Amendment Two


My birth state of North Carolina has been convulsed with arguments over Amendment One, AKA North Carolina Senate Bill 514, an amendment to the state constitution which declares that “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”

The citizens voted on, and passed, the amendment on Tuesday. Chagrin, but no real surprise.

Amendment One is redundant and poorly written, but it is now the law of the state. But as an editorial in the Raleigh News and Observer points out, maybe it should really be called Amendment Two:

If Amendment One passes on Tuesday, it won’t be our first state constitutional provision regulating marriage. In 1875, we altered our charter to declare that “all marriages between a white person and a Negro or between a white person and a person of Negro descent to the third generation inclusive are, hereby, forever prohibited.”

The 1875 amendment, too, was adopted shortly (two years) after an invigorated anti-miscegenation statute had been enacted by the legislature. Even more clearly than is the case today, the proponents could not have worried that an amendment was actually needed. No one fretted that a 19th century North Carolina court would invalidate the earlier separationist statutory rule.

The interracial amendment was apparently designed to serve other aims. It was constitutionalism by epithet, by exclamation point. No government structure or power or authority was actually altered. Instead, North Carolinians used the constitution to double down – to declare, in as potent a format as exists, their unyielding hostility to marriage between blacks and whites.

The amendment stayed in place until 1971, when the a new constitution was adopted. That’s about four years after Loving vs. Virginia made it problematic.

Hopefully, we won’t have to wait a century for amendment one to be repealed. But until then, tarheels, won’t you consider a relocation to upstate New York? As someone who grew up in the piedmont, I find the upstate most congenial. Cooler, but with similar landscape. Same depressed economy, but maybe if enough of you come north we can fix that. Just transfer your hatred of NC State to the Yankees and you’re halfway here.

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  • Troutbane

    How coincidental Vorjack. I grew up in the western North Carolina mountains and now, also, live in upstate NY (Binghamton FTW!) I actually lost Facebook friends over this. The funniest thing I encountered over this was someone who posted a letter to the editor in my hometown paper saying this amendment was necessary to combat the rising tide of socialism. I think the irony was lost on them.
    Before coming to upstate NY I must warn everyone from NC that tobacco prices are insane, however, alcohol is relatively cheap and a 40 oz beer is just about the right size for a nightcap. :)

    • vasaroti

      I’m seriously considering moving up there myself. Climate change refugee- I want to leave my Daughter a home where it won’t be 120 in the summer for at least another 30 years. Yeah, I know about higher taxes, but my parents let the tax tail wag the lifestyle dog, and it didn’t do them any good.

    • TrickQuestion

      I live about 20 minutes from Charlotte currently.

      • TrickQuestion

        And, in a couple months, i am relocating to Savannah, GA.
        I blame the jews.
        Well, one Jew. Who happens to be adorable and amazing.

  • Noelle

    All these amendments, bills, proposals, etc. where you have to vote yes to say no and no to say yes are confusing. I know I have to read them a few times before I vote, especially for smaller things that don’t get any press. I want the fire department to have money, but I have to vote no to make that happen. Why is it all backward legalese for the general public who can’t read that language?

    Ok, I realize that’s probably not why the NC thing passed. My state passed something similar a few years ago, so I can’t say we’re any better. But how embarrassing would it be if it were all just a big misunderstanding?

    • Kodie

      Wording like that mixes me up too. But aren’t you a doctor, positive is bad news and negative is good news! I try to break down the language of voting like an equation:

      Proposal to (BAN ___): Agree(Y) or disagree(N)
      Proposal to (LIFT BAN ___): Agree(Y) or disagree(N)
      Proposal to (LEGALIZE ___): Agree(Y) or disagree(N)
      Proposal to (TAX ___): Agree(Y) or disagree(N)

      Etcetera. And when in doubt, there’s always the Groucho way.

      • Noelle

        Oh, Groucho. They should play that at the polls.

        And yeah, yeah. I know my profession’s all about the backward talk. You want your std test or biopsy to be negative, not positive. A high TSH means your thyroid levels are low and vice versa. We also like to use words like erythematous, instead of red. And prophylactic instead of preventive (which makes my husband snicker).

  • vasaroti

    I keep hearing news reports about how NC voters were so confused about the content of the amendment and the effects it would have on straight families and their children. I just don’t believe it; this is a religion-fueled backlash against people who are “shacking up,” as they see it. Anyone who’d prefer a civil union to a “marriage” must be an atheist, right? The delicious prospect of removing health insurance and other benefits for thousands makes GOP eyes twinkle. Let’s not forget the racial aspect, either- White people like to believe that the only unmarried hetero families are Blacks. That arrangement their son has with his girlfriend and his baby is just a temporary thing until he gets his truck-driving license.

