He didnt sugarcoat it. When North Carolinas veteran attorney general, Roy Cooper, sent supporters a message announcing his opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, he said the amendment was unclear, unwise and unnecessary. He predicted it would be in the courts for years to come as arguments were vetted.
He is not alone in that sentiment. The amendments wording is vague, and supporters even had to patch together an extra sentence that appears intended to reassure private businesses that they could continue to offer unmarried employees with partners and perhaps with children benefits like those they offer to married employees.
Why was that added? Because North Carolinas business community is not enthusiastic about this ill-advised amendment. Business people fear that the amendment may indeed put benefits in jeopardy, and those who recruit new businesses to North Carolina share that fear because they think employers might eliminate North Carolina as a potential site because of this amendment.
And heres more evidence of the sloppiness of this effort: Only the first sentence of the amendment appears on the ballot: Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state. The sentence about private parties and contracts (businesses offering benefits to partners) will be part of the amendment if it passes, but its not on the ballot.
The amendments chief advocate in the legislature, Republican Rep. Paul Skip Stam of Apex, the House majority leader, is eager to put his socially conservative agenda into law. Stam forced the issue to a vote over whether to put the amendment on next months primary ballot, and he won.
So now, North Carolina voters on May 8, when parties will be picking candidates in the states primary elections, also will be asked to vote up or down about whether to add this amendment to the state constitution. There already is a law on the books banning same-sex marriage, but supporters want it in the constitution to make reversing it more difficult.
The amendment is opposed not just by so-called liberal Democrats, but by conservatives as well who view it as an infringement on personal privacy and rights, which it emphatically is. And it will simply lump North Carolina in with Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, etc., even though North Carolina always has been proud of its independent thinking.
North Carolinians of all political persuasions arent nearly as certain as Stam is that the amendment wont result in domestic benefits from insurance to even the right to visit a partner in the hospital being lost. And even though part of the amendment seeks to reassure private employers, what about public ones? If this is state law and there are no private contracts (the phrase in the amendment), then public employees surely will lose any benefits they have been provided by local governments.
Its happened, in Michigan and Idaho, for example.
Stam says local governments can find ways around the problem if there is one. It would be simpler to not create the problem in the first place. And Stam adds that, Government is not in the business of deciding who youre sleeping with. Thats precisely the business Stam wants his government to be in, with this amendment.
Emotion and ideology are not good foundations for law, and especially for constitutional amendments, which are supposed to be about protecting rights, not destroying them. But Stam saw his opening when Republicans gained control of the General Assembly, and he led his colleagues down a foolish road. Unfortunately, theyre taking all of North Carolina with them.