North Carolina Amendment 1

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County-level results of the vote on Amendment 1, amending the N.C. state Constitution to ban legal recognition of same-sex marriages and civil unions.

North Carolina Amendment 1 (often referred to as simply Amendment 1) was a legislatively referred constitutional amendment in North Carolina that proposed to amend the North Carolina Constitution that makes it unconstitutional for the state to recognize or perform same-sex marriages or civil unions. The amendment does not prohibit domestic partnerships.[1][2] On May 8, 2012, North Carolina voters approved the amendment, 61.04% to 38.96%, with a voter turnout of 34.66%.[3]

State law already defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.[4]

Full text[edit]

ARTICLE XIV, Section 6 of the Constitution of North Carolina, as amended, states:[5]

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.

Legislative approval[edit]

Senate Bill 514 was introduced in the 2011 legislative session North Carolina.[6] Sponsored by Republican State Senator Peter Brunstetter, the bill was passed by the North Carolina General Assembly in September 2011.[7]

Final voting on SB 514 was as follows:

In the House:

  • 75 Aye
  • 42 No
  • 2 Not Voting
  • 1 Excused Absence

In the Senate:

  • 30 Aye
  • 16 No
  • 4 Excused Absences

Ten House Democrats voted "aye": William Brisson, James W. Crawford, Jr., Elmer Floyd, Ken Goodman, Charles Graham, Dewey L. Hill, Frank McGuirt, William C. Owens, Jr., Garland E. Pierce and Timothy L. Spear. All House Republicans voted "aye" except for those who did not vote: D. Craig Horn, Chuck McGrady and Glen Bradley. All Senate Democrats voted "no" except for those who did not vote: Eric L. Mansfield (who publicly opposed the bill but was absent due to a planned wedding anniversary trip),[8] Michael P. Walters and Stan White. All Senate Republicans voted "aye", except for one who did not vote, Fletcher Hartsell.[9]

Bill information[edit]

The long title of Senate Bill 514 is: "An Act to Amend the Constitution to Provide That Marriage Between One Man and One Woman is the Only Domestic Legal Union That Shall Be Valid or Recognized in This State."

The bill proposed to add a new section to article XIV, which covers miscellaneous provisions. The sections of the bill are:[6]

  • Section 1

"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."

  • Section 2

Specifies that the amendment shall be submitted to voters, and defines the ballot text.

  • Section 3

Specifies that a simple majority vote is required for approval.

  • Sections 4 and 5

Specify that the amendment will become effective when it is certified by the Secretary of State.

Potential effects[edit]

In a study by Maxine Eichner, Barbara Fedders, Holning Lau, and Rachel Blunk of the University of North Carolina School of Law, the authors discuss how the wording in the proposed amendment can have legal implications beyond banning marriage between same-sex couples.[10] A white paper authored by Lynn Buzzard, William A. Woodruff, and Gregory Wallace of Campbell Law School disagrees with many of those claims.[11]

Employee benefits[edit]

Some say that all unmarried couples, both same-sex and opposite-sex, and their children that are receiving domestic-partner benefits as public employees will no longer be eligible for those benefits under this amendment.[12][13] The second sentence in the amendment seeks to address this issue by continuing to allow private-party contracts between employees and employers. For example, a private company could agree to extend health benefits to employees and their partners.[14] However, since "domestic legal union" is untested language in the courts, the issue will likely face litigation to determine what the actual meaning will be and how it will be implemented.[15]

Legal protections[edit]

In addition to restricting benefits to couples in domestic partnerships, the amendment could also strip protections for unmarried couples such as domestic violence and stalking protections.[12][13] If the courts determine that the language used in the amendment invalidates protections for unmarried couples it could harm domestic-violence protections for that population.[16] After passing a similar constitutional amendment in Ohio, several courts ruled that domestic violence protections did not apply to unmarried couples and cases were dismissed or told not to press charges.[16] The courts could determine that validation of unmarried couples domestic legal union status would violate the amendment.[10] However, the counter argument is that North Carolina's domestic-violence statutes are better defined and include protections for unmarried couples.[17]

North Carolina Statute 50B-1, Domestic Violence, states:

(b) For purposes of this section, the term "personal relationship" means a relationship wherein the parties involved:
(1) Are current or former spouses;
(2) Are persons of opposite sex who live together or have lived together;
(3) Are related as parents and children, including others acting in loco parentis to a minor child, or as grandparents and grandchildren. For purposes of this subdivision, an aggrieved party may not obtain an order of protection against a child or grandchild under the age of 16;
(4) Have a child in common;
(5) Are current or former household members;
(6) Are persons of the opposite sex who are in a dating relationship or have been in a dating relationship. For purposes of this subdivision, a dating relationship is one wherein the parties are romantically involved over time and on a continuous basis during the course of the relationship. A casual acquaintance or ordinary fraternization between persons in a business or social context is not a dating relationship.[18]

Adoption and child-visitation protections are also in question. While North Carolina only allows adoption by one unmarried adult,[17] there are cases where children are adopted by two unmarried adults (including same-sex couples) in other states and are now living in North Carolina. Since those relationships would not be recognized if Amendment One passes, there could be serious consequences. In Potential Legal Impacts of the Proposed Same Sex Marriage Amendment, the authors conclude that in child-custody disputes "judges may interpret [amendment one] as an expression of public policy against all non-marital relationships. This interpretation may cause judges to view such relationships as having a per se negative impact on a child, and fashion custody orders accordingly.[10] They also say that in custody disputes between a parent and non-parent, the courts could decide that one parent's relationship is impermissible since it would validate a domestic legal union other than heterosexual marriage.[10] As with the other protections in question it seems that the courts will have to decide what the actual interpretation and implementation will be in this area, if the amendment passes.

