North Carolina yesterday became the 30th state to ban same-sex marriage. Early results showed the amendment to its Constitution passing overwhelmingly by as much as 61 percent. The popularity of the amendment and key position of North Carolina in the upcoming presidential election appears to have prompted the White House to cancel an event in the state. President Obama cancelled a scheduled trip to North Carolina on the day of the vote. While Obama opposed the amendment last year, this week the White House was ridiculed by the media over the President’s refusal to support gay marriage and his insistence that his views were still “evolving” on the subject. The cancellation was widely viewed as an effort to avoid renewed questions over Obama’s refusal to take a clear stand on the civil rights question.
There was a huge turnout on Tuesday in North Carolina — attributed to the draw of the referendum. The proposed amendment states that “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”
North Carolina is viewed as a key target with Virginia for both campaigns. The vote reflects the division in the state with more liberal urban areas opposing the amendment while more conservative rural areas supporting it.
Just for the record, I have long advocated that the solution to this debate is to get rid of “marriage” licenses in favor of a universal civil union standard — which is closer to the function of the state recording of such unions. I believe that marriage should be left to individual faiths and institutions as a religious-based concept. The role of the state is to record a civil commitment of two individuals to live as one couple. The current debate — including the demand for retroactive termination of marriages — shows how the term marriage continues to inject religiosity into what is a civil contract between citizens.
Notably, the last time North Carolina amended its Constitution on marriage was in 1875 when it banned interracial marriage. That ban only ended in 1971.