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North Carolina legislators to propose constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage

North Carolina could be the next state to add a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage as the Legislature plans to begin debating the issue on Sept. 13. Republicans control the state Capitol for the first time since 1896 and vowed to push the issue this year. While North Carolina is the only state in Dixie to have not passed an amendment, its moderate nature means the outcome is not a forgone conclusion.

Three-fifths of legislators in each chamber must approve the amendment before it can appear on the ballot in 2012. Capitol reporter Mark Binker for the News and Record took a glance at support for the amendment in both chambers. The bill is likely to advance in the Senate, where Republicans hold 31 of 50 seats, just over the three-fifths needed to pass the bill. But the House will depend on maintaining several moderate Republicans from urban and suburban districts, and crossover from conservative Democrats.

The bill text in the House version would ban same-sex marriage, and likely ban civil unions and domestic partnerships. It reads, “Marriage is the union of one man and one woman at one time. No other relationship shall be recognized as a valid marriage by the State.”

The Senate version is slightly different: “Marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”

Polling on the issue has been mixed.

In February, Elon University found that a majority of North Carolinians polled supported legal recognition for same-sex couples and opposed a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage.

Only 35 percent of those polled opposed any legal recognition for same-sex couples, which was down from 44 percent when the university polled on the issue in 2009. Twenty-nine percent supported civil unions and 28 percent supported full marriage equality. The latter was up 8 points from 2009.

On the amendment itself, the university poll found that 46 percent opposed or strongly opposed the amendment, up 5 percent from 2009. Thirty-eight percent support or strongly support the amendment which is down from 43 in 2009.

Public Policy Polling conducted a similar poll in March that found 52 percent of North Carolinians supported some rights for same-sex couples; 24 percent supported marriage equality for same-sex couples and 28 percent said civil unions were the way to go. Forty-six percent said that there should be no recognition of same-sex couples.

The North Carolina Family Policy Council, a Family Research Council affiliate, has ramped up it’s rhetoric on the issue. In its August magazine, the group wrote:

As the battle over homosexual “marriage” continues to be waged in state legislatures and courtrooms nationwide, marriage defenders should not fool themselves into thinking that it does not affect all individuals and marriage at large. Amidst charges of “homophobia,” “unfairness,” and “bigotry,” the fight to preserve traditional marriage—the foundation of freedom—must continue. North Carolinians must act now to stem the tide by demanding a state constitutional amendment that will protect the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman with that relationship being the only valid and legally recognized domestic union in the state. If pro-family citizens sit back and do nothing, this religious persecution and all-out war against family will intensify here in North Carolina.

The group NC Values Coalition has organized to convince voters to vote for the amendment should it make it to the ballot.

Equality North Carolina, the main opponent of the amendment, is planning a rally on Sept. 13 at the Capitol, and a series of candlelight vigils the night before throughout the state. Current statewide “Vigils for Equality” are planned for Raleigh, Charlotte, Asheville, Greensboro, Fayetteville, Wilmington and Winston-Salem.

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