Other areas of protection that are under question include hospital visitation, emergency medicals decisions, and disposition of deceased partner's remains.[12][13] Although there are legal documents that can help protect medical and financial security (power of attorney, living will, medical power of attorney), these could be contested in court based on the argument that they recognize a domestic legal union between the two parties.[10] Issues in estate planning could arise through increased litigation contesting wills of unmarried individuals, particularly those in same-sex relationships.[10] Again, the courts could rule that any recognition of a domestic legal union between unmarried partners would be unconstitutional and therefore rule those wills and trusts invalid.[10]


In addition to legal implications, there is concern that the amendment will harm economic development and vitality. Some feel that business's employee recruitment and retention will be hurt if the most talented prospects do not feel that North Carolina is progressive or representative of their beliefs.[19] Many Fortune 500 companies have implemented policies protecting employees against discrimination based on sexual orientation, which would not be affected by such legislation.[19]

Public knowledge[edit]

An April 2012 Public Policy Polling found that only 40% of North Carolina voters actually knew that Amendment 1 bans both same-sex marriage and civil unions, and among those voters who do know the effects of Amendment 1, they oppose it with 60% against and 38% in favor. Among the 27% of voters who think Amendment 1 bans same-sex marriage only, they support it with 72% in favor and 27% against and with voters who don't know what Amendment 1 does, they support it with 64% in favor and 28% against. North Carolina voters who were informed about the effects Amendment 1 banning same-sex marriage and civil unions and then asked how they would vote, only 38% continued to support it, 46% against it, and 16% were unsure. When combined those who do and don't know the effects of Amendment 1 it found that 55% would vote for it, 41% would vote against, and 4% were unsure. It also found that 55% of North Carolina voters support legal recognition of same-sex couples with 27% supporting same-sex marriage, 28% supporting civil unions, 41% oppose any legal recognition of same-sex couples, and 4% were unsure. When asked what the effects of Amendment 1 would be, 40% of voters think that Amercement 1 bans same-sex marriage and civil unions, 27% think it bans same-sex marriage only, 26% were unsure, and 7% think it legalizes same-sex marriage.[20]

Election spending[edit]

The campaigns were fueled by more than $1,000,000 in spending by the pro-amendment coalition Vote For Marriage NC and $2,000,000 in spending by the anti-amendment group Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families.[21][22] Big donors, making more than $10,000 contributions, were the main source of funds. The Human Rights Campaign, a pro-gay rights group, gave more than $256,000 to the Coalition to Protect NC Families while the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) contributed more than $427,000 to Vote For Marriage NC.[23]


Amendment 1[24]
Choice Votes  %
Referendum passed Yes 1,317,178 61.04
No 840,802 38.96
Total votes 2,157,980 100
Registered voters/turnout 6,296,759 34.66

Of the 100 counties of North Carolina, only Buncombe County, Orange County, Durham County, Wake County, Mecklenburg County, Chatham County, Watauga County, and Dare County voted against Amendment 1. Of the eight counties that voted against Amendment 1, six of them would vote for Barack Obama in the 2012 election, while Watauga County and Dare County voted for Mitt Romney.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Amendment One, North Carolina Public Employers, and Domestic Partner Benefits
  3. ^ Weiner, Rachel (May 8, 2012). "North Carolina Passes Gay Marriage Ban Amendment One". The Fix by Chris Cillizza (blog of The Washington Post). Retrieved May 9, 2012. 
  4. ^ "NC General Statutes, Chapter 51". North Carolina General Assembly.
  5. ^ Full text of the North Carolina State Constitution
  6. ^ a b "Senate Bill 514" (PDF format; requires Adobe Reader). 
  7. ^ "General Assembly of North Carolina Session 2011 SB514". North Carolina General Assembly. Retrieved September 14, 2011. 
  8. ^ Pitts, Myron (September 15, 2011). "Pitts: Mansfield Defends Putting His Marriage First". The Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
  9. ^ "Senate Bill 514 / S.L. 2011-409". North Carolina General Assembly. Retrieved September 14, 2011. 
  10. ^ April 2012. Campbell White Paper Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  11. ^ a b c "Marriage Amendment Would Affect Many People, Panel Says". Winston-Salem Journal. Retrieved April 23, 2012. 
  12. ^ "North Carolina Marriage Protection Amendment Fact Sheet" (PDF format; requires Adobe Reader). Archived from the original on April 21, 2012. 
  13. ^ Geary, Mark (April 18, 2012). "Understanding North Carolina's Proposed Amendment One". Archived from the original on April 21, 2012. 
  14. ^ a b Shapiro, Lila (April 9, 2012). "Same-Sex Marriage: North Carolina's Proposed Ban, Amendment One, Could Create 'Legal Chaos'". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on April 21, 2012. 
  15. ^ a b Darst, Brittany (April 20, 2012). "Amendment One – Fact and Fiction". Archived from the original on April 22, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Chapter 50B". Archived from the original on April 21, 2012. 
  17. ^ a b "Biz Owners: Amendment One Could Harm Business Economic Development". Archived from the original on April 21, 2012. 
  18. ^ "Amendment One still up 14 points in N.C.". May 1, 2012. Retrieved June 7, 2013. 
  19. ^ Dalesio, Emery P. (May 7, 2012). "North Carolina Amendment One: Proposed Gay Marriage Ban Draws National Attention". Associated Press (via The Huffington Post). Retrieved May 9, 2012.
  20. ^ [dead link] Gordon, Michael (May 9, 2012). Amendment One: N.C. Voters Approve Measure To Block Same-Sex Marriage". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
  21. ^ Blumenthal, Paul (May 9, 2012). "Amendment One N.C.: Anti-Gay Marriage Donors". The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
  22. ^ North Carolina Board of Elections

External links[edit]