Amendment Two

Amendment Two May 10, 2012


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Hopefully, we won’t have to wait a century for amendment one to be repealed.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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