North Carolina joined its southern neighbors Tuesday in enshrining opposition to same-sex marriage in the state constitution, a move that churned the national debate over gay marriage despite having little immediate effect inside North Carolina.
The state already banned gay marriage, so the amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman did nothing to change that. Still, the amendment went beyond current restrictions -- by banning same-sex civil unions as well. The amendment voters passed Tuesday with roughly 61 percent support will seal the door on both kinds of partnerships.
Nationally, the vote was closely watched at a time when gay marriage is returning to the political conversation. President Obama has faced pressure in recent days to make his gay marriage stance more clear, after top officials in his administration have either endorsed gay marriage or spoken in support of it.
Obama has said his view is "evolving." After the North Carolina vote, Obama campaign spokesman Cameron French said in a Tuesday statement that the ban on same-sex unions is "divisive and discriminatory." The campaign said Obama was "disappointed" in the vote.
But supporters of the amendment heralded the outcome. State GOP Chairman Robin Hayes called the vote a "defining day for traditional values in North Carolina, and I'm proud to have voted for protecting marriage."
John Dinan, a political science professor at Wake Forest University who writes an annual review of state constitutional amendments, said the amendment could affect several areas.
For example, a handful of local governments provide benefits to employees who are involved in same-sex relationships. In Michigan, the state's highest court ruled that an amendment did affect those benefits, Dinan said. But in North Carolina, officials in Durham and Orange counties have said they don't expect to have to eliminate those benefits because of the amendment, he said.
Wednesday, May 09, 2012