    • Yoav

      It’s not like they were trying to hide the religious motivations, the adds the pro-bigotry side were running were all about how the amendment is what god wants and ended with a picture of a buybull.

  • Stony

    Another NC-native here, living in exile in Florida. NC always struck me as such a grand mix of progressive-and-tolerant cheek by jowl with howling Bible thumpers. I watched Jesse Helms get elected a few times, to the joy of my mom and the coffee-cup-throwing chagrin of my dad. It doesn’t surprise me that this amendment was ratified, and it will not surprise me when it’s reversed in a few years. The smack down of civil unions will hasten this, as vasaroti points out, this affects a ton of people “living in sin”.

  • Igor

    If they could get a pro-lynching initiative on the ballot, it would pass.
    North Carolina: On the wrong side of history since 1861.

  • Ashley

    I already live, and am married to my wife , in Brooklyn. I grew up in NC and we had planned to back to our beautiful home-state in November when we officially celebrate our marriage with our families, every memeber of which still live in NC. On Tuesday night we knew we couldn’t move back.

    No matter how angry or shocked I am, the depth of the hurt that we both feel is likened with that of the death of a close family member. Gut-wrenching, violent, cruel. I feel like vomiting. Still. Our beautiful dreams of a future raising our children in the golden, lush mountains of the place we both grew up are smashed. Our families can not be close to our soon-to-be children. NO matter how lovely upstate NY or Oregon or Vermont are, they cannot replace our families and childhoods. Terrible.

    • Paul

      perhaps you should move back and try to help change things. I have lived most of my life in Georgia and while its far from perfect, it is miles ahead of where it was in my childhood. I’m 55 and thus grew up during the civil rights movements hardest days. Atlanta has a very large LGBT community. I’m not one of them but I have seen some real changes here. No, we aren’t where I would want us to be. People of conscience can make a difference but only is they are here to be able to help lift the south out of the remnants of the old south. If there hadn’t been people willing to speak out here in the metro Atlanta area Cobb county science books would still have the label in them advising students that evolution is not real science.

      If the only kids are the kids of the folks who support the gay marriage ban then it is unlikely that anything will change. But families who teach their children better values then this will dilute what will hopefully soon be a dying breed.

      • Kodie

        It’s very sad to me that people can’t live where they want. Sure, this law will drive people out, and then there will be fewer people to make those changes, who care to make them. But if someone’s marriage isn’t legal where they want to live, how are they supposed to put up with that? Why go back to a symbolic but not legal marriage when you can have the real thing somewhere else? I love upstate NY, there are definitely some things I miss about it, but I also love and choose to live in Massachusetts. I can understand someone feeling like that about a place, and not necessarily the people. Not to try to make Ashley feel any better about NY, it’s just coincidence that I’m from there and understand what it feels like to miss that something about there that is not where you live when you live somewhere else.

        • vasaroti

          Ashley has children. If she moved back this law would have very real negative impacts on them.

          • vasaroti

            Sorry, I meant to reply to Paul.

      • Ashley

        I do truly wish we could move and change things, I have many friends still fighting it out in NC, but it’s true. Same-sex second parent adoption is also illegal in NC so we would be legally unable to have children that we are both the parents of. Not only would it be ethically wrong to us to do this to our (almost here) little one, but it would also be a pain in the ass.
        When they go to school, only the biological mother can enroll them. When they go to the doctor, only the biological mother can take them. If the bio mom died, the other would have to actually fight for the right to continue to be the caretaker (amendment one also strikes down “contracts” between unmarried couples of any gender).
        Again, I wish we could fight, but not everyone has the ability to do so. Not everyone should be expected to fight either. Sometimes you just want to be left alone after a lifetime of fighting or, in our case, being beat up with your hands tied.

  • UrsaMinor

    Several years ago the courts in New York ruled that same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions would be recognized here (sort of). But I resisted crossing the border to Massachusetts or Vermont or Ontario to get married, because that wasn’t good enough. I am a native New Yorker, and I wanted to be married in my home community. So my partner and I held out for years (twenty, to be precise), until same-sex marriage finally came to NYS last year, and we were able to go down to the town hall like any other citizens and get our marriage license.

    I’m very ambivalent now about traveling outside of the places where my marriage is legal. Fortunately I’m not isolated in someplace like Iowa; I am still married when I cross the border into Canada or most of the bordering states and I have a fairly large contiguous area where I feel safe and accepted. But Pennsylvania is a big exception, and we have vacationed there for two weeks every summer for decades, and I’m having second thoughts about it, because crossing that border means that my marriage is suspended/annulled for the duration of the trip. It’s as bad as being part of an interracial couple was in the 1950s. Well, not quite, because to the best of my knowledge I can’t actually be arrested and prosecuted for crossing into a state where my marriage isn’t legal, but still, it galls.