proposed Amendment.

    It’s not just about same-sex marriage but virtually all of the existing and non-existant rights which extend some modicum of equality to same-sex couples.

    This would represent one of (if not THE) most far-reaching blockades of civil rights for same-sex couples in the United States.

    The proposed amendment is not only immoral, it’s terrible public policy and perhaps the worst Anti-NC campaign of my lifetime.

  3. Chris B

    October 29, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Whatever the harm this amendment may do, at least think of all the marriages this amendment will save! (I can count the number on one hand.)

    So the state wants to ban any legal recognition of any same-sex relationship. It’s no longer about “saving marriage”, it’s about being anti-gay. (The state of NC still has sodomy laws on the books, which the US Supreme Court has declared to be unconstitutional.)

    This amendment provides ZERO benefit to the state and to it’s citizens.

  4. Juan

    October 29, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    There is more at stake for straight marriages in this amendment. Alaska has an anti-gay marriage amendment. In a recent tax case, Julie Shmidt et.al, v The State of Alaska and Municipality of Anchorage, the Alaska Superior Court ruled that because of the marriage amendment, any law that benefits married couples facially discriminates on the basis of sex. This means that gay couples must get the same rights and benefits as straight couples or straight couples could be stripped of their rights due to the amendment…

    NC, be careful!

  5. Mike P.

    October 31, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Juan, that ruling is pretty frivolous; how could a marriage law discriminate on the basis of sex? There is one man and one woman in each marriage. It discriminates on the basis of married status, but that does not violate Alaska’s Constitution.

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