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By a nearly two-thirds vote, North Carolina constituents passed an amendment to their state constitution today, becoming the thirtieth state to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman. The measure also prohibits any form of civil union or domestic partnership between unmarried couples, whether gay or straight. The amendment, sponsored by such groups as the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), and evangelical figures such as Rev. Billy Graham, was put on the ballot after Republicans gained a majority in the Legislature, placing the GOP in the ascendant for the first time since Reconstruction.
Although such major political figures as former President Bill Clinton stumped against the amendment, with Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Vice President Joe Biden announcing their support for gay marriage in recent days, a combined church-based “pulpit campaign” and well-funded attack ads by supporters of the gay-marriage ban all but assured its passage.
Same-sex marriage is already illegal under existing North Carolina law, but codifying the ban and further forbidding civil unions or domestic partnerships effectively ends any hope or possibility of legal recognition for gay or lesbian couples in long-term, committed relationships. Civil orders of protection for unmarried couples in domestic-violence cases will also be affected by the new measure. By contrast, eight states, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire, Washington State, and Maryland, have legalized marriage equality.
California’s Proposition 8 referendum, which overturned a gay-marriage law in that state, is on its way to the Supreme Court. President Obama’s position on gay marriage is characterized by the White House as “evolving”, although he has instructed Attorney General Eric Holder to stop enforcing the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
North Carolina is seen as a critical “battleground” state for Obama in the coming election, and he has resisted entreaties by LGBT leaders to state a more concise position on marriage equality. The President stated during his 2008 campaign that he supported civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.