Defending marriage in N.C.

August 29, 2009 

— North Carolina is the only Southern state that does not have a defense of marriage amendment included in its constitution. Without such an amendment, the state is subject to legal attacks against the institution of marriage as we know it.

These challenges would target our marriage laws, which currently state, "A valid and sufficient marriage is created by the consent of a male and female person who may lawfully marry" (NC General Statute 51-1). The challenge could come from same-sex couples who seek a marriage license or from same-sex couples who move to North Carolina from another state that recognized their union as marriage.

Earlier this month, Durham City Council members joined officials in Chapel Hill and Carrboro by passing a resolution supporting same-sex marriage. While council members do not have the authority to change state law, their resolution indicates the need for an amendment that mirrors the beliefs of the majority of North Carolinians who oppose same-sex marriage, not the minority who support it.

Statewide polling at the Civitas Institute continues to confirm that two-thirds of North Carolina voters support a constitutional amendment declaring that marriage is between one man and one woman. Until state legislators echo what public opinion tells them, the state statute will be subject to more attacks, like the one in Durham, on traditional marriage.

Legislation was again introduced in the General Assembly this session to provide such a constitutional defense of marriage, but it was kept from a vote by the leadership in both chambers. House Bill 361 and Senate Bill 272 were sponsored by a bipartisan majority in both houses. They provided strong language to defend marriage as a union between one man and one woman. However, despite the support and public pressure to pass such legislation, these bills did not even receive a committee hearing.

Why? Some speculate that the legislature blocks any conservative legislation, merely to demonstrate the power held by the legislature's liberal leaders. Others say contributions from national gay-rights supporters and groups have kept the legislation from moving. Pick one; there is no other rational explanation left to explain why the General Assembly refused to hear debate on a defense of marriage amendment for the fifth year in a row.

The movement to extend marriage from the traditional definition of a "man and woman" is part of the larger sexual revolution that began in the 1960s and is slipping into middle and elementary schools today. While many believe that redefining marriage to include same-sex partners will inevitably happen, there appears to be an undercurrent of opposition coming from the least likely suspects.

America's leading "left coast" state, California, was hurled into the trenches of social warfare when voters overturned their Supreme Court's attempt to redefine marriage. Proposition 8 eliminated same-sex couples' ability to marry in a state that is home to a liberal Hollywood agenda and a historically left-leaning legislature.

While many opponents of California's new legislation believe that it is only temporary, voices to support Prop 8 continue to walk across the national stage. This was clearly seen during the 2009 Miss USA contest when Carrie Prejean of California was asked whether she believes in gay marriage. Prejean responded, "Marriage should be between a man and a woman."

How much longer are we going to believe that mainstream America is actually pro-same-sex marriage? If marriage can be defended in California and on a beauty pageant stage, then why has an amendment not happened here in North Carolina?

Our state needs to join the others across the nation and address the definition of marriage. America may be mesmerized by the left's power to control the mainstream media, but they do not speak for North Carolina. The tide is changing, and this time the change is in the right direction.

Jessica Custer is a policy analyst at the Civitas Institute in Raleigh.

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